9 Quick Ways to Calm Down When You Feel Overwhelmed

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If you find yourself completely overwhelmed and in need of fast-acting ways to calm down from stress, don’t worry. There are some quick and easy things you can do to cope.

Stress comes in many forms. It can build gradually over time or occur in a moment and then be gone. There is even a beneficial type called eustress, which is actually good for you unless it becomes too intense or chronic. If you’re dealing with chronic stress, it’s important to implement some practices to manage stress over the long term.

Too much of any type of stress can feel overwhelming, and it can often sneak up on us. When you need to relax your mind and body immediately, below are nine easy strategies for how to calm yourself down in the moment so you can deal with whatever situation is at hand.

Take a Short Walk

Exercise can be a great stress reliever because it helps you blow off steam and releases endorphins. Even if you have just 5 or 10 minutes, moving your body for a bit will help. If you have more time or can take your walk outside, even better.

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. You could also listen to music that soothes or energizes you (unless the noise wouldn't help).

Taking a walk 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.

Breathe Deeply

If you're not in a position to leave where you are, 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.

To make your deep breathing even more soothing, try closing your eyes and/or pressing your palms together in a prayer position.

Visualize Relief

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.

Relax Your Muscles

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 in front of you.

Sniff Something Soothing

Aromatherapy is another easy tool that you can use quickly. A 2020 review in the International Journal of Cardiovascular Sciences that looked at five different studies found that aromatherapy use, specifically lavender, was associated with decreased anxiety, depression, stress, and fatigue in patients with cardiovascular disease. You can simply light a candle or diffuser, enjoy the aroma, and see if your stress levels go down.

Write It Down

If you have just a few minutes, you could also benefit from journaling. A 2020 review published in Critical Care Nurse found that journal writing seems to help reduce psychological distress in families with critically ill loved ones. You can write about what's causing you stress and get your emotions out on the page.

Drink Some Water

In addition to thirsty, dehydration can also make you feel tired and dizzy. So if you're feeling overwhelmed, try drinking a glass of water. Even better: Brewing a stress-relieving cup of tea can provide a much-needed break to step away from what's making you stressed—if you have the time.

Chew Gum

Have some gum nearby? Research shows that chewing gum may help reduce stress. If you haven't tried chewing gum in stressful situations, keep a stash of your favorite flavor on hand to try next time and see if it helps.

Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares a technique that can help you worry less.

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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 in the future.

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.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lopes L de S, Bündchen D, Modesto FC, et al. Aromatherapy in patients with cardiovascular diseases: a systematic review. Int J Cardiovasc Sci. 2020;34(1):74-80. doi:10.36660/ijcs.20190086

  2. Nakashima H, Gallegos C. Journal writing by families of critically ill patients: An integrative review. Crit Care Nurse. 2020;40(5):26-37. doi:10.4037/ccn2020293

  3. MedlinePlus. Dehydration.

  4. Smith AP. Chewing gum and stress reduction. J Clin Transl Res. 2016;2(2):52-54.

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.