Stop Stressing Out & Do These 31 Things To Find Instant Relaxation Instead!

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Chances are, you are already acutely aware of what revs you up and calms you down. You know what (or who!) pushes your buttons, just as you know how to chill out. But just knowing doesn’t cut it!

Sometimes when you need to chill out most, your poor brain is too pre-occupied — actually hijacked by stress — to calm you down. Your more rational, wise brain goes offline faster than you can say "stress!"

Your overwhelmed or triggered mind makes some thinking errors, which can lead to thinking in "black and white," where the contrast between your state of stress and feeling "chilled out" is enormous. Stress can make you underestimate your control, which in turn means your brain can't relax because it's constantly on the lookout for danger.

RELATED: 6 Subtle Signs You're Burned Out And In Desperate Need Of Self-Care

If you're feeling the stress, don't be delusional and overwork yourself when what you really need is to relax. Recognize your limits!

What can you do to reclaim your brain power, health, and happiness? 

Stress management is really energy management — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy management. People, events, situations, and your own thoughts can trigger you, deflate you, or drain your energy. One difficult 5-minute conversation can pull the plug on your momentum. Recognize it, and in turn, raise your awareness of what you need to refuel.

Try using these 31 simple ways for dealing with stress when your anxiety feels out of control: 

1. Right now… take three long, slow, easy deep breaths.


Repeat as you breathe, “I am enough. I have enough.” After all, isn’t the basic message of that nasty inner critic that somehow you are not enough for the situation — that’s why the stress feels oppressive?

What if your inner critic is just plain wrong? Stop believing those thoughts and practice some new ones! "Breath work" is the fastest way to chill out your frazzled brain and body.

2. Inhale and tighten up every muscle, as hard as you can, and squeeze!

This exercise can help you instantly release unwanted tension in your body. Tighten your fingers, arms, shoulders, toes, cheeks, abs, and even your face! Now exhale and stretch every little part back out. Get long, tall, and refreshed. Feel the blood start to bring in fresh oxygen and take away stale tension.

Have ten minutes? Do a full progressive relaxation with Dartmouth’s free guide.

3. Get yourself a massage, girl! 

There's nothing like having self-care on your calendar! Massage is proven to bring down the tension. It’s amazing how mental stress translates to physical tension. Sometimes, the best way to achieve mental relief is through the physical.

4. Try some reflexology on yourself.

Use acupressure to self-calm. Give yourself a 2-minute ear massage. I dare you to do this in the middle of a meeting! Most likely, no one will even notice. And if they do, just coyly say: "Oh, my ear was itching."

5. Strike a pose! 

Yoga combines breathing and stretching to decrease stress (and tone!) Again, you can use your body to calm your mind, release the tension. It’s not about the fancy lycra — yoga can be done at your desk.

6. Phone a friend.

The kind of friend who helps you get your perspective back, or at least gets you laughing. Connection is a basic human need, wired into your brain. And just when you need it most, you tend to withdraw.

Put a few folks on speed-dial and use that option readily.

7. Schedule some laughter into your day! 

Set the timer for 15 minutes and give yourself permission to surf silly YouTube videos. It will be easier to get back to better concentration after you flood your brain with some refreshing chemical relief.

Curious about the science of laughter? It’s impressive and its benefits are numerous!

8. Go for a breather! 

Get outside for 15 minutes in the middle of the day — cold or not — and get some fresh air. Take a walking meeting. Eat outside, or circle the building and notice the outside world.

This helps reset perspective, balance your brainwaves, and it removes you from the sea of stress clues so you can clear your head. Breathe!

9. Take a power nap.

Go ahead, put up the "Do Not Disturb" sign, close your eyes, and refuel for twenty minutes. A nap is way more powerful for your brain than that cup of coffee.

You're rebooting the system, replenishing the neurotransmitters and improving your memory.

10. Write down your top three worries.

Once you've written them down, consider this: What would you tell your best friend to do if she/he faced these?

Just naming them is helpful, but thinking about them from another angle can help you find new possibilities or at least regain a little perspective.

11. Do a worry "dump."

Start with a blank page and write down everything bothersome — big and little — rumbling around in your overly stressed out mind. Keep writing, then take a breath, smile, and send yourself a little love.

Now consider how would you like to spend your precious energy. Are these worries worth your time? How many can you just let go?

RELATED: The Scary Truth About What Happens To Your Body When You're Stressed

12. Make a list of 3-5 times you have succeeded.

In the face of any big or little challenge, it's important to remember that you have won at many points throughout your life. What strengths can you own and bring to your current situation?

In the middle of stress, it is easy and even natural to focus on gaps, failures, and insecurities, even to the point of thinking that everything is going to always fail. But really, just because you blew it as a parent this morning doesn’t mean your kids are going to need therapy for life.

Bring to mind some of your past successes in order to strengthen your confidence and creativity.

13. Find a little thing you can totally dominate.

Like tackling cleaning out one drawer with a vengeance, for example! This gives you some time to think and a sense of control over something!

Tidying up will help set your mind at ease and make you feel fulfilled, since it's an active step towards progress.

14. Use your nose! 

Light a lavender candle, close your eyes, and just notice the power of scent to change your mood. Your brain is programed to take in clues from your entire world, not just your conscious stream.

15. Tune in to good vibes.


Turn off alerts and outside signals, and turn on relaxing music or try a new Spotify channel.

There's a reason music is used in medical situations to help patients deal with their challenges — it works!

16. Relax your brainwaves with binaural beats.

These are sounds delivered to your ears in two different frequencies and they have been shown to affect your brainwaves. There are Pandora stations and apps dedicated to this.

Just be sure to use your earbuds when listening to binaural beats, so the different frequencies are focused in each ear.

17. Take back lunch!

Thirty minutes to pause, breathe, nourish, change your scenery, or connect with someone will fuel your productivity for the rest of the day. Even if others in your office don't take this necessary time for themselves, make it a priority to do so daily.

No, you won’t lose your edge or your job! You’ll ramp up your effectiveness and decrease your stress in the process.

18. Take a walk.

A 20-minute walk will recharge your brain to handle your challenges. Rhythmic activity resets brainwaves and ramps up the associative centers of the brain — think smarter!

Extra credit: Go outside. Extra, extra credit: Go outside with a friend.

19. Listen to a meditation app.

Use one of the many guided meditations available to find a few minutes of peace, like Buddhify or Insight Timer. You can tailor the experience to your needs by finding a voice and message you find helpful and choosing an amount of time, from a minute to an hour, that works best for you.

Take this powerful path to the resilience of mindfulness while waiting for an appointment, during a 5-minute break, or at day's end.

RELATED: 5 Of The Best Meditation Apps For Instant Stress Relief (That You Can Keep In Your Back Pocket)

20. Write a thank you note.


Focusing on gratitude is good for your mind and heart — a true stress antidote.

It only takes a minute to dash off an email of appreciation. Plus, it creates a positive shift for two people, which makes this practice even more impactful.

21. Do just one thing at a time for the next 25 minutes.

Really! Try the Pomodoro method when stress is compromising your focus. Do this by only focusing on a single task at a time for 25-minute intervals, and don't let yourself get sidetracked by other work or responsibilities.

Chunking your focus between pauses is brain-friendly. You’ll feel more effective and confident. You’ve got this!

22. Take technology out of your bedroom! 

Science shows that having screens in your bedroom increases your stress, and you must get sleep to be resilient.

Create your new bedtime regime. Get creative and learn to put yourself to sleep the way you know works for you. You have to help your brain shift from the zoom of the day to the peaceful state, so you’ll awake refreshed and more resilient.

23. Vow to go to bed just 15 minutes earlier.

Try a relaxing guided visualization to close your day and let your brain gear down. If you're cheating yourself of sleep, you might as well start drinking a six-pack before work.

Try resting just a few minutes earlier than usual, and your brain will thank you!

24. Keep a gratitude journal.

The act of writing and the reflections reduce your cortisol and create a more stress resilient mindset. Gratitude improves health and productivity.

25. Get it on! 

Physical intimacy reduces stress hormones, lowers blood pressure, and creates better sleep. Not to mention it feeds that human need for touch and connection. Maybe waiting for the stress to die down to feel intimate is backwards?

26. Have a chat with your inner critic.

Give him or her a name. Thank him for motivating you and keeping you safe. (They've been cracking the whip on you for years!) Then, assure this inner critic you have it under control from here.

You have lots of “voices” in your head, and you are not crazy. When you're stressed, your inner critic gets louder, and it’s up to you to practice finding your more benevolent and effective voice.

27. Practice whatever faith you believe in.

Whatever that is for you, joining others or creating rituals to remind you of your deep, wide beliefs gives you resilience. You can’t live without food and water, but never discount that spiritual energy sustains you.

Feeling connected to your purpose and your place in a bigger world is the ultimate stress antidote. It is the driver of intrinsic motivation, your most powerful force in sustaining your "I’ve got this" attitude.

28. Close your day well.

Take five minutes to write down your “un-dones” and loose ends before going to sleep, so you don’t have to fret about them overnight.

No matter how smart and organized you are, keeping things in your head is like asking your brain to keep working all night long.

29. Keep track of your daily progress.

Focusing on progress makes you happier and more successful on the way to your goals.

Vision and goals are key motivators, engaging your emotions and pulling you forward. Keeping track of the tiny successes along the way fuels your energy and keeps you from being stressed by the gaps.

30. Read a book to help you out.

You can read something to help you rework your ideals, like Brene Brown's book, The Gifts of ImperfectionRelease the stress of perfectionism and never measuring up to unrealistic ideals.

What if you upgrade your expectations for yourself or others to a more realistic version? I don’t mean compromise your greatness. I mean get real and motivate yourself with what matters (intrinsic motivation), not some frustrating fantasy.

Perfectionism is self-sabotaging, but an oh-so-common challenge for high achievers. Your imperfections and mistakes are a critical part of your wisdom and humanity. Learn to be the best you, and what that looks like in your life.

31. Most importantly, never be afraid to ask for help! 


I know, we are almost allergic to this, our whole culture is. Yet we really like to help others. Let someone help you, and you both feel better instantly.

There is no shame — it’s the human advantage you should use to be your resilient best!

RELATED: Stop Sneaky Stress In 5 Steps!

Find your way back to energy and confidence, happiness and health — back to chilled out and ready to handle what life throws you. Never underestimate the power of one tiny act of self-care to help you manage the crazy demands of this 24/7 existence!

Make your own list of go-to stress zappers and post them everywhere you need them to remind you, “You’ve got this!”

You can contact Dr. Cynthia Ackrill for more help or ideas. You can also find more information about de-stressing your life at her website,

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This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.