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Use the 5 Senses to Reduce Stress

We all experience stress on a fairly regular basis, from being mildly bothered to — at times —  completely overwhelmed. Having a toolkit of stress management strategies can help us get through these moments.

Fortunately, our bodies are well equipped to ease stressful feelings. The five senses provide us with direct pathways to our brain to input soothing stimuli. Every person is different, so experiment with which sense works best for you.

  • Stroking your dog or cat for just 15 minutes is proven to reduce cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress and anxiety.
  • Put a blanket or large towel in the dryer to get it nice and toasty. Then wrap yourself in the soothing warmth.
  • Cuddle with a loved one. Enjoy those comforting hugs.
  • Hold a comforting memento such as a teddy bear, blanket, or piece of clothing.
  • Get a massage. In Hong Kong, there will be a foot massage place somewhere close by.
  • Play a musical instrument.
  • Knit, crochet or do some other absorbing craftwork.
  • Get some fresh air. Inhale deeply and focus on the scent of flowers, trees, or the water to calm you.
  • Carry a swatch of fabric with the perfume or cologne of a loved one.
  • Use an essential oil diffuser and experiment with scents you find most soothing. Try lavender essential oil, as two major components of the oil, linalool and linalyl acetate, can be effective in reducing anxiety. You can make your own lavender essential oil for a doubly soothing activity.
  • Cook or bake dishes that bring you pleasure or fond memories. Enjoy the process of creation, smelling each ingredient, and the especially the warm scent when it is ready.

When using taste to reduce stress, remember to do so slowly and with intention. Avoid “stress eating” – eating mindlessly to fill a need.

  • Indulge in a dish that brings back warm memories. Savour the positive feelings it generates.
  • Enjoy a perfectly ripe piece of fruit.
  • Sip a warming hot drink, or a refreshing cold one. Enjoy the full sensation.
  • Eat spicy food. Not just a little spicy, but something with a kick! The body releases endorphins in response to ingesting very spicy foods. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that block pain and generate feelings of pleasure.
  • Look at photos or cherished mementos. Happy memories improve mood and reduce stress.
  • Add your favourite bright colours to your space to lift your spirits.
  • Close your eyes and picture yourself in a calming space. Even brief periods meditation are helpful.
  • Take a walk in a park, forest, garden or even on a beach. Natural environments have a powerful soothing effect.
  • Engage your visual senses through creative activities like sketching, painting or photography.
  • Listen to your favourite music. Whether soothing or uplifting, music is a powerful stress inhibitor and mood regulator.
  • Listen to nature sounds, such as bubbling brooks, waving breaking on a beach, or forest sounds. Research shows these sounds are effective stress and anxiety relievers.
  • Hang wind chimes outside your door or window.
  • Listen to a podcast that is motivational or calming.
  • Try “bee breathing”. Find a quiet place and sit comfortably. Now, relax your face, and with your mouth closed and your teeth slightly apart, make a “hmming” sound. The goal is to create a soothing vibration in your face and head. Remember to breathe deeply and relax the body as well.

Although movement is not a sense, it can be incredibly helpful in times when you feel “shut down” by stress. Use your whole body to shake off those feelings.

  • Dance to your favourite music.
  • Jump up and down, run in place, do jumping jacks. Get your heart pumping and blood flowing.
  • Stretch and release the tension in your body. 
  • Squeeze a stress ball.
  • Punch and kick heavy bags at the gym.


Do you need additional strategies to manage stress in your life? Contact the BFDC. We can help.