Top 10 Instant Stress Busters

Whitson Gordon

Beating chronic stress is a long-term effort, and we’ve shared a lot of ways to deal with it—but what if you’re overcome with stress right now and just want to calm down? Here are ten ways you can bust through stress and get on with your day.


10. Catch It Right Away


Your body stresses out at some of the most mundane things, and it can spiral out of control quickly. One of the best ways to fight stress is to stop that “stress reflex” right when it starts. Work-life consultant and author Joe Robinson notes that “the stress spiral is weakest at the very beginning of the cycle, so that’s when you want to contest it.” If your overflowed inbox is getting you stressed out, start thinking early on whether that’s something really worth getting worked up over, and start using the following techniques as soon as you can.

9. “Label” Your Feelings


Sometimes, just admitting your feelings can calm you down. Try to figure out what that negative emotion is and just boil it down to two words. Thinking to yourself “I’m overwhelmed” or “I’m frazzled” can surprisingly go a long way into calming yourself down.


8. Fix Your Posture

Using more powerful body language can make you more confident, but psychologist Amy Cuddy found that it can also reduce stress—even if you’re faking it a little bit. People who adopt more open, confident, powerful poses found their stress levels reduced, even if just for a few minutes. So, striking those poses in the mirror before your big meeting may not be as silly as they feel.


7. Eat


No, we don’t mean you should go stress-eat that whole box of doughnuts, but sometimes, stress can be seriously intensified by certain mundane things—like taking care of your physical needs. If your blood sugar level is low, eating can seriously turn your bad mood around after just a few bites. Fatty acids and spicy foods might even help a little extra. Just make sure you don’t go overboard.


6. Turn Off Your Phone


This one may be a little obvious, but the constant notifications and attention-seeking from your phone can really exacerbate stress levels—even if you aren’t stressed about work! So, no matter where you are, if you’re feeling a little stressed out, switch off your phone for a few hours. The disconnection might help calm you down.


5. Make a Decision


Big decisions can be stressful, and you don’t want to rush them. But if the thing stressing you out is relatively small, just make a decision and move on—again, ask yourself whether your stress level is equivalent to the importance of the decision. Our brains have a way of synthesizing happiness even if we make the “wrong” decision, so as long as it doesn’t have serious lasting consequences, you may be better off flipping a coin than you are going through all that stress for no reason.


4. Laugh Out Loud


We all know laughing can put us in a better mood, but it’s a better stress cure than you may realize. Studies show that people who laugh the “most heartily,” according to WebMD, show bigger drops in stress levels when watching a funny movie. Laughter really is the best medicine, and while it isn’t always possible to plop down on the couch and watch your favorite comedy, you can stick a few of your favorite standup routines on your iPod and sneak them in when you’re feeling stressed.


3. Exercise


Going for a jog isn’t exactly the most fun thing to do when you’re stressed, but when you’re done, it can help you feel so much better. Exercise prepares your body for stress, because your body thinks you’re in a stressful situation (like you’re fleeing for your life). So, your brain releases chemicals to help fight that stress, which is why you feel that endorphin high after you’re finished. Even if it’s short, get a little exercise in and you’ll feel much better.


2. Meditate


Ever hear someone to tell you to just “take deep breaths” when you’re stressed? They’re not far off. Meditation isn’t the silly, cross-legged, hovering-in-the-air thing you see in cartoons—it’s actually an incredibly beneficial way to calm you down, improve your focus, and get rid of distractions in your mind. It doesn’t take a lot, either—all you really need to do is sit comfortably and breathe deeply and slowly, focusing your attention on your breath and away from all that stuff that’s stressing you out. Check out our guide to meditation for more info.


1. Fight Your Long-Term Stress Now


These tips will get you through a quick bout of stress, but if you find yourself feeling this way more often, you’re approaching a different, chronic problem. These techniques can still help, but the best thing you can do is fight your chronic stress at the source. First, learn what stress actually does to you and what you can do about it. Sometimes just changing your expectations of things can help. Be sure to check out these nine strategies successful people use to overcome stress, too. The little things can make a big difference.


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