18 Small Ways to Reset During a Stressful Day

In honor of National Stress Awareness Month, we’re reflecting on the small tips that help us reset and recharge during a stressful day. It’s only natural to go through times when we feel anxious or overwhelmed, but the key to handling those moments is by arming ourselves with tools that we can use to pause and take the deep breath we need to reset.

We asked our Thrive community to share with us the small habits and rituals that help them reset and recharge during a stressful day. Which of these tips will you try?

Take a break for movement

“I find that moving my body for a short time helps me reset from stress really quickly by getting me out of my head and into my body. I’ll usually put on a song and either dance to it wildly, or do some jumping jacks or burpees for its duration. By being fully present in feeling into the sensations of my muscles contracting and relaxing, my heart pumping, and my lungs inflating and deflating, my mind becomes a calm, peaceful, and quiet place.”

—Musa Francis, mental health coach, Oxfordshire, UK

Give your kids a hug

“Nothing beats pausing and spending quality time with my kids and getting a hug from them or my wife. The ability to be reminded of what’s important is the most important thing. It enables you to recenter and focus more on yourself.”

—Joshua Miller, master certified executive leadership Coach Austin, TX

Take a few deep breaths

“One thing that really helps me to reset on a stressful day is deep abdominal breathing. I put a hand on my belly and focus on my belly button moving out as I slowly breathe in for a count of 6, hold for a count of 3, then exhale again for a count of 6, and hold for a count of 3. After a few minutes of focused breathing like that, it feels like the overwhelm is gone and I can think clearly again.”

—Bianca Riemer, leadership coach, London, UK

Break into an impromptu dance party

“My go-to move when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed is a one-song dance party. In fact, I keep an entire playlist of songs that are sure to get my body grooving along, with the special option to skip if one isn’t bringing the mood around. When I’m in that place of discomfort and frustration, I pop my headphones in, crank up the tunes and let loose. I’m a big fan of getting into my body to release tension and nerves. It’s basically my version of taking out the battery, blowing on it and getting it started up again.”

—Rikki Goldenberg, executive coach, South Orange, NJ

Think of a memory that makes you smile

“I have a ‘bank’ of joyful memories that I call on when I need to.  One in particular is a time when my sister and I went to a classical music concert, and the baritone singer had a habit of raising his eyebrows every time he aimed for a higher note. We got the giggles and had to stifle them with tissues stuffed in our mouths, tears rolling down our faces as our giggles fed off each other.  The folks around us started to smile as they could see what was happening.  I still laugh whenever I think about it, and my stress dissolves!”

—Georgina Cannon Author, regression therapist, Toronto, Canada

Set a timer for a microbreak

“When I feel inundated or overwhelmed throughout the day, I’ve learned it’s imperative to give myself frequent mini-breaks. I set my timer for 10 minutes to give myself a mind break and opening to reset my nervous system. During that time, I don’t open emails or go on my phone. I use the time to reduce stimuli and stress that builds throughout the day from information overload. Instead, I get some fresh air, look out the window, take my dog for a quick walk or basically do anything that helps me breathe, think less and reset.”

—Emily Madill, author and certified professional coach (ACC), Nanaimo, B.C., Canada

Make yourself a nourishing meal

“Cooking a meal or preparing a salad acts as a great de-stressor for me during a busy day. I have enjoyed cooking since my childhood and continue to do so now. Immersing myself in the process of gathering the ingredients, choosing the method of cooking, and just looking at how the whole process of mixing ingredients comes together gives me a great level of satisfaction and gives me a feeling of accomplishment.”

—Aakriti Agarwal, positive psychologist and coach, India

Go on a mindful walk

“To reset during a stressful day, I like to walk outside and listen for five different sounds. The first few are easy: birds, cars, music next door. But the final two or three take a bit more focus: breathing, wind whispering through trees, or air conditioning running. Those five minutes relieve all the stress of the day.”

—KJ Van, Consultant, Phoenix, AZ

Do one thing that brings you joy

“It is so easy to get caught in the drama of the day and when that happens I often fall to the bottom of my own important to-do list. To circumvent that from happening, I make it a habit amid a challenging day to gift myself at least one thing I love. It could be something as simple as my favorite meal, a promise to watch a show later, a catch-up call with a friend, or an exercise class. The idea is that even in the most stressful of times, I don’t forget about my own value and no matter what, I have my back! Simply knowing that I am honoring myself even in the worst of times, makes it easier to power through them and to see the light.”

—Randi Levin, transitional life strategist, NYC/NJ

Take a nap

“One habit that helps me reset and recharge during a stressful day is taking a nap. Napping can be so powerful for our mental health. That’s why it’s called a power nap! My brain is always working, and it works extra during a stressful day. Therefore, napping lets my brain shut off for at least half an hour. Usually, I feel clearer and happier once I wake up from a nap.”

—Safania Romas, agency owner, Columbia, MD

Turn off your notifications

“When I have a lot going on at work and in my personal life, it can feel overwhelming. When I feel a spike of anxiety or stress, I turn off all my notifications on all of my devices to reduce distraction and overwhelm, step away from what I am doing, make a hot drink and reflect on what is triggering me, why it is making me stressed, and what I can do to reset. Once I go through that process, my nervous system has calmed down.” 

—Blair Kaplan Venables, resilience expert, British Columbia, Canada

Feel your feet on the grass

“Whenever I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I follow a very simple ritual that is based in science and shared in the movie Pretty Woman. I go outside in my bare feet and walk in the grass, sand or dirt –  anywhere that I’m able to connect with the earth and stomp around while wiggling my toes. The contact with mother nature will transmit some positive energy and help me reset.”

—Trish Tonaj, artist, author, founder/Host ShareYourStories.online

Play with your pets

“One small habit that helps me rest during a stressful day is to have a cuddle session or play session with my pets. My two cats race down the stairs to greet me as I walk through the door daily, and I always spend a few minutes with them, throw a sponge ball for them to chase. Seemingly, they are the best stress relievers and mini therapists a person could have. They remind me to leave everything behind and focus on family time. Our pets are a great example to simply chill and not take things so seriously.”

—Elaine Hamilton, author, Santa Fe, NM 

Do something mindless

“When I feel myself starting to freak out about a deadline or someone not getting back to me with important information, I force myself to do something mindless.  Getting up and watering a plant or looking at the snail mail that arrived yesterday is a good way to get grounded if I’m home. Working at the office or on the road, a quick walk around to hunt for a soft drink or an (analog) news story will do the trick. The key is to shut out of your head and away from your digital life.”

—Amy Feind Reeves, career coach, Boston, MA

Play a song you love

“If I need to recharge, I tune into some classical station or stream coffee shop jazz. My choice to turn up some music is even more likely when the project I’m working on requires intense focus. But some days, I play uptempo pop or hip-hop. And on those days, I de-stress with dance breakers seated or up on my feet, swinging my hips to the beat. Whatever the day’s choice, music is the magic that helps me ease through the day.”

—Marcia Hylton, marketing automation and strategy consultant, El Paso, Texas

Take your dog on a walk

“One way I relieve my daily stress is by spending time with my new Goldendoodle and walking the neighborhood in the middle of the day. It resets my mental state, unclogs my brain from stress, and provides bonding time with my new rescue dog. His attitude is always unconditionally positive. It is a great experience to see him enjoy every day, and it provides me with a needed reset button for my daily work.”

—Scott Miller, marketing director, Wilmington, DE

Stroll along the water

“After a stressful day, whether at work or at home, I love to just get out and walk, preferably by the water. Looking at the water makes a walk even more calming and helps me reset.”

—Andrea Booker, customer service assistant, Southaven, MS

Celebrate your small wins

“When I’m having a stressful day, I read through my ‘Celebration Log,’ also known as my ‘Yay Me!’ journal — an on-going list of my daily wins. Because, as you know, we tend to forget our wins and focus on future worries. ‘Yay Me’ is a reminder to take radical responsibility for the good things I’m creating in the world.”

—Carolyn Mahboubi, life and leadership coach, Los Angeles, CA