Well-Being//

Try These Instant Stress-Relievers to Reset Your Mind When You’re Overwhelmed

Building a pause into an overwhelming day can help your mind to slow down, reset, and recharge.

Aleksandra Baranoff/ Shutterstock
Aleksandra Baranoff/ Shutterstock

It only takes about a minute or two to course correct from stress. Small moments of mindfulness — like looking at a calming photo, or listening to a relaxing song — can help our brains recharge. And when we spend our days racing through our to-do lists and shuttling from task to task, taking a moment to pause can be critical for our mental health, creativity, and productivity.

We asked our Thrive community for the small ways they reset when they feel stressed out, and we were so inspired by their unique tips for building a meaningful pause into even the busiest of days. Which of these tricks will you try the next time you’re stressed?

Try a one-minute meditation

“I use transitions in my workday for a brief one-minute meditation to reset. I carve out this moment whenever I can — before a meeting or conference call, after tackling my emails, or even when I go to the restroom. It reminds me to calm down, and breathe.”

—Bob Watts, life coach and realtor, St. Petersburg, FL

Take your lunch break

“When I feel overwhelmed, I try to go to a nearby sushi place for lunch. I sit by myself and read while I eat. When I get back to work, I’m in a totally different mood. I can feel it when I’m driving back. I’m not sure if the magic is in the sushi or just in getting out of the office, but it works every time.”

—Cristiane Breining, publications and content manager, Princeton, NJ

Reflect on a funny memory

“When I feel unsettled, I try to remember a moment that made me feel great — maybe something my cat did, or a funny prank — and my mood changes back to happy instantly. Looking for humor in every situation helps me calm down. Lighten up and the world lightens up around you.”

—Sandy MacGillivray, archaeologist, Athens, GR

Pet a dog

“I like to take a pause by sitting down on the floor and rubbing my dog’s belly. When she is getting her belly rub, she cares about nothing else in the world. She’s so in the present, and watching that sense of peace immediately calms me down.”

—Shirell A. Gross, Esq., entrepreneur, Westwood, NJ

Write an “It’s done” list

“When I’m stressed, I take a few minutes to write my ‘It’s done’ list. It’s the opposite of a to-do list, and it includes small things, like driving my kid to soccer practice to completing a proposal for a client. I take a few minutes to write down what I’ve accomplished that day, and focus on each one for 30 seconds. I find that holding onto what you have done helps to calm the mind, and can create a positive surge in dopamine in response to the stress hormone cortisol.”

—Jackie Ghedine, life and business coach, New York, NY

Hum a relaxing song

“Humming is my go to stress-reliever. When I was pregnant, I sang each of them a personal song. When they stress me out, I hum their song, and it dissolves the stress and lets me move forward. For all other stress, I have a different calming tune, ‘Ode to Joy.’”

—Renee Tarantowski Baude, freelancer, Mundelein, IL

Pause to say thank you 

“To press reset on stress, I tap into gratitude. I ask for what I need, and then appreciate the support that sparks. And I say that out loud, too. I find that thanking someone for the person they are upgrades gratitude instantly.” 

—Helen Hanison, executive coach, London, UK

Focus on your favorite hobby

“I have recently started taking art courses, and I find them motivating and relaxing. To reset my mindset during stressful times, I take my phone to a small conference room and watch a quick YouTube video about an art technique I am learning. If I have enough time, I may scroll through my photos on my phone to find my next art project. It helps me refocus and free my mind to concentrate on my next task.”

—D.L.H., legal director, Paris, France

Snap a photo

“I love to take photos. It puts me in a mindset of relaxation, and helps me focus on things that provide me a sense of calm and pleasure. Nature has always been my best healer.”

—Simone Susanne Kussatz, art reviewer, Los Angeles, CA

Daydream 

“I imagine the warm sun across my shoulders spreading relaxation, and then visualize myself under the sea, surrounded by colorful coral in a gentle current as the fish dance around me. It’s a quick mental reset, as I’m also a scuba diver!”

—Jon Baker, business coach, Dorset, UK

Take a doodle break

“My go-to stress reset is to doodle for five minutes. I do this as a tech-free break at my desk or before I go to bed to allow me to free my mind. It lets me slow down and truly be in the moment while I process ideas and emotions. My doodle break is a built-in pause that lets me connect to my creativity, and return to my next task with greater calm and clarity.”

—Melissa Lloyd, founder, Nova Scotia, Canada

Think of one thing you’re grateful for

“To reset on a busy day, I express gratitude. For example, I’ll say, ‘I’m so grateful for the chance to write this feature. I’m so grateful to be able to earn a living doing what I love.’ Expressing gratitude helps me relieve stress instantly.”

—Susan McCorkindale, TEDx speaker and author, Warrenton, VA

Listen to a song you love

“To reset from a busy day, I listen to hip hop or rap music, get outside for a few minutes, and make a cup of soothing tea. These few things help clear my mind and refresh my soul.” 

—Tricia Sciortino, CEO, Charlotte, NC

Draw the place where you feel tension

“I sit and feel the stress. I pinpoint where it is happening in my body, and sometimes, I draw a stick person and label what is happening. I give it a color, and I describe the emotion. This not only allows me to experience and process the emotion in the moment, but it also pulls me back into the present, and away from overthinking.”

—Vikki Louise, anxiety coach, Manchester, UK

Do you have a trick that allows you to reset your mind when you’re stressed? Share it with us in the comments!

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