It can be quite challenging to think of things to do when you’re stressed to de-stress yourself, because your mind is too overwhelmed to think clearly.
We’ve all been there. And we live in a high speed world where we’re encouraged to go go go all the time. If we stop and sit for a few minutes, we’re labelled lazy, slow or told we can’t possibly want to succeed in life.
I usually get stressed when I’m out of balance. More often than not, that means I’m spending too much time working and not a lot of time doing much else. I don’t notice as the shift is happening, and by the time I do it’s too late: I’m stressed.
The great thing about stress is it’s completely manageable; as long as we’re able to identify what’s causing it, then take the necessary steps to return back to peace.
Here are 21 things to do when you’re stressed to calm yourself down, and return to peace.
1. Find the root of the problem
One of the best things to do when you’re stressed, which a lot of us overlook, is to figure out what is causing the stress. Is it your job, a relationship, or something else in your life?
Once you figure out what the root is, you can then begin to address it.
Maybe that means asking for an extension at work, or having a chat with your manager. Maybe it means delegating more things to your partner at home. Or perhaps it means giving yourself less to do, and creating more space to rest and recharge.
2. Ask yourself: What do I need today?
When was the last time you asked yourself that?
Yeah, I can’t remember either.
Many of us become consumed and distracted by our external lives that we forget to take care of our internal needs.
So, find some stillness, and ask yourself, what do I need today?
An answer will come to you. And when it does, make sure you create the time to honour it.
3. Learn to prioritise
Each of us have only so many hours in a day. If we’re not careful a lot of unimportant things can sap our time and energy. And there’s nothing worse than reaching the end of the day, having worked so hard, only to feel like you’re still really behind.
This is where prioritising can help. Think about what the most important things are for you to do today; in your job, at home, in your relationships, and whatever else you have going on.
And don’t say they’re all equally important. They can’t be!
Do the most important things first, so that you can feel a sense of achievement, and leave the least important ones to last.
And remember, your to-do list may always be never-ending, but the key is to be accepting of that instead of in resistance to it. It’s not possible to get everything done in a day, so quit punishing yourself when you don’t.
4. Move your body in ways that feel good
Some people love the gym, while others (like me) see it as a prison.
Some people love running outdoors, and training for marathons, while some of our bodies just aren’t made for running.
Once you find an activity that leaves you feeling good, you’ll want to keep doing it; it won’t feel like a chore.
So think about what that is for you. Try lots of new ways of exercising, and see what you gravitate towards. When you find something you love, keep doing more of it.
For me, it’s yoga and swimming, as well as walking in nature.
The added benefits of exercise are it lowers your body’s stress hormones, and releases endorphins which can boost your mood. It can also make you feel more comfortable in your body, and improve your quality of sleep.
5. Get more (good) sleep
Getting enough sleep each night is really important for your general health and wellbeing. It allows your mind and body to rest and recharge, leaving you refreshed and energised for the next day.
So make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night—that’s different for all of us.
A couple of things you can do to help yourself sleep better:
- Reduce screen time a few hours before going to sleep
- Invest in blackout blinds or curtains
- Wear a silk eye mask
- Treat yourself to some beautiful, soft bed sheets (I love bamboo)
- Jot down everything on your mind before closing your eyes
- Listen to a sleep story or read a book
If you’re feeling the urge to sleep in all day and not get out of bed, that’s a sign that there’s something wrong. And this is often brought on by stress or depression. If it continues to get worse, don’t be afraid to speak to a medical professional and seek support.
6. Eat food that makes you feel nourished
I believe in eating mindfully, and making sure you get a balanced diet.
If I feel like pizza, I’ll eat pizza. And if I feel like a big salad bowl, I’ll eat salad. Your body will tell you what it needs, so practice tuning in to it. Give yourself food that will nourish and energise you, and make you feel most alive.
And try and avoid substances like alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine as much as possible, as they’ll only leave you feeling worse in the long run.
7. Talk it out with a loved one
Connecting with a loved one can be one of the most therapeutic things to do when you’re stressed.
Reach out for support from family and friends when you need it. Share how you’re feeling, and be open to a new perspective from them. Hugging someone you love can also be a wonderful stress releaser, and make you feel happier.
If your social network is fairly small, think about ways you can connect with like-minded people and begin fostering new and supportive relationships.
8. Take a bath
I never used to be a bath person, until we moved into our apartment a year ago. Now, I treat myself to a lovely soak at least once a week.
I use bath salts and bubbles, sometimes I mix in some coconut oil to soothe my skin, I light candles, and I listen to a relaxing playlist. It’s divine!
There’s something about being in water that is so soothing and healing. I always try and take a bath on a new moon, because it’s a beautiful symbol for washing away the old, and welcoming in the new.
You can go a step further and create your own bath tea using natural ingredients, and really have fun with it.
9. Light a candle, burn some incense or diffuse some oils
Lighting a candle or burning some incense are a great way to infuse sacredness into an everyday task and invoke peace, plus they smell so good.
They also help cleanse energy and clear out any negative vibes, so you can make space for empowering ones.
You could also invest in a diffuser, and use some essential oils to freshen up a room and help you create a different vibration.
Incense tends to be the messiest option, while a diffuser is the cleanest, so think about what will be the least stressful thing for you to choose.
Here are some of the most calming scents:
- Ylang ylang
It helps us release anything that has been weighing us down, consciously or subconsciously. And it allows us to make sense of our emotions, find the deeper meaning in them, and begin the process of healing.
If you haven’t got a beautiful journal to write in, invest in one that encourages you to use it, along with a special pen of some kind.
You can use this list of journal prompts if you need a little help to get started.
11. Learn to say no
As women, we often learn to prioritise everyone else’s needs and ignore our own. We become yes people, people-pleasers, who are afraid to say no.
Is it any wonder that we’re stressed? Some things are out of your control, but this one is on you.
You have the power to say no to things when they don’t feel good to you, or you’ve got too much on your plate already. Remember, making yourself a priority does not make you selfish; and if it does, then I encourage you to be selfish sometimes.
If you’re stressed and your cup is depleted, you can’t show up as the best version of yourself. So, you’re doing everyone a favour when you take care of your needs first.
Anytime I’m stressed, I now have a de-stress guided meditation that I go to. It calms me, helps me return to myself, and leaves me feeling a little more at peace.
Sitting in silence may feel a little daunting at first, but all new things can feel that way.
Stopping and finding stillness can help release feelings of stress, because we’re reminded to live in the present moment. Everything that happened yesterday, and everything that is yet to happen is out of our control. And worrying about it won’t help.
Meditation will help you let go, and feel calmer day-to-day. Give yourself the gift of five minutes of silence, and see what happens.
13. Turn off your phone
How many times do you check the news, your emails, or your social media accounts each day?
Do you have notifications that pop up every time you get a new message? And do you instantly go to check those messages when they come through?
This act leaves us on high alert. We never get a break, and feel like we’re always switched on. We look at what other people are doing, all the toxic things going on in our world, and what people are asking us to do, and naturally we get stressed.
Sometimes you can’t get away from emails because it’s a part of your job, but what about outside of your working hours?
Can you switch off your phone when you get home in the evenings, or at the weekends? Can you give yourself a few hours to unplug?
14. Spend time in nature
As a writer, I’m guilty of holing myself up at my desk, being incredibly anti-social, and not getting a breath of fresh air for days at a time.
But I’ll be the first to admit this isn’t healthy, and it doesn’t make me feel good.
I trick myself into thinking I’m getting more done this way because I’m saving time on going outdoors, but it’s often counter-productive. Because I can’t think as clearly, I feel lethargic, and I’m starved of new inspiration.
Changing your environment can help shift your perspective and get you out of a funk.
So, whenever you feel stressed I encourage you to step outdoors and be with nature. Go somewhere really lush and green, filled with trees and flowers and wildlife. Breathe deeply. Try a walking meditation if you like, or bring a journal with you.
15. Get a massage
Practising yoga has opened my eyes to how much tension we hold onto in our body without even realising it.
Yoga—yin yoga in particular—can really help with this. But getting a massage is another wonderful way to release stress and tension that has built up in your muscles.
I love getting a massage in the evening, right before I go to bed. It’s so relaxing, and makes me feel nourished.
If you can afford it, why not invest in a weekly or monthly massage for yourself? And if you’re on a budget, you could always ask your partner to give you a massage, and return the favour in the future.
16. Have a self-care evening
It’s important to schedule in regular alone time for yourself, so you can recharge your batteries and also deepen your relationship with self.
Sometimes this means you’ll have to say no to things, or spend less time with other people, and that’s okay. Try and find a healthy balance.
Use all the ideas in this list to create an evening of self-care that makes you feel like a Goddess. And check out this list for even more ideas.
You’d be amazed how some me-time can help your stress levels simmer back down.
Laughter has been proven to reduce stress, relieve tension, and even improve your immune system and general mood in the long run.
And it makes sense, doesn’t it? When you’re in the middle of a deep belly laugh, you’re rarely thinking about that presentation you have to give at work, or that pile of laundry that is mounting up.
Try watching a funny TV show or movie, spend time with people who make you laugh, or head to your local comedy club.
Give yourself permission to relax and have fun. If you’re stressed, chances are you’re not doing this enough.
18. Write a gratitude list
Focusing on the good in your life is one of the best things to do when you’re stressed. It will help shift you from a place of fear, frustration and overwhelm, into a place of abundance and gratitude.
When we stop and think about all we have to be grateful for, we’re usually surprised by how much good there is.
You can spend five minutes writing a list, or make a mental one in your head. Even if you’re struggling to see the good, make an effort to until you find at least three things. These can be about your health, your body, your home, your relationships or your work—anything you’re thankful for.
19. Do something creative
I’m really fortunate that creativity is a part of my daily work, but most of us aren’t so lucky. And even if we are, creating as part of our job can sap the joy out of it pretty quickly.
The next time you’re stressed, create some space in your day or week to do something creative; something you don’t do very often.
Drawing, painting, colouring, baking, gardening, or knitting.
Pick something you think you might enjoy doing, and immerse yourself in it for a while.
20. De-clutter your space
If you’re surrounded by clutter and mess, you’re much more likely to feel overwhelmed, stressed and weighed down. This prevents you from thinking clearly, it can block your creativity, and it also allows for energy to stagnate and build.
The act of tidying up and clearing out can be really therapeutic and empowering. You’ll feel emotions and memories being released. And you’ll create plenty of space to allow new opportunities, ideas and people to flow in to your life.
Begin with one area, or one room, so that you don’t get even more stressed with the idea of tidying everything up! You could begin with your work desk, or your closet, or maybe the garden shed.
21. Forgive yourself for something
Sometimes we find ourselves stressed because of a past event that has happened, or something we’ve said or done that we now regret. And we struggle to forgive someone else, or forgive ourselves for it.
If there has been anything building within you that you’ve been trying to ignore, now is the time to confront it. Don’t punish yourself for something you now regret, because what’s done is done.
You’re only human, and we all make mistakes. We are on a path of growth here, learning and evolving each day.
The best thing you can do is forgive yourself, so you can let this weight go and move on. Writing a letter to yourself can be a beautiful way to do this.
Remember, this too shall pass
When you feel stressed, remember that it is not you who is stressed. It’s your mind or your body that is feeling stressed. You are your soul.
Feelings and emotions will continue to come and go, ebb and flow. When they do, remind yourself that they are not you, and they have no power over you unless you give it to them.
We always have a choice, in every moment. When you’re stressed, you have a choice to help yourself return to peace. So, I invite you to return to peace today.