Change in any form can become painful if individuals are not equipped with the necessary coping mechanisms. The transformation in the educational arena over the last few years has resulted in increased stress levels for school principals. This study investigates the role and impact of a stress intervention programme, the Art of Living workshop, using controlled breathing techniques, on the functioning of primary school principals in the Phoenix Circuit, Durban. A combined quantitative and qualitative research approach employing structured questionnaires and semi-structured individual interviews was used to compare the principals’ stress levels before and after the stress intervention programme. The findings revealed that the intervention programme was successful in reducing principals’ stress levels. A lack of resources, increased workloads, learner discipline, educator attitudes, indifferent parents and resolving conflicts created stress for principals. Benefits of the Art of Living workshop included the ability to remain calm and relaxed; and improved sleep patterns, increased energy levels and improved human relation skills.