Help, I’m stressed! What should I do?

by | Jun 10, 2022 | Last updated Jun 15, 2022

Woman sitting on the beach

It can feel really overwhelming when stress creeps up on you. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to handle it. Take this quiz now and keep the results in your back pocket for the next time you’re stressed.

  1. What’s causing you to feel this way?
    • A. An outside factor like work, family, or obligations.
    • B. An inside factor like ruminating thoughts.
    • C. I’m not sure, I just feel anxious. 
  1. I find that I’m most relaxed when…
    • A. I’m engaged in some sort of movement.
    • B. I really dig into my self-care routine.
    • C. I’m zoning out reading a book.
  1. When I’m stressed I feel…
    • A. Fidgety
    • B. Overthink-y
    • C. Overstimulated
  1. When I’m overwhelmed, I need to…
    • A. Walk around. 
    • B. Talk about it. 
    • C. Be left alone.
  1. If I were a quote, I’d be:
    • A. “Nothing happens until something moves.”
    • B. “If you don’t get it off your chest, you’ll never be able to breathe.”
    • C. “I restore myself when I’m alone.”

Mostly As: Move your body 

While moving your body might seem like a simple concept, its benefits are amazing. It lowers cortisol and adrenaline (your “I’m so stressed” hormones) and increases endorphins (those feel-good hormones). Plus, it’s meditative and takes your attention away from stressors. 

Exercise means a whole lot of different things for different people. And fortunately, there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to do it—any movement counts.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, we’ve put together tons of ways you can get moving: 

  • Heart-pumping: speed walking, jogging, running, stair climbing, jump roping, rowing, the elliptical, cycling, battle ropes, high intensity interval training (HIIT)
  • Strength-building: weightlifting, body weight exercises (like squats, push-ups, sit-ups, and more), Pilates, resistance band exercises
  • Zen-inducing: yin (slow) yoga, deep stretching, tai chi 
  • Life-giving: dancing, hula hooping; playing basketball, soccer, or football; playing hopscotch or a game of tag

Mostly Bs: Brain dump

A brain dump is a collection of thoughts, feelings, ideas, and anything else on your mind, written on paper (or your favorite device). This can include things you’re stressed about, things you’re excited about, things you’re grateful for, items on your to-do list, random thoughts, doubts you’re having, resistance you’re feeling… you name it. Every brain dump is unique, and there are no rules! (Just the way we like it.)

Years of research tells us that “free flow” or “stream of consciousness” writing is the best way to build thought awareness, disidentify with thoughts (realizing that you and your thoughts are not the same, and you’re bigger than your thoughts), and provide relief from mental clutter (think: spring cleaning of the mind).

To get started, write “brain dump,” the date, and the time at the top of your page.

You might want to use one of the following prompts to get started and help your thoughts flow. And if you do use a prompt, make sure to write it at the top of your page!

  • What’s on your mind?
  • If your brain could talk right now, what would it say?
  • What are the thoughts you’re experiencing? 

Then, set your timer for 2 minutes and write nonstop until your timer goes off—no censoring or editing.

Mostly Cs: Create space

Creating space means taking 15 minutes to do anything you like. Yes, anything!

The best activities to lower your stress (and follow through with) are:

Phone-free

If you’re like us, your screen time could use a little work. And even if you’re not like us, studies show that phones increase our stress levels (more on this later!).

Relaxing

Obvious? Maybe. True? Definitely. Research published in the journal Stress and Health shows that breaks that focus on relaxation are more invigorating and reduce fatigue more than breaks that involve checking off something on your to-do list. And breaks in relaxing, natural environments can be most rejuvenating.

Enjoyable

Breaks that are enjoyable are more than two times better for our health—research in the Journal of Applied Psychology says so. Think: fewer headaches, less pain, and lower likelihood of burnout.

So, block off 15 minutes to do whatever you like. You have permission.