TOVI's Science Communicator, Ashley Miller-Dykeman, M.A.
How to Snap Out of Stress
Stress can feel like a tornado in your brain. Luckily, you can override those stressful thoughts. In this article, you'll learn how.
Has a stressful event ever made you feel like, no matter how hard you tried, you just couldn’t concentrate? It feels like your mind is just too busy, dwelling on one thing or worrying about something else.
You’re not alone.
Stress can feel like it’s messing with your mind and create a cycle that’s hard to get out of. It usually works like this:
You start to focus on things out of your control, usually in the future or the past. Then, because you can’t control the thoughts you’re having or the things you’re worrying about, you’re left feeling even more stressed than before. The end result is pervasive feelings of anxiety and helplessness (and unresolved stress).
A quick way to snap back to now
When you’re in a cycle of stressed-out thinking, there are things you can do to help you refocus on the present moment. Psychologists call them grounding techniques, which literally means techniques to help you “feel your feet on the ground.”
Grounding techniques shift your focus to the senses, the breath, and your immediate environment. They include things like taking deep breaths, focusing on things you hear or smell, or asking yourself questions to bring your awareness to the here and now.
Why Does It Work?
Grounding techniques work because when your mind is wandering, you’re probably focusing on something that has happened to you already or something that your mind thinks might happen. That’s what makes the thoughts so stressful; you can’t change the past or control the future.
Grounding techniques remind your mind that the present moment is real, engaging, has potential, and can give you many of the answers that your mind seeks when it wanders. They pull you back to Earth.
Give it a try!
There are a few different techniques you can use to refocus your thoughts, but positive self-talk is a great way to start because it’s simple and quick.
Practice starting the day by asking yourself these questions:
What do I want this day to be about?
What is most important to me today?
How do I want to spend this day?
Here’s an example:
Today is about letting negativity bounce off of me. I want to spend today being happy and calm, instead of sad or annoyed.
This is different from setting out to accomplish a list of things or checking off tasks. Instead, you’re setting an intention for the day and checking in with yourself to affirm what is most important to you.
Then, as your day goes on, remind yourself of how you answered your question. Chances are the little stressors of the day will be easy to put into perspective.
Reviewed by: Lorena Ruci, PhD, Registered Psychotherapist