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Mental Wellness

How to Relieve Stress: 8 Unbeatable Strategies for Lasting Calm

Written by Leon Ho
Founder & CEO of Lifehack
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Feeling overwhelmed? You’re not alone. With endless mental chatter and towering to-do piles, stress has a way of taking over. The tension builds in your body while worries take over your mind, making it hard to function.

If this sounds familiar, you’ve found the right stress relief guide. Inside we’ll explore proven techniques to rapidly ease feelings of being overwhelmed. Plus sustainable strategies endorsed by psychologists to transform how you respond to daily pressures. Whether you need quick relief or long term resilience training, this is your actionable playbook for taming stress.

The following ideas teach positive actions scientifically shown to create calm and clarity even in chaotic times. They’ll guide you to:

  • Relax your body and quiet your mind with instant relief tricks
  • Retrain unbalanced thought patterns making stress worse
  • Reframe your priorities and expectations fueling unnecessary anxiety
  • Upgrade your focus and productivity superpowers
  • Practice fluid progress for gradual lifestyle enhancement
  • Master the art of finding daily joy during life’s toughest challenges

Consider this your training manual for gaining an empowered perspective, sustainable habits, and chill-worthy skills for throttling stress. If you’re committed to positive change and long term relief from feeling overwhelmed, let’s start!

1. Press Pause – Instant Stress Relief Tactics

Before diving into long term habits, let’s talk about pressing pause. When you’re revved up to level 10, taking a chill break can work wonders. Think of these as mental chill pills in the moment when panic starts spiraling. While small, these mini relief rituals help you regain composure so deeper work can start.

They tap into your body’s natural relaxation response, acting like an “off” switch to anxiety. And the awesome thing is that unlike unhealthy coping habits like stress eating which makes things worse, these teeny tweaks actually make you feel good!


What’s handy is you can practice them anywhere – no equipment needed! So before stress completely hijacks your brain, hit that mental pause button with one of these instant options:

  • 3 Deep Belly Breaths: Tuning into your breathing pulls you out of worried thoughts. Inhale deeply allowing your belly to expand, and exhale slowly like you’re blowing bubbles. Repeat 3 times whenever panic strikes.
  • Shake it Loose with a Quick Dance Jam: Crank up an upbeat song for 1 to 2 minutes. Let loose (even in your seat) shaking off clenched muscles and boosting your mood with movement.
  • Step Away for a Mini Nature Moment: Even 60 seconds of fresh outdoor air and nature sights/sounds triggers your relaxation response.
  • Declutter Your Space: External chaos fuels inner turmoil. Spend 5 minutes quickly clearing clutter to create a sense of calm order.
  • Laugh Out Loud to Funny Videos: Laughter literally changes body chemistry, reducing anxiety. Keep funny clips handy as mini stress busters.

While most people think of tactics like deep breathing as “too easy”, science says otherwise!

Stanford researchers found brief relaxation rituals significantly reduce everyday anxiety and emotional exhaustion.

So the next time you notice stress revving up, pause everything for a quick 1 to 5-minute chill break. Then harness that mental clarity into positive momentum with the rest of our stress relief strategies.

2. Sort What You Can and Can’t Control

When everything feels chaotic and out of control, stress escalates. And telling someone to “just get over it” or “don’t worry” often has the opposite intended effect.

It’s completely understandable to feel powerless and want to problem solve everything at once when life gets crazy. But attempting to control things outside your reach causes pointless mental drainage.


The Circle of Control model offers a compassionate approach, not a harsh judgment. It gently guides you to consider 3 categories life problems can fall into:

  • Direct Influence: Stuff within your capacity to impact
  • Indirect Influence: Things you can somewhat navigate via communication
  • No Influence: Stuff entirely outside your control
How to Relieve Stress: 8 Unbeatable Strategies for Lasting Calm
    circle of control influence and concern

    Now, the point isn’t to ban negative emotions – they signal what matters. And it’s not always black and white what you can and can’t control. But broadly sorting issues reduces feeling overwhelmed.

    Seeing things in these categories helps you optimize attention. You can still care deeply about something while strategically focusing efforts where they make the most difference.
    Start by quickly listing your worries and sorting them by the circles. This shows you where to direct limited time and energy for maximum traction.

    For the third circle, practice self-compassion. Let anxious thoughts flow through you. Remind yourself some uncertainty is inevitable and it’s okay to ask for support. This one shift alleviates so much needless suffering.


    The goal here is to empower you, not diminish very real problems. By targeting efforts, you transform excessive worry into focused action. Progress occurs solving what you actually can, letting the rest go.

    3. Train Your Brain for Calm with Mini Mindfulness Retreats

    Believe it or not, there’s a tiny relaxation retreat center right inside your mind, accessible through your senses if you know how. When stress strikes, most of us get trapped in a cascade of worries, tense muscles, even feelings of panic. Quick mindfulness techniques interrupt this stress cascade, rapidly shifting your physiology from emergency mode to tranquil relaxation.

    In concrete terms, mindfulness acts like a mini mental vacation for your overwhelmed nerves. It halts the release of hormones like cortisol (the notorious stress hormone) that accelerate anxiety and frazzled emotions. In their place, these techniques stimulate happy neurochemicals leading to instant calm and clarity for tense minds. Through simple but powerful mindfulness, we can transform feelings of being overwhelmed in a matter of minutes.

    While mindfulness itself is invaluable, giving it structure amplifies the benefits especially when we’re too stressed to think straight. Below are basic yet highly effective 5 minute mindfulness getaways to rebalance your mind:

    Focused Breathwork – Close your eyes and slowly inhale through your nose, letting your belly expand fully. Exhale nice and gradual through slightly parted lips. Repeat 5 full breath cycles.

    Sensory Exploration Walk – Take a short stroll focusing closely on your senses. Notice colors, smells, textures and subtleties often missed in daily rushing.


    Mindful Movement – Stand with feet hip distance apart, rooting through all 4 corners of your feet. Try 5 rounds slowly lifting alternate heels and toes, concentrating solely on balancing muscles engaging.

    Like building physical strength, regular mini “workouts” in mindfulness change brain patterns for good. Your mind learns to default less to stressful reactions. Peace and clarity become your new normal state. Now that’s personal progress worth investing in every single day.

    4. Book Focus Time for Recharging Your Batteries

    When work and family obligations pile up, self-care is often the first thing we sacrifice. However, psychological research shows consistently nurturing personal joys is vital for resilience against mounting pressures.

    Reserve small yet sacred windows on your calendar for meaningful activities just for you. These are called focus blocks – dedicated spaces providing mental shelter from constant demands. Use them to regularly engage passions that fade first when life gets chaotic.

    Examples of potential focus blocks:

    ✔️ Take 20 minutes to read your favorite novel over tea
    ✔️ Wake up 30 minutes early for a home yoga routine
    ✔️ Spend an hour gardening or tending to your plants
    ✔️ Sit down at the piano for some uninterrupted play
    ✔️ Block off time to create special meals with loved ones
    ✔️ Schedule date nights to reconnect as a couple

    The key is being fiercely protective of this time once scheduled. Fortress guard it like any other professional commitment. Know that mini-getaways will provide much needed renewal from periods of high stress.


    This step is about acknowledging your needs are equally important. Nurture your mental health now to cultivate resilience and prevent burnout down the road. You deserve focus time to regularly recharge your batteries.

    5. Get Laser-Focused on Your VIP Priorities

    It’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to tackle everything at once when you’re already strained. The solution? Channel focus through pragmatic prioritization of the vital few over the trivial many.

    This means taking a step back and getting ruthlessly intentional about how you spend your limited bandwidth. Stop trying to muscle through a mountain of obligations single-handedly. By smartly picking your battles based on what truly moves the needle, you operate from your highest point of leverage.

    Refocus your efforts on 2-3 weekly priorities aligned to bigger life goals. Break these down into daily and weekly plans accounting for constraints. Then simplify and streamline remaining items best you can through delegation, automation, or elimination.

    Here are 3 questions you can ask yourself now to focus down on your pragmatic priorities:

    What 3 biggest goals deeply align to who I am and where I want to go?

    Start by narrowing down your focus to just top 3-5 goals tied directly to your core values and sense of purpose. This grounds priorities in intrinsic motivation most likely to drive follow-through. If you struggle with identifying meaningful objectives, ask trusted friends for their perspective on your strengths and passions.

    Which incomplete tasks or responsibilities consistently preoccupy my mind?

    Scan outstanding items plaguing your thoughts related to work, family admin, household duties, or health objectives. These recurring mental hooks reveal where you feel a strong pull of obligation or pressure to progress. Use this grab on your attention to showcase areas to prioritize.

    What 1-3 things would make the biggest difference if accomplished this week?

    Finally, get crystal clear on one to three game-changing deliverables accessible within a week’s timeframe if you get laser-focused. Resist getting distracted by less critical things vying for your time. Isolate the vital few tasks that tangibly advance high-stakes goals to build momentum.

    While pragmatism means acknowledging limitations, it also means maximizing strengths. Remind yourself of previous obstacles overcome, which seemed insurmountable at the time. Have faith in your ability to steer things for the better once more.


    Stay anchored in who you are serving through it all – both at work and responsibilities at home. Connect to your purpose and let it realign attention on what counts most. Keep sights set on the essential few gamechangers versus getting drowned in the trivial many.

    6. Audit Your Energy Levels

    Sustainable change relies on realizing energy drives productivity, not just diligent time management. Start tracking your personal patterns. When do you feel clear-headed, motivated and firing on all cylinders? Make note of your individual indicators for mental fatigue and burnout as well.

    Now categorize daily activities as either Energy Giving or Energy Draining. Fun fact – the two can be deceivingly similar on the surface! For instance, aimless scrolling seems relaxing but often leaves you more drained. Extended TV binges might offer temporary escape but strain eyes and mental focus alike.

    On the flip side, meal planning, household projects, or knocking out errands might sound mundane yet provide a sense of control. A power nap could offer more restoration than hours half-heartingly watching a show. Getting curious about your energy habits is step one.


    Next, build rituals aligning to your personal needs that shortcut to relaxation while also bettering your life somehow. For you, that might mean:

    • Scheduling focused friend time versus large group gatherings
    • Cooking nourishing meals versus endless Instacart orders
    • Reading books that spark inspiration versus doomscrolling headlines
    • Power walking outside versus hiding indoors

    Don’t discount self-care as indulgent. Personalized rituals, however small, serve you holistically – fueling resilience when demands run high. Protect what energizes you most while modifying what clearly drains you. Make energy analysis and renewal a non-negotiable element powering sustainable change.

    7. Roll With Progress, Not Perfectionism

    Trying to make huge life changes all at once can actually increase stress when you inevitably fall short of unrealistic expectations. This continues an unhealthy cycle where you judge yourself harshly even though you’re trying your best.

    Instead, adopt the mindset of “fluid progress” – focusing on small, steady improvements over time rather than sporadic bursts chasing instant perfection. With fluid progress, your goals adapt and evolve, redirecting around obstacles while still moving forward overall.

    To apply this, start by asking yourself:

    1. What is the smallest, easiest step I can take towards my goal today?
      Identifying a achievable micro-reach pushes your comfort zone without setting unrealistic demands that are doomed to fail.
    2. How can I break down bigger goals into step-by-step milestones?
      Segmenting progress into digestible chunks relieves the intimidation factor, so each piece feels within reach.
    3. How will I celebrate or reward incremental progress?
      Taking a moment to recognize small wins creates positive reinforcement that relieves self-judgment while fueling momentum.

    Rigid expectations often lead to anxiety and self-criticism when we “fail” to meet our own impossibly high standards. But with fluid progress, you don’t criticize yourself when you don’t hit a timeline or benchmark. Instead, you evaluate what adjustments are needed and continue making forward progress. Knowing you always make some degree of progress helps relieve stress.

    Focus first on incremental gains. Allow many small wins to lift your self-efficacy and self-belief to carry you much farther than wrestling massive change overnight ever could. Consistency helps you reach that tipping point where real transformation ignites self-sustaining momentum towards what once felt impossible.

    8. Learn The The Art of Saying “No”

    Stress often arises when we take on more tasks and commitments than we can reasonably handle. We overextend ourselves and feel overwhelmed trying to meet every obligation. An important stress relief strategy is to master time commitment skills – learning to say no so you don’t overcommit.

    The 5 D’s of Delegation provide a framework for deciding how and when to take on responsibilities:

    • Deny – Don’t automatically say yes to every request. Evaluate whether the task aligns with your priorities and availability. If not, deny the request politely rather than overextending yourself. Say no to any non-essential commitments.
    • Defer – If a task doesn’t need to be done now, defer it to a later date when you may have more bandwidth to take it on. Simply delaying a task can relieve the stress of an overwhelming to-do list.
    • Delegate – Assign tasks that don’t require your specific expertise to others. Delegation utilizes people’s strengths and develops skills. Taking the time to delegate appropriately will lighten your load.
    • Drip – Break large imposing projects down into bite-sized pieces that can be tackled one step at a time. Dripping tasks makes them feel less intimidating and more manageable.
    • Do – Reserve doing tasks yourself for high priorities where you have special skills or knowledge. Limit these tasks to preserve time and energy for what only you can do.

    Mastering the 5 D’s takes time commitment off your shoulders. Using them counteracts overload and overcommitment – major contributors to stress. They help regain control over your time and obligations. Evaluate tasks and use the 5 D’s to prevent overpacked schedules. Your stress levels will thank you.

    Staying Calm in the Long Run

    Now that we’ve covered numerous tactics for quick stress relief, it’s important not to view them as temporary fixes you only use when you’re already overwhelmed. To truly experience change over time, these methods should become sustainable habits that improve your resilience to everyday pressures.

    The most effective approach is to seamlessly integrate miniature stress relievers into your typical routines. For example:

    • Make taking 3 deep breaths a standard preamble before meetings or task transitions.
    • Schedule genuinely relaxing activities like reading or gentle yoga on your calendar as usual events, not optional things easily discarded when life gets hectic.
    • Incorporate brief sensory awareness walks attuning to subtle sights and sounds into your work breaks.

    Building emotional resilience also means flowing with difficulties when they still crop up now and then. Progress occurs gradually through small yet steady victories. With consistent application, regularly achieving a calmer state becomes second nature over time versus something requiring great effort.

    And steer clear of expectations for massive overnight change! Use the very techniques outlined here to kindly acknowledge the progress you’ve already made. Then determine whatever micro step intuitively feels right to try next from a place of encouragement rather than self-scrutiny.

    Learning stress management endurance takes practice like developing any ability. But dedicating yourself to these skills allows external worries to simply ripple past rather than emotionally overwhelm you. And that fundamental shift makes all the difference – regardless of whatever current challenges you may be navigating.

    More Tips on How to Relieve Stress

    Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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