How To Cool Off When Stressed And Upset

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How To Cool Off When You're Feeling Upset

Woman breathing deeply with dark clouds in the background
Relaxing your body can calm your inner storm. Michaela Begsteiger/Imagebroker/Getty Images

 We've all been there: you're feeling stressed and upset, you can literally feel it in your body, and you're having trouble shaking the feeling.  You may want to calm yourself down and relax your body, as you want to handle life's challenges from a place of strength and reason rather than hurt feelings or reactivity, but you're not sure how to get there.  You may find yourself in the throes of rumination, playing and replaying what was said, what you wish was said, what might go wrong next. It's important to know how to relax and refocus so you can come back to the problem and approach it from a place of reason rather than defensiveness, anger, or fear.  Here are some strategies that work.  

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Exercise and Calm Your Stress

Exercise is a great stress reliever.
Exercise is a great stress reliever. Westend61/Getty Images

 Exercise can help you to get out of a negative frame of mind, and get your body back to feeling more relaxed.  Exercise works in a few different ways.  First, it offers a distraction from the stress you are facing in your life, getting you into a different environment and shifting your focus.  Second, it creates a release of endorphins and dopamine among other chemicals that can change the way you feel.  Finally, it can give you an opportunity to blow off steam physically, and gives you a sense of satisfaction as you gain health benefits as well.  Whether you take a quick, brisk walk or go for a full workout, a dose of exercise, particularly something you enjoy, can get you into a better frame of mind and body.

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Use Breathing Visualizations

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Combining visualizations with breathing exercises can calm your stress in two ways. zeljkosantrac/Getty Images

 Breathing exercises are fantastic for relaxing your physiology; they help your body mimic a relaxed state until your body's stress response begins to fade.  (Read more about breathing exercises here.)  Visualizations can be helpful as well--they can be a way to relax your body and mind at the same time, and provide a shift in focus.  Combining breathing exercises with visualizations can help you to use your mind and body to relax.  There are a few different ways to use breathing visualizations for relaxation, and they can work well.  (Here are some effective breathing visualizations you can try.)  Experiment, and see what works for you.

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Listen To Music

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Music can help you get going in the morning, and feel happy throughout the day. FrancescoCorticchia/ Getty Images

 Music works to relax you in multiple ways.  Your body can become attuned to the tempo of the music, automatically relaxing when calming music is playing, and becoming more energized when the tempo speeds up.  The lyrics can also be cathartic, empowering, uplifting, or whatever you need in the moment.  It can be highly effective and simple to use music to relax your body and your mind.  Read more about using music for stress relief.

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Shift Your Focus Mentally

If you change your frame of mind, you can relax your body, too. peter zelei/Getty Images

 Once you've begun to calm your body through breathing exercises, visualizations, physical activity or other means, shifting your focus can help you to relax your mind further, and allow yourself to approach things from a different frame of mind.  There are a few different ways you can shift your focus.  

  • You can focus on what you appreciate in your life--gratitude journaling is great for this!  
  • You can try to look at things from a different perspective, using techniques like cognitive reframing.
  • Sleep on it.
  • Talk things out with a good friend you trust, or a therapist who can offer another perspective or help you find one for yourself.

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Try Some Preventive Maintenance

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Meditation is effective for building resilience toward stress. Trinette Reed/Getty Images

The best defense is a good offense, is it not?  Building resilience toward stress can help you to stay calm more easily so you don't have to work yourself out of a place of stressed arousal as often or as intensely.   By maintaining certain resilience-building habits when you aren't feeling stressed and upset, you can minimize the frequency and intensity of your responses when you are faced with stressful situations.  Meditation is one habit that can be challenging for beginners when they are feeling triggered by stress, but can be simple to learn and effective to use when not already feeling overwhelmed.  Another benefit: there are many different ways to practice meditation, so there are numerous choices that could work well for you.  Here are some meditation practices to try.

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