I am one of those people who become super stressed, anxious and overwhelmed really easily.
Like, zero to 100 in two seconds flat…
And with a history of really severe depression and migraines triggered by stress I’ve *had* to figure out ways to relax and calm down that actually work.
So that’s what I will be sharing with you today: my top seven tips on how to calm down when you’re stressed and anxious!
My top seven tips on how to calm down when you’re stressed and anxious
These are the exact tips I use as coping strategies when I’m feeling overwhelmed, stressed and anxious.
They can be done in order or you can pick and choose the tips that you like the sound of.
The first four tips are really good if you are feeling super anxious and panicky right now, and the three tips after that are all about general unwinding for more chronic stress (like if work is going to be hectic for the next few months then make these three tips a part of your day-to-day life.)
Tip One – Belly Breath While Counting Back From 100
So, the first tip is one I use when my anxiety’s really bad, I’m spiralling into panic and you get that thing where you can’t quite breathe.
My boyfriend actually taught me this trick. I don’t know where he found it but one day when I was feeling really stressed he did some Googling and found this, and honestly it works like a charm.
Plus, it’s really, really easy.
All you have to do is just count back from 100 and do a nice deep breath right down into your belly on each count.
Naturally when we breathe we want to puff out our chest, but that actually signals to our body that things are a little stressful because when you move into a stressed state you breathe very much only into the top of lungs (puffing out your chest) so you can breathe in and out quickly.
But when you’re actually calm and very relaxed you naturally do diaphragmatic breathing which is just breathing deep into your belly so your belly sticks out when you breath in, not your chest. That sends a trigger to your body that everything’s okay and that we don’t need to be in a stressed state right now.
Then combining that breathing by counting down backwards from 100 is really good because it focuses your mind on something that isn’t the stressor at the time and because counting down from 100 is not difficult, but it’s also not so easy you can do it without thinking so it forces you to focus on something none stressful.
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Now don’t worry if you’re not perfect when doing it, when I do it I can promise you that I normally lose count at some point and I normally go back to thinking about the stressful thing a few times, but just recenter yourself and keep counting down and breathing.
If I’m really, really anxious sometimes I have to do it a few times before I start to breathe normally again. But it’s a great tip, and it does work. You’ve just got to focus in on it and just keep doing it until you’re no longer feeling that heightened state of anxiety.
Tip Two – Slowly Drink Some Water or Tea
The next thing I would do in that very stressed situation is get some water or a hot drink (I actually quite like a cup of hot water if I’m feeling a bit stressed which I know sounds a weird but trust me it works well) and sip it slowly.
Now you don’t want to drink anything too exciting like coffee or soda because that can have it’s own effect on you, so stick with water or tea, but if you’re drinking, that’s telling your body that there’s nothing too stressful right now because we’re in a resting and digesting state, versus a fight or flight state!
Think about it like this, if you’re running from a tiger in prehistoric times you would not be able to stop and have a drink, so by having a nice and gentle drink that really helps to signal to your body that there aren’t any dangers around and that things are okay, helping your body move away from the stressed state to a more relaxed state.
Tip Three – Tell Someone
So the next thing I like to do is tell someone I’m feeling anxious, but, this is where it’s difficult…
When you tell someone you’re really worried about a situation they’ll often want to provide you with a solution, natural human instinct, right?
A friend, or your partner or someone you’re close to tells you they’re worried about this thing at work and you naturally want to find the solution so they can no longer worry.
However, normally, when we’re worrying about something, it’s not necessarily that we don’t have the solution, it’s more like maybe we’ve got so much to do we can’t handle it or, actually doing the thing is really difficult.
And so in the majority of cases I find I don’t want a solution, and people giving me a solution actually stresses me out more because then I feel like I need to defend my own solution… Not ideal and this makes everything even more stressful.
So when you tell someone, make sure you also tell them whether you want a solution or if you want just support!
This is something that my boyfriend and I do now because he’s very solution-oriented and so whenever I would to him because I was feeling super stressed about something, while it would really help to get it out, he would then come up with all these solutions that I just didn’t need. I already had the solution, I was just stressed because I had to implement it.
So now we both make it very clear and I will still come to him but rather than just saying how stressed I am, I will instead say something more like, “I’m really stressed about this thing, I just need your support.” And then he knows that he can just be there for me and be like, “You’ve got this, “it’s okay, if you need a bit of extra time today to work on it, that’s all right.”
Of course I know all these things logically, but just hearing someone say them helps, so so much. And the fact that you’ve been able to get it out of you and tell someone, is really really useful.
Obviously sometimes you will want a solution and someone else’s input so make sure you’re clear then because there’s nothing more frustrating than coming to someone with a problem and them being like, “I’m sure you’ve got it”, when you’re really needing someone’s input. So, just having that distinction between the solution and support, and then telling someone really really helps.
Tip Four – Write it Down
Getting anything that’s stressing you out out of your head always helps, hence why tip number three is to tell someone.
But writing it down just takes that benefit one step further.
Not only is it so useful if you’re super overwhelmed because you have a lot to do, just because practically it helps to see it all laid out in front of you rather than trying to remember everything.
But if you suffer from racing thoughts, particularly if they stop you from sleeping, then keeping a notebook with you and jotting all those thoughts down will massively help to stop them swirling through your mind over and over again and allow you to have a much better night’s sleep.
And, obviously, when you sleep well you’re a lot more relaxed. I mean I don’t know about you, but if I don’t sleep well, I’m pretty stressed and anxious the next day.
Tip Five – Get Clean and Put Comfy Clothes On
Okay, calming tip number five and that is have a shower (or get clean) and put some comfy clothes on.
I know this sounds super basic, but I find it to be incredibly effective, particularly if you’re really stressed about work or school, then coming home and basically washing the day off you and changing your clothes into something that doesn’t stress you out really, really helps.
It just separates the stressful part of the day from the relaxing part and allows you to switch off from whatever was causing you stress earlier.
So yeah, wash away the day’s stress, it works a charm.
Tip Six – Do Something Cliched Calming and Relaxing
This calming tip is probably going to sound a bit weird, but do something that you traditionally think of as calming even if you don’t actually enjoy it…
So think of those classic articles in magazines, where it’s like, “the 10 best ways to de-stress,” and the contents is super cliched, like have a bubble bath, light a candle, paint your nails and those sorts of things.
I find, even though these things do feel really cliche, that they can be really helpful because we have programmed in our head that these are calming activities. For example, I’m the first to admit I don’t like a bath, I’m a shower person, but if I’m feeling stressed I will have a bath and it does relax me.
Because in my head that is a calming thing and so I’m like subconsciously telling myself I’m going to feel better when I’ve had a bath, and I do!
For other people, it might be painting your nails, or having a hot cocoa, something like that.
There’s lots of different things that are considered calming in our society, so pick the thing that when you think of a calming activity immediately comes to mind and even if you don’t actually love the activity, just do it, because it’s going to trigger something in your brain that says this is a calming activity and so you will be feeling a lot calmer when you’ve finished it…
Like I said, it’s a bit weird, but it does work.
So then a really, really easy one is lighting a candle because we are all taught that lighting a candle is really helpful to de-stress.
Admittedly, there is something absolutely delightful about a candle and if you get an aromatherapy candle they can have essential oils that actually do help with stress. But the minute you light a candle everything just feels that little bit less stressful!
If you’re looking for a relaxing, de-stressing candle that does not smell of lavender, then I’d definitely recommend this.
It’s also all-natural and as I get a lot of headaches from normal scented candles because of the chemicals I was so happy to receive this one that I could actually smell the scent but it doesn’t give me a headache! (You have no idea how many candles I’ve tried in my attempt to find a candle that I can smell but doesn’t give me a headache!!!)
Tip Seven – Distract Yourself OR Be Present
WARNING: Don’t do this tip if you’re just going to be procrastinating…
Do this tip if you genuinely need a rest or a break.
So, for example, on the weekends I’m really conscious about not working unless I absolutely have to. But a lot of times I might still be feeling stressed about work, so I need to do something that allows me to take a break to unwind and switch off.
In these sorts of cases I really recommend you either distract yourself or be super duper present in the moment.
Now you won’t necessarily know which one you need, especially at first, and sometimes I still get it wrong and I think I need to be distracted when actually I need to be present, and vice versa so you might need to test it out and see which one helps you feel best at different times.
Most of the time, and I think this is because I’m so introverted, I need the distraction. Because for me, being present involves being with friends or family, that’s how I’m most present as I’m not super great at being present on my own (I think that’s quite common, actually.)
So, if I need to be present, I know I need to schedule in some time to spend with friends and family and that really helps me stay present and allows me to switch off from all the things going on in my head.
Distracting-wise, I find I need to go to a different world and not be in my life and the easiest way to do that is read a book, watch a TV series or watch a movie.
Books, for me, are definitely the best one but I know that if we’re super stressed it can be difficult to get into a book so TV series or movies are a great secondary option.
I also find that if I’m going to watch or read something to go into a different world it needs to not be about real life. I find in these instances, fantasy, or sci-fi, or historical genres work best, but basically nothing that I can identify with in my own life. It needs to be a different world…
So if you do need to rest and need a break, and you shouldn’t be working, AKA you’re not actually procrastinating, then either going to a different world by say, reading a book, watching a new TV series or watching a movie or, be present (and like I said the best way I’ve found to do that is to see friends and family.)
BONUS Tip – Get a Weighted Blanket
I know I said that was the last tip, but I just have a quick bonus tip, and that can be summed up in two words… weighted blanket.
There are incredible and I recommend everyone has one! I hate sleeping without mine now.
My own one was a gift so I’m not sure where it’s from, but this is an incredibly highly rated one on Amazon.
So, hopefully those calming tips will really help you when you’re feeling super anxious or super stressed. They definitely, definitely help me!
I do want to offer you something else though, I have a free checklist about the self-care routine I used to get over depression.
Now I know this post wasn’t specific to depression, but this self-care routine is so so good for improving your mental health in anyway so I just wanted to offer it to you as if you’ve been feeling really stressed for quite a while, whilst these tips in the post will definitely help, you also obviously need to work on your mental health as a whole so you don’t have that feeling of stress all the time and thus this self-care routine can really help!
You can get the free checklist by clicking the button below.