Stress is an inevitable part of life for some people.
Even the most zen among us will be pushing to the breaking point at one time or another, searching for things to do when stressed over bills, work, school, or the little things that take up space in your brain even though they’re not that important (like remembering that awkward thing you did 6 years ago on a Tuesday).
Sometimes, when we’re stressed, we end up being pretty bad humans and snapping at people we love (and people we don’t love), losing control of our emotions, and generally not contributing to the human race in a positive way.
This can also happen when when trying hard to stay positive in a bad situation.
When you’re not able to change your situation, ie move from a big city to an island in the middle of nowhere, you have to find calming things to do when you’re stressed to keep putting one foot in front of the other and not turning into a stress monster.
Enjoy this full list of things to do when you’re stressed, and remember that you make time in life for what’s important to you.
This self-love workbook is a fantastic way of relaxing and boosting those happy hormones to get you through the stress.
1. Take a Walk
It’s a tale as old as time, taking a walk when stressed.
In fact, the phrase “take a walk” that you say to someone when they need to cool down was probably born from the idea that getting your legs moving and removing yourself from a stressful situation can do wonders for your mental health.
You don’t have to take a walk to anywhere in particular, whether you live in a city or the countryside or the suburbs.
Walk around your neighborhood, walk the city streets, walk through the fields.
Not only does it cure cabin fever, but getting your body in motion in a calm walking pace can help you work through things in your head and release tension and stress.
Go as slow or as fast as you want.
Just go take a walk.
2. Listen to Calming Music
Music is a hugely popular thing to do when you’re feeling stressed.
Choose some of your favorite, preferably calming music to switch on and get lost in.
It’s one of the best things to do to relieve stress and get yourself feeling better.
In fact, make an entire playlist of stress-busting music filled with your favorite artists that you can put on in the car, while you’re on your walk, or just to listen to before you wake up.
If you’re looking for calming music in particular, there are plenty of playlists online of music to help you stop stressing out.
3. Enjoy a Podcast
Stress is often caused by what’s going on in our own lives, and part of figuring out how to relax and destress is understanding that we might need to step outside of ourselves a little bit.
Podcasts are my favorite way to do this, as I can turn them on and get involved in someone else’s world for awhile.
There are podcasts on basically everything you can imagine, from “how to” episodes on things like building a business to ones about your favorite television show, relationship podcasts, and more.
Podcasts are one of the best things to do to relieve stress when the stress is caused by what’s going on in your own life rather than the world around you.
It helps to remind yourself that there is a world outside your own head and sometime’s it’s healthy to go there!
4. Watch a Favorite Television Show
One of my favorite tips for how to stop stressing out is to ignore the world around you and put on the television.
Often, we encourage each other to turn off the television and go out and do something else, but not in this case!
You’ll likely have a favorite television show that helps make you feel calmer, likely a comedy or show you grew up watching.
If you’re feeling stressed and just need to watch something that is going to instantly put you in a better mood, put that television show on with no regrets.
Have a whole television show marathon if you want, snuggled up on the couch and checking in with your favorite characters.
Avoid dramas or action-based shows that may put you more on edge.
You want this to be easy, fun watching.
5. Cook Your Favorite Meal
For some people, cooking is a huge stress buster.
Use it as a way to reduce stress if this is you, and get into the kitchen with all of your favorite ingredients.
The act of mixing, mashing, beating, stirring can help release pent up stress physically, and the anticipation of having your favorite meal when you’ve finished cooking can keep you focused on that goal rather than whatever else is going on in your life.
If you find cooking stressful on a good day, then this does not apply to you!
6. Meet Up with a Friend
What are friends for besides helping us stop stressing about everything?
Social interaction is often a good thing when it comes to being stressed, as it can make us feel more “normal” and let us vent our frustrations out.
It also helps us turn our attention to other people instead of just our own hectic schedules.
Make plans to meet up with a friend that you trust and is a good listener, and make sure to fit it in where you can.
If you’re stressed because your schedule is so busy and you can’t find time to meet people, see if you can plan to hang out while doing something you already needed to do anyway like picking the kids up from school or even do something simple like your grocery shopping together.
Reach out for that human connection!
7. Write a Letter and Tear it Up
If you’re wanting to relieve stress that is clouding up your mind, write a letter to whoever is causing you the stress or write down all of the reasons why you’re stressed and then tear it up.
It sounds very Buddha-esque, but it truly can help in letting you physically and figuratively push away your worries.
Not only does the act of getting them down on paper help you to organize things in your mind, but tearing it up and throwing it away can also help your mind release them.
Just make sure you don’t actually send the letter, because hateful and rant-filled letters are going to cause you more stress, not less.
8. Get Some Exercise
I’m annoying myself just typing this because nobody likes to be told this when stressed, but you’ve got to go get yourself some exercise.
Exercise is one of the best stress busters because it allows our body to both feel the endorphins that come with exercise, expend some pent up energy, and find more clarity in our thoughts and actions.
It also has other benefits like helping you sleep better, which is probably a welcome relief when you find yourself stressed.
It doesn’t have to mean going to the gym, either.
Go join a Zumba class, go for a run, go for a fast walk, go play tennis with a friend, go for a swim at the beach.
Just do something that gets your body in motion and I promise you’ll feel much calmer afterwards.
9. Put Down the Social Media
Social media is a stress-filled haven.
Whether you’re scrolling Instagram and seeing other people’s seemingly perfect lives that you’re comparing yours to or you’re on Facebook reading about people’s tragedies and GoFundMe pages, it’s enough to make you take on other people’s stresses as well.
If you’re so stressed that you’re having trouble operating in your normal life, quit social media.
Log yourself out of your accounts, tell people that you usually communicate with that you can be reached on your phone if they really need to get in touch, and then go dark.
Start discovering your life away from social media and the constant and everpresent drone of the internet, and you’ll notice your stress levels drop noticeably.
10. Create a Spa in Your Bathroom
I don’t care if your bathroom is falling apart with black sludge dripping from the ceiling (this was absolutely us for a long time).
You can still create a spa in your bathroom.
Fill up the tub, light some candles, and turn the lights off and just soak and sit.
Do a face mask, put in your favorite smell into a bath bomb, whatever you need to do.
Close the door behind you and pretend you’ve stepped into a spa at a fancy hotel and don’t come out until you’re feeling relaxed and ready to take on the world again.
11. Go to Bed Early
This one’s easy.
Go to bed.
Just go to bed.
Go to bed early when you can.
If you normally go to bed at 10, go to bed at 9 tonight. Sweep anything off your schedule that isn’t 100% necessary and finish the day.
Being well-rested will go a long way to help someone who is stresed out.
12. Plan Something Fun for the Future
There are some stressful situations that are time-based.
Maybe you’re applying for college or applying for a job or there’s just a really busy month ahead.
Instead of getting caught up in how stressed you feel now, think about how you’ll feel when it ends and plan something fun for the future.
Book a nice dinner out, book an entire vacation, or just tell yourself that you’re going to buy yourself that new phone you’ve been waiting for when this stressful period is over to give you something to look forward to.
13. Make a Mantra
Repeating some type of mantra to yourself can be a great way to reduce your stress and ground yourself.
It doesn’t have to be some philosophical and thought provoking sentiment, but instead something simple.
For example, when I was terrified of skiing and could barely keep it together as I flew/tumbled down the slopes, I just kept saying to myself, “I can do hard things.”
Other people probably thought I was a complete lunatic because I was on a baby slope and about to cry, but you know what, repeating that to myself out loud got me out of my head a little, gave me something reassuring to focus on, and brought my stress levels down.
14. Go See a Movie
There’s something about seeing a movie in theatres that creates new and fun memories for us and reminds us of happier, less stressful times.
Whether you think back to your days of seeing the newest releases as a kid or your first date with your husband or any number of positive memories, embrace those and go see a movie.
You can watch one at home, of course, but there’s something about the shared nature of seeing a movie in the same room as a lot of people that can be fun – hearing people’s laughs and gasps gets you out of your own head and more focused on something enjoyable.
15. Call Someone Who Doesn’t Make You Stressed
If you don’t have time to get together with someone, pick up the phone and call someone who doesn’t make you stressed.
I say this because it’s important to call someone who you know will be a comforting presence on the other end of the line, not the friend who is so frantic herself that you’ll spend the entire time listening to how her world is falling apart.
Reaching out for that social connection can be the last thing we want to do when we’re stressed, but the chances you’ll feel a lot better afterwards and less alone in your stress are high.
16. Take a Dog for a Walk
I say take “a” dog for a walk, because it can be yours or a dog you borrow from a friend, but there’s nothing like the constant excitement and unconditional love of a dog that make them great pals when you’re stressed.
This fulfills the advice to get out of the house and get some exercise, while also having a bit of a social connection (okay, so dogs can’t talk, but their actions show us what they mean!).
Bonus points if you get some doggy cuddles later or go for a splash around in the puddles with them.
It can be one of the best things to do to relax and focus on someone else’s needs rather than your own.
17. Make a Schedule of Worry
Oftentimes, when things are stressful in our lives, we feel like we need to worry about them all of the time in order to solve them.
Sometimes, that just isn’t true.
Say I’m worried about future results of a medical test. I can spend my whole day stressed about it, or I can say, okay, I am going to give myself 15 minutes to worry and stress about them at 10:00am, and then after that, no more.
Give yourself permission to bottle up some of that stress into specific time periods so you can spend the rest of your time knowing that you can’t do anything to change it and should instead get on with your life.
It’s the same thing if you’re stressed about a busy schedule or upcoming performance.
Your schedule is only going to get busier if you fill it with stressing out, and the more time you spend stressed, the less time you’ll have to practice for your performance.
Accept that stress is a natural part of life, but tell it that it only has a few minutes and stick to it.
18. Do Some Crafting
A quality thing to do for stress relief involves using your hands in a crafting scenario.
Maybe you like to sew, maybe you’re trying to learn how to crochet, or maybe you’re just wanting to do some kid’s crafts with the little one with some pom pom balls and glue.
Whatever it is, whether you’re an old pro or want to take up a new hobby, set aside some time to create some crafts or do something creative like painting to express your emotions and keep your hands busy.
Not only is this life-affirming in the sense that you’re creating something, but the physical act of crafting can help relieve that stress and tension in your body and let the nervousness out a bit.
19. Play an Instrument
If you do already play an instrument, you probably already know that playing music can be a huge stress buster for most people.
During the coronavirus pandemic, many musicians starting streaming themselves online playing some of their favorite songs, which both helped them to destress and feel like they were putting something positive out into the world.
You don’t need to play for other people, but pick up the guitar you haven’t played in years and see what you can still do.
Learn a new song, play some new chords.
If you don’t play instruments and it’s something you would like to do, now is the time to learn!
Taking music lessons can help give you something to focus on that feels positive and new and give you some temporary time to let your mind destress.
You can even take online music lessons from this list of the most interesting things to learn online.
20. Organize Your Space
I know, I know. Some people hate organizing and it can be stressful for some people in the moment.
However, once you get motivated to clean when overwhelmed by mess and start actually throwing things away and organizing your life, it can feel a lot better as you see your space organized around you.
A clean room and organized space can equal a clean mind, so grab a buddy and start organizing.
21. Switch Up Your Routine
Sometimes, staying in one routine too long can actually cause stress rather than take it away.
Having a routine is important for many people to avoid stress, but what happens when you do the same thing day after day, eating the same dinner, waking up at the same time, taking the same train into the same job?
If possible, switch up your routine a bit.
Get up earlier to go for a walk before you go to work, bring something new for lunch every day, and pick up a new hobby that you enjoy to do in the evenings.
They say that one of the reason time feels slower for children is because they’re constantly learning and experiencing new things.
Go back to that childlike state of mixing it up and learning new things, and you may find that your life feels longer in a positive way.
22. Spend the Whole Day Alone
If you get recharged by spending time alone, you’re going to have to eventually just give yourself the space to recuperate and work through your stress alone.
Send the kids to their friend’s house for the day, kick the husband out to go play sports with his friends, whatever you need to do to get that one day of solitude.
And when you have it, plan for it.
Are you going to lounge around all day in your pajamas?
Are you going to get something done that has been stressing you for out forever?
Are you going to indulge in all of your favorite foods that your family isn’t invited to share?
Do what you need to do and enjoy the time spent alone.
23. Go for a Drive
There is something so therapeutic about going for a drive, particulary if it’s on open roads and among countryside or fields.
Hop in the car, turn on your favorite road trip tunes, and drive with no real destination until you feel less stressed and calmed down.
We used to do this as teenagers to get out of the house and I have amazing memories of driving through the night around my neighborhood with my best friend.
24. Eat at Your Favorite Restaurant
If you don’t like or want to cook, your favorite restaurant is always there for you!
Pick a time to go and eat, either with just a friend or with your whole family.
You don’t need a reason to go out and get your favorite meal or to hold a celebration.
Get together just to get together and show support to your favorite chains or local restaurants, and make sure to order exactly what you want with no thought of calories or diets.
This is your destress meal.
Then savor it.
25. Get Out in Nature
It’s been proven that getting out in nature can help us to relieve stress and focus more clearly.
Whether it’s the fresh air, the open space, or the natural instinct for humans to be in nature, take advantage of it.
This will be easier for people who live close to natural landscapes like mountains or countryside, but even if you don’t, go find a city park or a suburban trail walk.
Spend some time unplugged from your phone, not checking the time, and preferably not seeing houses or other manmade structures and just enjoy some time surrounded by trees, grass, plants and wildlife.
You don’t have to go full-on camping if you don’t want to, but a trail walk never hurt anyone.
26. Go Boating or Canoeing
Water is one of the most calming things there is when you’re feeling stressed out.
Many people enjoy going to the beach for this reason, as hearing the sounds of the waves is instantly soothing.
If you can, go out on the water whether through boating in the sea or canoeing in a lake.
Pay attention to how you feel, looking at the water lapping at the land, and breathe the fresh air in.
You can do a sort of meditation while watching the water, which will take you out of your own head and help you center yourself.
27. Delegate Tasks
Practically, if you’re feeling like you need to search for things to do when stressed, you should know that you can delegate tasks to others.
Don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.
This applies for almost anything, from the tragic times when you need to plan a funeral to the happier times of planning a wedding or putting together a performance or event.
You can create a group project task list using one of the apps in this list of productivity tools.
Even in your own family, delegate tasks that need to be done so you’re not doing it all, and if they don’t do it the exact way you would want, then take another deep breath and carry on anyway.
28. Be Honest with Everyone for the Whole Day
A lot of times, the mental stress and strain we feel is from having to present this happy front to social media and our friends and family.
We feel like we need to have it all together and be strong for the people around us, but you would be surprised at how many people are also struggling.
I’m not saying to tell the cashier your whole life store, but when they ask, “how are you?”, you really can respond with “feeling a bit stressed, actually!”.
It may start productive and comforting conversations, or you’ll just feel better for being honest and not having to have the extra stress of pretending not to be stressed.
29. Eat Healthy Foods
After you’ve indulged yourself in your favorite meal, make sure to not carry on binge eating or coping in unhealthy ways with food.
It feels good in the short term to stuff our faces with fat and grease and sugar, but it will just keep you in the hole that is a stressful life and you won’t feel like you have a grip on things as much as if you are eating nutritious and healthy foods that sustain you and help you think better.
You don’t have to switch to only kale, but try to leave the snacks and treats to one side as special occassions and spend most of your time eating vegetables, grains, and fruits.