Having a stressful day? You’re not alone! Must of us have quite a lot on our plates, and I bet most people have at least one stressful day a week. (No science to back that up — just some personal experience!) I figure, if stressful days are going to be part of our lives, why not do what we can to make the most of them?
After going through a pretty stressful day myself recently, I spent some time reflecting on what could have made (or, in some cases, did make!) the day better. Here are the top 20 items I’d recommend adding to your to-do list if you’re having a stressful day (… or week… or year…).
- Call or text a friendOne of the best things you can do when you’re having a tough day is reach out to someone who uplifts, inspires, and encourages you. It’s not always easy to open up when you’re having a tough time, but it’s worth reaching out to those who love and care about you. Even a small bit of encouragement can make your day a bit easier to cope with.
- Tell someone “I love you” Obviously, I recommend only doing this to someone you know and love, but saying “I love you” can have a really positive impact on how you feel. Focusing on someone else — and not on your own stress — is a great way to take a step back and shift your mind to a more positive place, and putting love out into the world — even if it’s just in the form of three little words — cuts down on stress.
- Write about how you feel Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, it can be useful to jot down your feelings when you’re overwhelmed. Just getting them out of your head and onto the page or screen can give you a bit of perspective and make whatever burden you’re carrying a little bit easier to manage. (Bonus: Google your specific situation online and use someone else’s writing to remind you you’re not alone!)
- Celebrate what’s working When we’re stressed, it’s tempting to focus on what’s not going right or how much you have to get done, but a simple shift in perspective can really make a big difference. Instead of paying attention to what’s not easy, take a moment to pause and celebrate what is Focusing on the things that are going your way will make it easier to tackle the things that aren’t.
- Eat something healthy I know, I know — healthy eating is often one of the first things to fly out the window when it comes to stressful days, but making the effort to eat healthy, balanced meals and drink lots of water will help your mental and physical state tremendously. It’s often when we need energy the most that we eat the foods least likely to give us energy!
- Find a dog (or other animal) My go-to stress buster is my dog, Barkley. Spending even just a few minutes with her can transform my mood ¾ and my day! If you don’t have access to a pet, there are plenty of them online that you can look at. (And I’m pretty sure it’s even been proven that looking at cute animals can decrease stress.) If you need a quick fix, here’s a second-a-day of Barkley during her first year.
- Take a time out Stressful days often equal rushing around like crazy, and it might feel counterproductive to take a break, but sometimes a time out can be just what you need to recharge your mental batteries and get back to dealing with whatever situation you’re in. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, remember to pause and give your mind a little break.
- Go outside for a walk This tip is a bit of a two-for-one because it involves two stress-fighters: exercise and nature. If at all possible, schedule some time to go for a walk (however brief!). It’s a great way to cut down on stress and you can even count it as #7 (a time out) from your day. Being outside and getting exercise have both been shown to reduce stress so combining them into one stress-fighting activity should be a no-brainer.
- Wear something comfortable Depending on your situation, this might not be an option, but if it’s possible, go for a comfortable outfit (or at least make your underthings comfy!). Nothing makes a stressful day more stressful than being physically uncomfortable, so set yourself up for at least a bit less stress by wearing something that feels good. (Bonus if you can find something that’s comfortable and makes you feel like you look good too!)
- Remember how far you’ve come When we’re stressed, we’re often focusing on what’s overwhelming us right in the moment, but it’s worth taking a moment to remember how far you’ve come in your life. Even if you don’t feel like you’re where you want to be, you’ve probably made a lot more progress in your life that you realize and, like most of us, you might take it for granted. Remind yourself of it today for a little self-love.
- Drink warm tea This might be a personal one, but I think I’ve read somewhere that warm things have de-stressing benefits. And I know that certain types of teas (lavender, chamomile) can help you keep calm. So it makes sense that a nice cup of tea (maybe iced if it’s summer!) can provide you with some good relaxation benefits. Pour yourself a cup when you need a little chill!
- Trash negative thoughts One of the craziest things about stressful days is how we often make them more stressful within our own heads! It’s tempting to look for the negative — especially if you’re trying to avoid things going wrong — but getting rid of negative thoughts (or at least challenging them with positive ones) can cut down an amazing amount on the stress you’re experiencing.
- Look at pretty art It might sound superficial, but what you look at when you’re stressed matters. If you’re having a particularly stressful day (and your situation allows it), turn off the news for a bit and spend a moment or two looking at something beautiful. Either spend a bit of time in front of your favorite piece in your house or do a search online for something you know brings you feelings of calm.
- Don’t overbook yourself A major cause of stress is having way too much to do at one time. We all only have 24 hours in a day (and most of us use quite a few of them for sleeping) so don’t crowd your schedule with things that aren’t essential on a stressful day. If you know a stressful day is coming, make it clear to those around you that you’re going to be focused on something specific and other tasks will have to wait to another day.
- Slow down I don’t know about you, but when I’m stressed, my whole world speeds up. I walk faster, I drive faster, I type faster, and I talk faster. It seems like this would make things more productive but, from experience, I know it doesn’t. It not only makes it more likely that I’ll make mistakes or say the wrong thing, but it just makes me feel more stressed! Slowing down when you’re busy is so hard, but give it a try and you’ll find that it’s actually more helpful than harmful.
- Listen to happy tunes Music can have a huge impact on your mood, so a stressful day is a great time to choose tunes that make you feel uplifted and inspired. (But make sure they’re not too fast-paced because that can make you feel more anxious than happy.) If you need some ideas, check out my weekly YouTube playlists and my Positive Vibes Spotify playlist.
- Compliment yourself When you’re stressed, self-love is essential. A little compliment can go a long way, and there’s no reason why you can’t give one of those little mood-boosters to yourself. Even if it’s something small — you got out of bed, you got dressed, etc.— give yourself a bit of praise for getting something done.
- Remember: you’re small Stress can make us feel like everything around us is a huge, big deal. And, while sometimes that’s true, in the grand scheme of things, we’re all very, very tiny creatures on a giant planet in a huge universe. This isn’t meant to diminish your value, but it’s important to keep in mind because it helps you keep things in perspective. And perspective is everything when you’re stressed!
- Consider how you’re lucky You might not feel lucky when you’re in the midst of a stressful day, but, if you’re reading this, you’re probably pretty lucky ¾ you’ve got eyes to see, hands to click buttons, and an internet connection, just to name a few things. Considering how you’re lucky will make you feel incredibly grateful, and gratitude is a great stress-challenger. The more grateful you feel, the more your stress goes down.
- Be your own cheerleader In the midst of stress, you might not feel particularly cheery, but being your own cheerleader is a great way to combat feelings of stress. Periodically throughout your stressful day, pause and remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can where you are. Try your hardest to speak positively to yourself with encouragement and love. After all, the voice in your head is usually the loudest one you’ll hear all day, so why not make it an encouraging one?
I’m not going to lie— stressful days are never fun, and no matter how hard you try to stay positive and present, they’re bound to be rough. But if you give some of the tips above a try, you’re likely to cut down on some of the stress and, ultimately, that’ll make you more productive. So if you’re struggling to rationalize why you’d need any of these tips — “Who has the time!” you might think— remember: the calmer you are, the more productive you can be. Now, go get ‘em!