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Stress Management Activities

Stress management is a frequent topic on LinkedIn and so many have shared their wonderful exercises and activities. Here are some that stood out as most “liked.”

Stress Management Activities

  1. Stress for Success
  2. Straw Activity
  3. Start Talking!
  4. Stress Management Thumball
  5. Consider the Consequences
  6. Help from Colleagues
  7. Quick Calm Deep breathing Exercises
  8. Take your Stress Temperature
  9. Taking Control – Stress and the Body
  10. Stress Wheel
  11. Practice…
  12. Balloons!
  13. Pressing their Buttons
  14. Trigger Points
  15. Pass the Cup of Water

1. Stress for Success

This is a useful exercise to explore the importance of creating systems, staying organized, mindfulness, not trying to do too much at once.

IMPLEMENTATION: Ask participants to stand and form circles of about five to eight people. Give each group one stress ball. Let them know that each player must remember who they throw the ball to next. When you say, “go,” Player 1 will toss the ball to another team member. Players should continue passing the ball from person to person until everyone on the team has received the ball just once.  (Do not have them throw to the same person twice until all members have gotten it first.) The last person in the group to receive the ball should toss it back to Player 1.

Remembering the original sequence of tosses, the team should circulate the ball again, a little faster the second time. Repeat the sequence until that group has it down pat.  When they do, introduce another ball—then another, and then another, until you have 5-6 balls in rotation.  It will become quite a circus when balls start dropping and rolling, but encourage them to pick them up and keep going.

FACILITATING THE EXERCISE:  If there is only one group, you can be part of the group. However, if you have more than one group, you should move around the room and feed them extra balls.

PROCESSING: After about five minutes, have everyone sit down and identify what they can learn from the activity.

  • Strategy – besides understanding the difficulty of juggling so many balls, what did they learn they had to do to be successful?
  • Mindfulness – How many thought of what they would eat for dinner, etc.? This is a great lesson on mindfulness, as people are totally in the present, and thus would be an ideal activity for DBT groups when addressing the subject of mindfulness.
  • Overcommitting – Point out that life is like this activity—we all juggle many things at one time, sometimes taking on more than we can handle. When we do, we tend to “drop the ball.”
  • Focus – We need to stay focused on the task at hand. If we focus too much on the past, the stress balls will pound and bombard us if we are not alert.

Posted online by Judith Belmont

2. Straw Activity

Take a straw and place it horizontally on the table. Now hold both ends firmly and start twisting them in such a manner that they overlap each other and form an air bubble at the center. Now ask a volunteer to step forward and burst the straw air bubble with a thumb or finger (as if hitting the stricker on the carrom board). The bubble with burst and will create a lot of noise.

Debrief: Human beings are like straws, bottling up stress & tension, which we consider as a part of our lives and routine, we become fragile over a period of time and with the slightest ‘tick’ will burst. It’s healthy to admit and recognize your individual triggers to de-stress, which allows us to bounce back!!! Posted online by Pooja Whig

3. Start talking!

A useful starting point may be to introduce a tool such as the stress drivers questionnaire that the whole team can do together and to use this as a basis for starting a conversation. Posted online by Deryl Dix

Stress Management Thumball

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4. Stress Management Thumball – a Stress Management Activities FAVORITE!

The Stress-Management Thumball is an excellent way to initiate conversations about the causes and remedies of stress. See sample discussion prompts here.

5. Consider the Consequences

One interesting thing about stress is that in 90% of cases there isn’t anything to actually stress you up, but the very thought gives stress. And it’s all cooked up stories in our own minds. For example, I have yet not shared my report with the boss, but since I know him to be really crooked, I keep thinking about his various possible reactions and consequently get stressed. Here is an activity that helps to understand that:

  1. Ask participants to think about something that gives them stress.
  2. Ask them to think about various consequences and reactions that might take place.
  3. They keep thinking about the same for approximately 5 minutes.
  4. You may give them directions to intensify the thought.
  5. All of a sudden SAY – Stop thinking.
  6. Ask them how do they feel.
  7. Ask- has anything of that yet happened?
  8. And so stress in most cases is just your own mental makeup. The more you think about something, the more stress it will cases. The important step here is to catch yourself while cooking stressful thoughts and remind yourself that nothing has happened yet. So let’s just prepare.

Posted online by Richa Sahay

6. Help from Colleagues

This exercise works best with a team that already works together. I use it halfway through the day – usually after lunch.

Get everyone to write their name at the top of a piece of paper. Then add the following:-

  1. What I need my colleagues to do when I’m stressed is …. (fill in the blank)
  2. What I need my colleagues NOT to do when I’m stressed is … (fill in the blank)

The information is collated and every member of the team is given a copy for future reference. I have seen huge turnarounds with teams using this exercise.

The understanding that occurs through discussion in the workshop is amazing because people recognize very quickly that we all have different needs and should never assume that what you need/don’t need is the same as for others.  Posted online by Gail Page

7. Quick Calm Deep Breathing Exercises

Quick Calm is an easy deep-breathing exercise that I use with every audience. I have an audio demo of it on my homepage: There’s a trainer-friendly video demo of the same technique along with other exercises on my YouTube channel (accessible via the YT icon on the homepage). Posted online by Jordan Friedman

8. Take your Stress Temperature

I start a workshop by asking participants to put a “dot” (I use a red circle sticky) on a thermometer drawn on a flip chart that represents their stress level as they begin the workshop. At the bottom, write “Centered and Calm.” At the top, write “About to Explode.” Add other descriptors as you see fit.

At the end of the workshop, I ask them to place a blue dot on the same thermometer for their current stress level. It’s interesting to see the shift towards the bottom of the thermometer.

I emphasize that it doesn’t take a lot of techniques to better manage stress, but that when we ARE stressed when we most need to practice the techniques, we may “forget” to do any of them. I then have them identify the 1, 2, or 3 techniques or tools we covered that they feel best “fit them” and have them plan for how they WILL use them.

Posted online by Vicki Legman

9. Taking Control – Stress and the Body

On a flipchart, you draw the shape of the human body and draw in different colors where stress affects the body i.e. tension in the neck, stomach aches, chest pains, etc.

Invite participants to do the same, it allows the participants to see what stress is actually doing to their bodies and how much they put themselves through. Also discussed is what we like to do for ourselves and how we can build these things into our lives to help alleviate the stress. Posted online by Catherine Conlon

10. Stress Wheel

I use the wheel approach (similar to the performance wheel used in coaching) to measure a person’s stress. I ask the audience to name causes of stress and ask them to note these down on the blank wheel handout provided, scoring 0 – 10 (0 being stressed – 10 not an issue). Some examples have been ‘relationships at work, relationships at home, salary, workload pressures, personal finances and so on. Individuals choose 6 that are pertinent to them and then complete the wheel. This allows participants to identify their key areas of stress.

Participants are asked to share with the person next to them initially. Further into the program we look at tools and techniques to cope with the stressors identified on the wheel. This approach allows the audience to deal with ‘real time’ issues.  Posted online by Jane Worthington

11. Practice…

Ask your group to make a list of all the things they can think of that make them angry.

Next to each trigger, have them write the reaction that they ‘already’ do. Then, ask them to write the reaction they ‘wish’ to do.

They can discuss the reaction and ‘wish’ with you and their training-mates if they choose. Then they can spend some time visualizing moments where one of the anger triggers happened and reverse the situation replacing the action they usually do with the action they wish to do. They can practice this for just 5 minutes daily… Posted online by Doaa K (Trainer’s Box)

12. Balloons!.

Use a large balloon and a drawing pin. Tell people that you are going to pop it at some point during the period, but you are not going to tell them when. Then you can ask how they feel, and engage in a discussion about the different anxieties that build up before a person actually feels “stressed.” Posted online by Paul M.

I’ve used balloons for getting people to blow their stress into the balloons and then either let them go outside OR pop them. This helps them feel as if they are taking back control. Another option is to have them draw symbols on the balloons, representing how they feel. Posted online by Gail Page

13. Pressing their Buttons

If yo have an hour or so, you can have people make “buttons” as in, the things that press their “buttons” and produce stress. Start with listing specifically what their button issues are, then get them to construct their buttons out of a variety of crafts and office materials, then they can wear them, and encounter each other to describe what’s on their buttons. It’s a great lighthearted and creative way to own what bugs us on a daily basis! Posted online by Kymberly Dakin

14. Trigger Points

Have each participant list 3 priority stress areas which they find difficult to handle. Ask them not to write their name on the list. Later, shuffle and distribute the lists. Have participants read the list he/she received and ask them to share how they would handle those stressful situations.  Posted online by Ashok NaraYanan

15. Pass the Cup of Water

Have your group stand and give them a half-full cup of water to pass around. Instruct the group to pass the cup around clockwise or counterclockwise. When you think they’re ready, add another cup of water . . . then another . . . and soon another.  As the group continues, increase the challenge: take some half-full cups out of the rotation and add 3/4-full cups, add more cups, and ask a few people to step out of the circle, making the group smaller. Pretty soon you will find that each person still in the circle has two cups each and is continuing to pass them around faster and faster.  Then call “stop.”

Debrief:  Have the group discuss how they all felt about the people who were in the room, about passing the water (which was in this case the customer in the call queue) how they felt about being pulled out of the circle, how they felt about being in the circle and having to pass things faster and faster with few people.

The use of water is effective because while mostly un-harmful there is something inherently fearful about spilling it that is human nature. Those who do step out of the circle, they may assume that they can’t jump back in to help.  It creates a very rich discussion. Posted online by Thomas Cameron

Read More…

Tackling Stress Management at Work

Stress Management Worries vs. Warriors

Leadership Activities for Challenging Times

10 Viable Solutions to Manage Workplace Stress


15 thoughts on “Stress Management Activities”

  1. Veronica says:

    Love all of these, great ideas for dynamic group activities!

  2. Susan says:

    Glad you liked them. Let us know how they work for you.

  3. Brittany says:

    Thank you for the ideas!

  4. binda kanayalkar says:

    Liked the simple yet effective activities. Have used the one with Stress balls earlier, will definitely use the water cups and other activities. Thanks..

  5. Dr Neeta says:

    Have used the balloons and chits will incorporate few others too.Thank you Sharing…

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  8. fejj eiouah lavin says:

    I Find the activities simple yet healthy and helpful. thank you for sharing

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  10. Megala says:

    Written with great care. It’s all stuffed with stress management information, and I’m incredibly impressed. Because it helps in the release of tension and the natural improvement of your body’s health. It is fueled by natural substances such as ashwagandha. It is a highly recommended article. Thank you for finding the site useful. – Nidra Nutrition

  11. smirthi says:

    Great blog!! Numerous situations in one’s life might cause stress. When we encounter something novel, unexpected, or that puts our sense of self in harm, or when we feel helpless in a situation, it frequently gets triggered. For further information, check or go to

  12. lala says:

    I dont undertand how to do the stress for success of activities?

    1. Susan Landay says:

      Thank you for the feedback. I have tried to clarify the instructions, as I understand them.

  13. Shivam says:

    Loved the post. These stress management activities are effective. I also have a mental health ablog:

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