How to Pretend You Are Zen When You Are Stressed Out

Whether your kids’ schedules have you frazzled to no end or your boss is hovering over your desk demanding those final reports now, appearing calm while under pressure is a talent not easily cultivated but definitely worth the effort. During a stressful situation, the body’s natural tendency is to go into hyper-sensitive mode and flee––which may cause you to exhibit erratic and somewhat insane behavior.

Rather than give in to the stress gods, practice a new approach during a harrowing situation that will allow you to at least appear as if you are zen on the inside rather than the real feelings of being stressed to the max. In addition, as with anything you practice, the more you try this, the more your body will believe it and you actually will end coping in zen mode when stressful situations happen.


  1. Image titled Pretend You Are Zen When You Are Stressed Out Step 1
    Recognize when you're in a stressful position. A stressful situation will often sneak up on its victim, which may put you in an even more harrowing position if you're too busy convincing yourself that you're simply not coping fast enough with the problems being thrown your way. From dealing with the kids going crazy to being stuck in a 10 mile (16 km) traffic jam, recognize the situation for what it is and know that now is time to put on your game face and take care of yourself.
  2. Image titled Pretend You Are Zen When You Are Stressed Out Step 2
    Breathe and count. The first step to looking (and feeling) peaceful is to calm the body. The feeling of wanting to scream, yell or basically run around like a chicken with your head cut off must be stopped before you lose control and blow your cover. Breathing and counting can help to restore some zen in an otherwise crazy moment:
    • Practice deep breathing exercises the minute you feel anxiety take over. Close your mouth, your eyes (if possible) and breathe deeply through your nose, down into your diaphragm. Allow the breath to completely fill your lungs. Hold the breath for at least three seconds and then slowly and deliberately release the air. Practice these deep breaths at least three or four more times (or until you feel as if you're gaining control over your emotions).
    • Mentally count backward, starting with 10. One reason counting may help to relax the mind is because it provides the brain with something else to think about, rather than focus on your stressful situation. Breathe and count simultaneously until you feel that you can regain control over yourself.
  3. Image titled Pretend You Are Zen When You Are Stressed Out Step 3
    Relax your body. Starting with the tips of your toes, begin to mentally feel your body becoming limp––actually melting into your chair or the ground. Looking zen externally means that your body language must be consistent with being relaxed. To relax, your muscles must chill out, beginning with your feet. Visualize each muscle fiber releasing tension and relaxing. Work upward through your body until you get to your face––probably the most important body part for looking relaxed while stressed.
    • Relax the eye muscles and try to avoid frowning or looking angry, anxiety ridden or upset. If you can't bear the stressful situation with a smile, at least keep a neutral facial expression.
    • Become aware of the nervous ticks often associated with stress. Lip biting, fingernail biting, or knee shaking are easy-to-spot signs that you're stressed out. Know your unconscious habits and stop them dead in their tracks.
    • Try self-massage. Massage your head, neck, shoulders and lower back. Even better if you can get someone else to do this for you––you can always offer to reciprocate when they're stressed!
  4. Image titled Pretend You Are Zen When You Are Stressed Out Step 4
    Concentrate on relaxing your facial muscles. Unfurrow your brow, as scrunching it up is a normal reaction when overwhelmed with anxiety.
    • One way to achieve fast relaxation is to deliberately tense your facial muscles and then release them. You'll notice the difference immediately. This can also be done with all your body's muscles.
  5. Image titled Pretend You Are Zen When You Are Stressed Out Step 5
    Be deliberate with your actions. Anxiety-ridden people often act erratically and sometimes don’t make sense when talking or fidget incessantly, causing others to catch the jumpy mood. Instead of going into flight mode, be deliberate and slow with everything you do. Think slow motion.
    • Stop and think before you speak. Consider how your dialog will come across and what your delivery should look like if you weren’t stressed out. Stick to neutral topics and avoid integrating negative words or comments into your delivery.
    • Avoid racing around in circles or moving constantly. You'll appear to be frazzled and stressed if you don't practice grace with your movements. If you feel as if you are so tanked up with adrenalin, go for a short walk outside the building or wherever it's possible to walk, to try to release some pent-up energy and restore positive energy flow. Even a five-minute walk will give you the chance to unwind and re-focus.
    • Don’t make rash decisions while you're stressed. Being zen means that you're “going with the flow” so don’t decide to move to Montana because a hurricane may hit your hometown in Florida.
  6. Image titled Pretend You Are Zen When You Are Stressed Out Step 6
    Surround yourself with nature. If you don't have a wonderful view from the office, kitchen or wherever it is that you tend to stress most, then introduce one. Add plants that purify the air and add wonderful greenery to your visual space. Put up pictures of places of natural splendor, such as Yosemite, Yellowstone or your favorite local hiking trail. Images of pets, animals and flowers or trees can also help to keep you focused more on calm when you look at them.
    • If there is a special spot you like to go to and it's close by, slip out to it for a half hour and soak up the serenity it provides. If not, take a photo of your special natural place and pin it to the wall or a board so you can use it to remind you of what peace feels like.
  7. Image titled Pretend You Are Zen When You Are Stressed Out Step 7
    Tune into an environmental sound to help keep you centered. This could be traffic, the sound of children playing, an air conditioner humming or running water. Listen to the repetitive, rhythmic nature of your chosen sound until you feel calmer and more settled.
  8. Image titled Pretend You Are Zen When You Are Stressed Out Step 8
    Take short breaks. Whatever it is that you're doing, break every hour for at least five minutes of different activity or rest. It is important to refresh your mind and to stretch your body. You will be a lot more effective for regular breaks than if you plow on through and you will find that doing this contributes massively to a zen approach to the tasks.
    • If the rest of your team looks askew when you take regular breaks, encourage them to do the same, pointing out how much more focus they'll have when they return to the tasks. It may take some convincing but it's worth getting others on board. If they won't, slip off quietly and have your break unnoticed.
  9. Image titled Pretend You Are Zen When You Are Stressed Out Step 9
    Smile and joke with others. Put others at ease with a relaxed smile and an easy joke. Smile naturally––a forced smile will make you look ghoulish. The best way to cultivate a relaxed smile is to completely clear your mind and focus on something pleasant or peaceful like a garden meadow or a sunset. The smile will come naturally if your mind if filled with positive thoughts. When it comes to jokes, keep the topics light, tasteful, and appropriate. If small quips aren’t your thing, smile and stick to conversation about the weather.
  10. Image titled Pretend You Are Zen When You Are Stressed Out Step 10
    Be realistic. If you've been tasked with more work, chores or responsibilities than you're able to cope with, no amount of focusing on being zen will work for you until you've sorted out a fairer distribution. Be prepared to speak up and tell your boss, spouse, coworker, friend, etc. there is more than you're able to tackle and that some of what you're doing needs to be offloaded to another. Keep your calm as you explain this and state just the facts, including the perceived consequences for the other person should you not be able to manage completion of the tasks or responsibilities on time or to a satisfactory standard.
  11. Image titled Pretend You Are Zen When You Are Stressed Out Step 11
    Learn to spot the difference between urgent and non-urgent. This may seem like a no-brainer but in fact, it's often not. The insistence of other people that something is urgent can cause you to assume that a task is urgent when, on reflection, you might otherwise realize that it is something that can be left until later without any harm. In fact, a number of requests to do things are often better for a period of reflection. When someone else insists that something is urgent, be zen and question the urgency. If it really is urgent, you can have the satisfaction of completing it within time for good reason. If it is not, you can have the satisfaction of giving the matter due attention in a more realistic period. Ultimately, having the ability to state that something will get done within a reasonable time puts you back in control and helps you to maintain a zen-like calm.


  • Get enough sleep. The less sleep you've had, the more likely it is that you'll not be able to cope well with stressful situations. Sleep restores your mental and physical strength, allowing you to call on more reserves to introduce a zen-like state during stressful situations. Even a nap can be refreshing if you've been missing out on the z's.
  • If you feel as if you're about to lose control, excuse yourself from a public situation so you can be alone for a few minutes.
  • Focus on dealing with harder tasks when you're at your most alert. That way, you can give them your full attention and concentration, and these will be less likely to weigh heavily on you for the rest of the stressful period. Even if you can only get started on these tasks and have to come back to them periodically to complete them, the act of starting on them can relieve you of much tension.
  • Understand that it’s okay to feel stressed sometimes and that you don't always have to mask your true feelings.
  • If you're completely overwhelmed, confide in a good friend that you're having trouble coping. Talking your problems out with a good friend may be your true key to actually being zen (versus just looking the part).
  • The use of simple meditation techniques can help induce a zen approach to stress. You can even do very short meditations on the spot that involve breathing and emitting a single sound, to calm the mind.


  • Sometimes glazing over what is really bothering you can cause a negative physical reaction. From breaking out in hives or a rash to chest pain. Get to the root of your anxiety before it takes a toll on your health.

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Yoga | Zen