30 Ways to Reduce Stress—Right Now

Imagine a one-year-old retriever-mix mutt cowering in the corner of a kennel in the back of the local animal shelter. Tail between his legs, ears drawn back, eyes wide and darting. Drowning in the ruckus that ensues every time someone walks into the room. Waiting, unsure if someone is finally going to take him home or if he’ll be taken out back to be killed.

That’s pretty much how I feel when I get stressed.

Stress is unavoidable. As great as I am at compartmentalizing things—and trust me, I could teach a MasterClass in compartmentalization—there comes a time when the levee breaks and the waves of stress flood the streets.

Then what?

Many of the stress-relieving techniques I’ve been offered left me thinking, “Yes, if I had developed that habit of x, y, or z three months ago, it would certainly bear a more stress-free Dominick today. But guess what? I didn’t. I need a right-now solution to
my right-now stress problem.”

So if you are feeling stressed, here are thirty things you can do right now to relieve some of the stress you might be feeling.

1. Breathe

In for a slow count of four, out for a slow count of four. Close your eyes. In through your nose, out through your mouth. Do this for at least two minutes.

2. Do one small thing

Find something on your to-do list that you can cross off in five minutes or less: Finally change that lightbulb in the garage. Send that quick email you’ve been meaning to get around to. Whatever it is, just do one small thing to get that burst of “I’ve accomplished something!” endorphins.

3. Ask someone to pray for you

Or think about you. Or send good vibes your way. Sometimes we need to share our burdens with others.

4. Take a walk

Ten minutes. Brisk pace. Not a stroll. Not a jaunt. Go for a consistent long stride, and raise your heart rate a little bit in the process.

5. Write for five minutes about everything you are feeling

Don’t think, just write. Dump your feelings on the page. You can shred it after if you want. Let your fears, worries, and anger out of your heart.

Gratitude eradicates stress!

6. Read something encouraging for five minutes

Don’t have anything to read? Try Reader's Digest’s website, or Passiton.com. Either one will yield dozens of uplifting quick reads to put you in a more positive state.

7. Make a list of ten things you are grateful for

Gratitude eradicates stress.
Plain and simple. Don’t do this as a mental exercise. Write them down. Say them out loud. “I’m thankful for my loving family.” “I’m thankful for my good health.”

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8. Watch a funny video

Youtube is filled with cats, funny home videos, and clips from late night talk shows. Take advantage and watch a four-minute clip that makes you giggle.

9. Do a Sudoku

Or a quick crossword, or a word search. They’re all over the internet. Just choose the beginner level. Something you can do in five minutes or less. It will make you feel accomplished, smart, and capable.

10. Smell something good.

Open a fresh pack of notecards and flip through them. Find an old book and breathe it in. Grab a handful of grass, or an apple from the break room. Brew a fresh pot of coffee. Take a few moments, and breathe in deeply an aroma that you love.

When you’re feeling stressed, you need something that’s going to help you right now.

11. Switch to decaf

Lay off the caffeine. It hypes you up, and stress does not need to be hyped up.

12. Stretch

Get limbered up. You can do it anywhere. Even in a crowded coffee shop you can pull one arm across your body, then the other. If you have more privacy, get your full on I’m-about-to-run-the-100-meter-hurdles stretch on.

13. Chew a piece of gum

Get the tension out by chomping down on that piece of gum! Don’t hold it in with a clenched jaw. Really lay into it.

14. Set three goals for the rest of the day

Grab a piece of paper, and write down three important but simple things you want to do today. Goals animate us and make us feel excited and powerful. They don’t have to be anything major. In fact, the simpler and more achievable, the better.

15. Call your mom and tell her you love her

Or your dad. Or your grandma. Or your best friend. Or your sister. They all need to hear it, and none of us tell them enough. Plus, you probably can’t even imagine the amount of stress you have caused in your mom’s life. She deserves to hear it.

16. Say no to something

Few things in life are more empowering than saying no. You probably have some outstanding invitations or requests or obligations filling your calendar or email inbox. Take a moment right now, and tell your colleague you can’t make the happy hour this Thursday, or your neighbor’s book club tomorrow night, or whatever it is.

17. Put on a good-vibes song

Don’t worry, I won’t judge. If you want to do the “Single Ladies” dance alone in your office or have a good cry to “The Christmas Shoes,” that’s just fine with me. Put on something that makes you feel good, and immerse yourself in the tune for just a few minutes.

18. Do ten jumping jacks, ten sit-ups, and ten push-ups

Who cares if your cubicle mates think you’re weird? Who cares if you can only do six? It’s even better if you feel a little silly doing it. A quick little workout will release some endorphins, and feeling a little whimsical doesn’t hurt either.

19. Pray the Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

It’s worked for millions of alcoholics; it will likely work for your stress, too.

20. Have a healthy snack

Or a small snack. Find something to munch on. Carrot sticks, or an apple. A small bag of nuts. Don’t have anything healthy? Just one piece of chocolate is okay.

21. Spend five minutes learning something

Download Duolingo, and spend five minutes completing a couple of lessons. You’ll feel smart and the accomplishment will make you feel good.

22. Spend Time in Quiet Reflection

A little bit of time in the classroom of silence or a quick guided meditation just might help you clear your mind and escape the whirlwind of stress.

This free book, A Quiet Place, can help you learn practical tips for combatting everyday distractions.

23. Doodle

Take five minutes and do some doodling. It will get your mind off things. Pick something around you and try to recreate it on paper. Or just imagine something and get creative. Or get weird and go abstract.

Recall a great memory. Close your eyes, and immerse yourself in the memory. Re-live it.

24. Write down three self-affirmations

I’m talented and skilled at my work.
I love others, and I’m loved by others.
I have value and deserve good things.

Or anything else you need to hear. Write them down.

25. Listen to classical music

Google “Yo-Yo Ma” playing the cello. It’s soothing.

26. Wash your hands and face

Give your hands and face a good scrub with soap and hot water. Rinse, and repeat. Take time with it. Really get in there. Wash away the stress. It will refresh you and wake you up.

27. Recall a great memory

The best vacation you ever took. Your wedding day. The day your kids were born. That time you went bungee jumping. The night the Cubs finally won the World Series. Doesn’t matter what it is. Close your eyes, and immerse yourself in the memory. Re-live it.

28. Squeeze something

Don’t have a stress ball? Turn that book into a stress book, or that pen into a stress pen. Give it ten good squeezes. Squeeze as hard as you can, counting to three. Let go, relax, and repeat. Ten times.

29. Write down ten dreams

Dreaming brings us back to life. Grab a piece of paper and write down ten dreams for your life. Remind yourself that you have bigger and better things in store for yourself than whatever you’re going through right now.

30. Write a thank you note

Email or handwritten. Send it or don’t—but if you do, it’ll brighten your day knowing you are brightening someone else’s.

When you’re feeling stressed, you need something that’s going to help you right now. Try one—or a couple—of the ideas above and watch the stress ease up.

Let us know in the comments which ones work for you, and any other ideas you have for a right-now stress solution.

Here’s to a more stress-free you!

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