Tight on Money and High in Stress? These Free Stress Relievers Work!

The Best Stress Relievers that Do Not Cost a Thing

Music can be a great way to have fun and relieve stress--and it's free!. Blend Images - KidStock/ Getty Images

If you're tight on money and high in stress, you are in luck—many of the best stress relievers are free! These free stress relievers work well for short-term stress relief and are even more effective at building resilience with regular practice. This is because many of them have cumulative positive effects, meaning that the more you practice them, the better these free stress relief strategies work! Here’s a list of some of the most effective techniques to relieve stress, with explanations of why they rank high with so many people. You’ll also find links to more information on each.

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises are excellent free stress relievers and can be done anytime, anywhere, making them one of my most recommended stress relievers. They work well by calming your physiology and preventing damage due to chronic stress. You can even use these free stress relievers when you’re in the middle of a very stressful situation—you don’t have until later! If you learn to relieve stress through your breath, you can keep your stress response from remaining triggered as you handle conflicts with difficult people, stressful driving situations, anxiety-provoking presentations at work or school, and so many other stress-provoking situations that you face throughout your day. Breathing exercises can also be combined with virtually any other activity, so remaining mindful of your breath can be a go-to stress reliever.

Read more about breathing exercises.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Tensing and relaxing muscles is a very basic free stress reliever, and it’s exactly what PMR is. It’s simple and easy to learn, and with practice, you can reduce or eliminate the tension in our entire body in a matter of seconds! The key to this stress reliever is regular practice, but it has been used for many stressful situations, including childbirth, with positive results. Developing the ability to relax your body in seconds can help you keep your mind relaxed during life's most stressful moments, as physical relaxation can lead to mental and emotional relaxation, just as the reverse is also true.

Read more about PMR.


An increasingly popular form of stress relief for good reason, meditation is one of the most effective and widely practiced stress relievers around. Though it does take regular practice, and sometimes requires some getting-used-to, meditation is an excellent form of stress relief, and can even help prevent future stress by helping you to build resilience. 

With regular meditation practice, you will be able to relax more quickly and easily, step outside of a stressful situation in your mind without getting mired in the stress and drama of it, and be less reactive to stress you face in your life.

There are many types of meditation to try; the important thing is to just do it.

Read more about meditation.


Exercise is often thought of as an activity that primarily affects the body, but it is one of the best stress relievers you can practice as well. Exercise can build resilience to stress just as meditation does, and can help you to feel less stressed immediately after a workout as well. Contrary to what they gyms would have you believe, you don’t need an expensive membership somewhere to get adequate exercise. Working out can be a free stress reliever if done creatively. Take a walk with a friend, try a workout video in your home, or just do a bunch of push-ups and jumping jacks to work up a sweat during inclement weather. Whatever your route, you can experience the release of tension and influx of endorphins that accompany exercise—for free.

Read more about exercise.


It’s not only ‘the best medicine’, laughter is one of the more fun free stress relievers available! It is vitally important to maintain a sense of humor in life; a strong sense of humor can be a great way to relieve stress and can make life more enjoyable at the same time. Friends and couples who can help each other laugh are providing each other with the gift of stress relief while they create a closer bond, so learning to laugh at life's stress is even more important for your relationships. It’s one of those free stress relievers that can relieve stress in those around you as well.

Read more about laughter.


Listening to music has proven benefits, and it’s one of the most enjoyable and effortless free stress relievers you can try. Music can energize you when you're drained from stress, or relax you when you're feeling frazzled. Lyrics can provide a catharsis when you need one, or a mantra when that's what will help you the most. Music can call back memories from your favorite times from the past, and help you to make new memories feel even more special. Music relaxes your body and mind. Whether you’re listening to meditation music to soothe your body, or using some upbeat music to create energy to get through a stressed day, music can be an excellent secret weapon, and much of it can be found for free or close to it.

Read more about music.

Saying No

The other free stress relievers listed can help you with your stress response; they can enable you to calm your physiology once you’re already stressed, and perhaps make yourself less reactive to stress that you experience. The techniques of reexamining priorities and saying no can help you set boundaries and reduce stress before you experience it. And this can free up your time for some of the other free stress relievers and activities!

Read more about saying no.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ma X, Yue ZQ, Gong ZQ, et al. The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Front Psychol. 2017;8:874. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874

  2. Dolbier CL, Rush TE. Efficacy of abbreviated progressive muscle relaxation in a high-stress college sampleInt J Stress Manag. 2012;19(1):48-68. doi:10.1037/a0027326

  3. Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EM, et al. Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being: A Systematic Review and Meta-AnalysisJAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(3):357-368. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018

  4. Jackson E. Stress Relief: The Role of Exercise in Stress ManagementACSMs Health Fit J. 2013;17(3):14-19. doi:10.1249/FIT.0b013e31828cb1c9

  5. Savage BM, Lujan HL, Thipparthi RR, DiCarlo SE. Humor, laughter, learning, and health! A brief reviewAdv Physiol Educ. 2017;41(3):341-347. doi:10.1152/advan.00030.2017

  6. de Witte M, Spruit A, van Hooren S, Moonen X, Stams GJ. Effects of music interventions on stress-related outcomes: A systematic review and two meta-analysesHealth Psychol Rev. 2020;14(2):294-324. doi:10.1080/17437199.2019.1627897

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.