5 Ways to Calm Down Quickly When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

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Stress comes in many forms. Acute stress is the type that happens and is then over quickly, leaving relatively little damage in its wake. Chronic stress, on the other hand, is the type that occurs on a more regular basis and creates far more damage in the body, including everything from greater susceptibility to colds and the flu to a higher risk of heart disease.

There is even a beneficial type of stress called eustress, which is a positive form of stress for most people unless it becomes too intense or chronic. This is the type of stress that comes from an exciting vacation or engaging challenge.

Too much of any type of stress, however, can feel overwhelming, and it can often sneak up on us. Many people don't realize how much stress is building up until they suddenly feel overwhelmed. Other times, stressful or attention-demanding events may seem to happen one after the other, and you may go from feeling calm to completely overwhelmed with surprising speed.

Coping When You Feel Overwhelmed

However it happens, it is important to have strategies for coping when you feel overwhelmed by stress and need to quickly relax your mind and body. These five quick and easy strategies can help you regain your calmness so you can deal with whatever situation is at hand.

Take a Walk

Exercise can be a great stress reliever in itself, as it helps you blow off steam and releases endorphins. Taking a walk when stressed can bring you the benefits of exercise—both short-term and long-term—and as a bonus, it gets you out of the stressful situation temporarily.

This can provide you with some perspective so you can return in a new frame of mind. Walking with a good friend can be a nice way to find social support, and walking alone can provide you with some time to think, reframe, and come back to the situation with renewed optimism.

Take a Breath

If you're not in a position to leave, you can feel better right away by practicing breathing exercises. Getting more oxygen into your body and releasing physical tension are two ways that breathing exercises can benefit you. And you can do them anytime or anywhere, even if your demanding situation isn't letting up.

Take a Mental Break

If you can steal away a few minutes of peace, visualizations and guided imagery are a wonderful way to restore peace of mind. They're easy to do and can relax you mentally and physically. With practice, you can easily access your "happy place" and quickly feel calmer when stressed.

Reframe Your Situation

Sometimes we intensify our experience of stressful situations by the way we look at them. If you can look at your situation differently, you may be able to put it into a different perspective—one that causes you less stress.

Mental and emotional stress can be caused by pessimism, type A traits, and other self-sabotaging thought patterns. Learn how you can change the way you look at things. It will come in handy when you're stressed.

Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a technique where you tense and release all of your muscle groups, leaving your body to feel more relaxed afterward. Just about anyone can do PMR, and with practice, you can fully release virtually all the tension you're feeling in your body in a matter of seconds. This can help you feel calmer and better able to handle the situations at hand.

A Word From Verywell

Once you've been able to calm down, you should be in a better position to address whatever stressful situations you're experiencing. It's also a good idea to adopt a few regular stress relievers and healthy lifestyle habits so that you can reduce your overall stress level. Then you will be less affected by the stressful situations you do encounter.

If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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