Stress Management

18 Ways to Calm Down When You're Stressed

Keep anxiety at bay with these strategies.
18 Ways to Calm Down When You're Stressed
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Entrepreneur Staff
Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.
6 min read

It goes without saying that starting and growing a business is a stressful undertaking. At every stage of the game, you'll be faced with new challenges. You don't want to burn bridges by saying or doing something you regret when you feel fried or frustrated -- or even worse, burn out completely.

So what steps can you take to keep your cool? Read on for 18 tips to calm down when you're stressed out.

Related video: 3 Tips to Become a Better Leader

Take a deep breath.

Take a deep breath.
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All it takes are a few simple steps. Harvard Medical School recommends choosing a place where you feel relaxed and like you can clear your head. Then begin by taking a normal breath. "Then try a deep breath: Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs," Harvard says. "Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural)."

Laugh.

Laugh.
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According to the Mayo Clinic, laughing and looking for the humor in things is so beneficial that it can ease physical pain, boost your immune system, help you make connections with other people and aid with coping with anxiety and depression.

Get a massage.

Get a massage.
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A 2005 study from the University of Miami noted that cortisol levels (the chemical that the body produces when you're in a stressful or frightening situation) decreased following massage therapy.

Do a mental scan of your body.

Do a mental scan of your body.
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Andy Puddicombe, the co-founder of meditation app Headspace, told Entrepreneur that if you're stressed, shut your eyes and for 30 seconds, do a mental scan of your body, from the top of your head to your feet. "By shifting the focus to physical senses, you are stepping out of the thinking mind and bringing the mind into the body, which immediately has a calming effect," he said.

Show gratitude.

Show gratitude.
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Consider keeping a gratitude journal so you can have something concrete to refer to when anxiety starts to get you down. A study from the University of California San Diego found that people who were grateful had healthier hearts. "They showed a better well-being, a less depressed mood, less fatigue and they slept better," study author Paul J. Mills told Today. "When I am more grateful, I feel more connected with myself and with my environment. That's the opposite of what stress does."

Sing.

Sing.
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Give it a try -- even if you're not a songbird, the benefits might surprise you. A 2014 study out of Japan looking at the health of the elderly found that after a group of senior citizens sang, their stress levels decreased and their moods improved, even if they weren't fans of singing.

The nose knows.

The nose knows.
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A few scents are commonly used to combat stress, in particular, lavender, lemon and jasmine are all known for helping alleviate anxiety and tension. Lavender oil is sometimes used to treat headaches.

Count to 10.

Count to 10.
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The Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends slowly counting to 10 or 20 to focus your mind on something other than what's stressing you out. It's simple but might be a good place to start.

Get some rest.

Get some rest.
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If you find yourself stressed during the day, consider taking a nap or heading home a little earlier to get to bed at a less late hour. According to the American Psychological Association, "when we do not sleep long or well enough, our bodies do not get the full benefits of sleep, such as muscle repair and memory consolidation. Sleep is so crucial that even slight sleep deprivation or poor sleep can affect memory, judgment and mood."

Drink water.

Drink water.
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The Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that coffee and alcohol can dehydrate you and make you feel irritable, shaky or stressed out, which can even trigger panic attacks. Instead turn to H2O to stay hydrated.

Warm up your hands.

Warm up your hands.
Image credit: David Burton | Getty Images

During truly anxiety-inducing situations, blood flow is directed to the body's biggest muscles, leaving your extremities cold. But when blood flows back into your hands and feet, that is a signal that the danger, perceived or otherwise, has passed. "Even simply visualizing warm hands can be enough to help turn off the fight-or-flight reaction," neuropsychologist Marsha Lucas told Prevention.

Chew gum.

Chew gum.
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A study from Australia found that chewing gum is associated with reduced anxiety and stress, higher levels of alertness and improved focus.

Get or give a hug.

Get or give a hug.
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A 2015 study from Carnegie Mellon University found that hugs actually made people less susceptible to getting colds and generally decreased feelings of anxiety. "Hugging protects people who are under stress from the increased risk for colds [that's] usually associated with stress," study author Carnegie Mellon psychology professor Sheldon Cohen told US News and World Report. Hugging "is a marker of intimacy and helps generate the feeling that others are there to help in the face of adversity."

Eat something with antioxidants.

Eat something with antioxidants.
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According to Harvard Medical School, food high in antioxidants, such as beans, apples, plums, berries, walnuts, broccoli and artichokes, can help ease feelings of stress and anxiety.

Talk it out.

Talk it out.
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The American Psychological Association advises that one of the key ways you can calm down if you're stressed out is not to go it alone. "When you share your concerns or feelings with another person, it does help relieve stress. But it's important that the person whom you talk to is someone whom you trust and whom you feel can understand and validate you."

Get some exercise.

Get some exercise.
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The Mayo Clinic notes that exercise aids in the production of endorphins, which can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as improve sleep.

Shut off your phone.

Shut off your phone.
Image credit: Yiu Yu Ho | Getty Images

Screen time affects your sleep and not just because of that pesky blue light. Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills, wrote in Harvard Business Review about a study he conducted concerning sleep and anxiety. "The students who were more anxious about being apart from their phones used their phones more during a typical day, and woke up to check their phones more often at night," he said. "The latter two results -- more daily smartphone use and more nighttime awakenings -- led directly to sleep problems."

Take a hot bath.

Take a hot bath.
Image credit: Sam Edwards | Getty Images

This technique doesn’t just help humans calm down -- it does a lot of good for our primate counterparts as well. A recent study of Japanese macaques -- those monkeys with grey fur and red faces that live in snowy climes and are often photographed enjoying hot springs -- found that those baths aren’t just to warm up. They also reduce the creation of a stress hormone in the monkeys. 

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Surprising Ways to Reduce Stress