How to Calm Down when Stressed

Three Methods:Stepping Away from the StressorExpressing Your FeelingsDistracting Yourself

Sometimes, stress can seem to rule your life. From an extra heavy workload and uncooperative coworkers; to classwork and teachers; to your significant other, stressors are everywhere. It is important that you learn how to cope and calm yourself wherever and whenever stress pops up. With the right strategies and insight you can!

Method 1
Stepping Away from the Stressor

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    Take a short break. Just the act of separating yourself from your stressor for a few moments can calm you down. You can use this time to think about the situation, why it is stressing you, and how you can resolve the problem.
    • Whether it’s a bathroom break during a meeting, a brief walk, or just turning away from the pile of papers on your desk for a minute or two, try to take a short break from work. Taking a time out can help increase energy and creativity.[1]
    • Take a break from family, peers, and your social life. When the people around you are causing you stress because of things they are doing or saying, take a few minutes away from them. This way you won’t lash out at the person (or people) as a result of your stress.
    • Take a break from activities and organizations. Sometimes it is the number of things you are involved in that is stressing you out. Don’t make it a habit, but if you need to, cancel practice or a meeting for the day.
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    Take a few deep breaths. Even if you can’t take a break, changing your breathing can calm you down. A few slow, deep breaths can reduce blood pressure, slow your heart rate, relax tense muscles, and other physical indicators of stress such as muscle tension.[2][3]
    • Focus on your breathing for a couple of seconds. Try to tune out everything else around you except for your breathing. Clear your mind.
    • Inhale slowly through your nose, try to feel the breath go down to in your belly, then slowly exhale out through your mouth.[4] Try to hold each breath for a few seconds before exhaling it.[5]
    • Imagine the tension blowing away each time you exhale. You will begin to feel your body relaxing a bit.
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    Think “happy thoughts". Although it may sound a bit corny, thinking about the things, people, places, and experiences that make you happy releases tension.[6]Thinking positive also calms you by focusing your brain on something other than the stressor.[7]
    • Visualize yourself in vivid detail doing something you enjoy. Hear yourself laughing; see yourself smiling.[8]
    • Think about a happy time in your life or a humorous memory. Try to recall what you saw, what sounds you heard, textures you encountered, aromas you smelled, and what feelings you had in those moments.[9]
    • Think about how you will treat yourself later. Savor the thought of the small reward you will give yourself for calming yourself down during this stressful time.

Method 2
Expressing Your Feelings

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    Talk about it. This may mean calling your brother and telling him you’re super stressed or it might mean sitting down with your parents and telling them that you’re stressed out. Acknowledging how you are feeling and expressing it provides an outlet for your stress.[10]
    • Communicating how you are feeling can prevent confusion and misunderstanding in your relationships.[11]Tell others how you are feeling before your feelings lead to an argument or worse. Let them know that you are stressed and may need a few minutes to sort yourself out.
    • Try to not just talk about what is stressing you, but also work together to figure out ways to decrease your stress level. For example, you could say something like, “I am feeling stressed about ___. Do you have any suggestions?”
    • If someone is causing you stress, then talk to them about it calmly, without yelling, screaming or using an accusatory tone.[12] Explain to them how their actions, words, or even expectations cause you stress. For example, you could say something like, “I feel stressed when you ____. Would it be possible for you to ___?”
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    Write about it. Sometimes you can’t, or just don’t want to talk about how you feel. Writing down your feelings can be just as calming as talking about them.
    • Write about what is stressing you, how or why it is causing you stress, and how you are experiencing the stress physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.
    • Use a journal or diary to keep a running record of your feelings and then review it from time to time. Reviewing what you have written may help you to identify patterns in your stressors.
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    Be creative. Express how you are feeling in any way that is appropriate for the situation and helps calm you down. It’s not so much what you do to express that you are stressed, but more so that you are do something to appropriately express how you are feeling.
    • Doodle a small picture depicting how you feel. Draw another picture of how you will look when you are calm.
    • Take a selfie showing how you feel at the moment (frown, pout, scream, etc.). Take a few showing you looking calm and happy.
    • Sing one of your favorite songs in your head. Try to pick a song that expresses how you are feeling and lifts your spirits.[13]

Method 3
Distracting Yourself

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    Get physical. Physical activity can help release tension and re-energize your brain.[14]In fact, some studies suggest that exercise is one of the most recommended stress-relief techniques.[15]
    • Stretch, do a few yoga poses, or tai chi. Slow, steady movements can release tension in your back, neck, and shoulders and help you calm yourself.
    • Take a walk, jog in place, do a few jumping jacks. Studies indicate that even a few minutes of aerobic activity can decrease stress.[16]
    • Roll your neck and shoulders. Wiggle your fingers and toes. Even small movements can help you calm down when you are stressed.
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    Have some fun. When you have the opportunity, do something small, but enjoyable to give yourself a dose of happiness.[17] When you are happy, even for an instant, your body releases chemicals that decrease your level of stress.[18]
    • Play one round of your favorite games (e.g., Candy Crush, Angry Birds, etc.). Don’t get caught up in the game, though! This is only a small treat to improve your mood.
    • Look at a short, funny video or a humorous meme. Laughing or even just internally chuckling can reduce tension and relieve stress instantly.[19][20]
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    Have a healthy snack. Having some fruit or another small, nutritious snack is a great way to boost your mood. [21] While you shouldn’t make unhealthy snacking a regular part of your stress-reduction routine, having a healthy snack as a pick me up every now and then can be beneficial.
    • Blueberries, for example, have been found to reduce stress by increasing white blood cells. While other fruit can help balance blood sugar levels that may fluctuate due to stress.[22]
    • Try some broccoli which is a natural stress reducer.[23]
    • Have a small piece of dark chocolate. Many recent studies have shown the positive impact dark chocolate can have an reducing stress and anxiety.[24]


  • Try to develop long-term strategies to decrease the stress in your life like eating balanced meals, getting enough sleep, being active, etc.


  • If you are stressed because someone is doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable, threatens or harms you, then you should tell someone you trust immediately.
  • While it can be a good idea to take a break in just about any situation, make sure that you aren’t just avoiding things that you need to address. If you find yourself taking frequent breaks, perhaps you should evaluate the situation.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Emotional Health | Managing Negative Feelings