Sneaky Ways to Relieve Stressful Feelings

A woman has set her work laptop aside to take a break laying down on her wooden patio garden.
Written by Risa Schulman
clock-line icon
4 minutes

What are some possible ways to relieve stressful feelings?

There are countless lists detailing how you can de-stress your life, but too many of these suggestions presume you have extra time on your hands to build in these techniques and habits. Under normal circumstances finding your zen can be challenging — even more so when you might be working from home or you haven’t seen friends or family in ages. With all of these added stressors in mind, we’ve compiled a list that even the busiest or most stressed person can find a few moments for.

Read More: Stress & Your Heart

Laughter or Smiling Can Boost Your Mood

Laughter lowers stress levels and no matter how long your to-do list is, you can find a few seconds to laugh or smile.1 While most guides to de-stressing will tell you to step away from the screen (more on that later), this is an instance where opening a YouTube video or reading something funny online can be the perfect distraction.

Change Your Scenery

Do you work in an office? Maybe you always eat lunch at your desk or breakfast during your commute? Do you tether yourself to your desk during work hours or spend your work from home routine in the same spot on your couch? While repetition in routine can be helpful for some, sitting in the same space for long periods of time can be boring. Boredom can lead to lack of engagement and participation, also causing stress.2 You might not be able to sneak off to a coffee shop, but you can sit in a different room for a few minutes (or hours). If you have meetings that don’t require your physical or video presence, try calling in from a quiet space outside, if you can. At the very least, changing the background of your computer or phone can help break you out of your comfort zone.

Visualize Where You’d Rather Be

Speaking of changing up your background, visualizing new scenery can help reduce stress. If you find yourself thinking “I’d rather be anywhere but here,” close your eyes and conjure an image of the place you’d like to be. Spend a few minutes quietly putting yourself in that peaceful space and reset.

Turn Off Your Phone

Take 5 minutes (or maybe a full hour) where you can turn off your phone and tune out constant notifications.3 Powering off your phone doesn’t mean you can’t be productive. Find time in your calendar when being unreachable by phone will allow you to work and focus on an item on your to-do list (be it work or personal) to which you can devote your full attention. Being unreachable might be challenging for some, so we recommend letting friends and family know in advance of your offline time or simply adjusting your phone’s settings to only allow messages and calls from designated contacts to come through.

Play While You Work

If you find yourself in a meeting that will not end or trudging through an overwhelming inbox, give your hands something to do with a toy you keep nearby for moments like these. Maybe it’s a squishy stress ball you can squeeze while reading documents or crayons you mindlessly scribble with while on a call.

Unclench Your Jaw

This last piece of advice is both the easiest and most challenging. It’s common to clench your jaw while stressed and the more we do it, the less we notice it (until it turns into a throbbing headache). Post a note on your desk or next to your bed to unclench your jaw or set a reminder to pop up on your phone at random times. These reminders will help you be more physically aware of your stress and give you a simple way to reduce it.

These little de-stressors can help you feel better in the moment, but don’t forget to make time for you when you can. If you know you’re stressed but aren’t sure why, try our personal wellness assessment to help you understand what parts of your life could use some extra TLC.

Want even more inspiration on how to combat stress? Watch our video on small habits you can include in your everyday life to find more balance.

Written by:

Risa Schulman


Risa Schulman, Ph.D. has been helping companies and people build wellness for 25 years.

Connect With Us

As seen in:

  • ABC Logo
  • The Dr. OZ Show Logo
  • Fox Logo
  • Whole Foods Magazine Logo
  • CBS Logo