Here's How to Be More Optimistic When You’re Totally Stressed Out

You’re dangerously sleep-deprived, you have way too much on your plate and you’re feeling totally off-kilter when…bam. Something totally unexpected (and 100 times more stressful) happens. Before you free fall into that stress spiral, try one of these quick tricks to put things in perspective. Here, seven ways to be more optimistic.

There Are 3 Different Stress Styles—Which One Are You?

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1. Do Hourly Check-Ins

Most of the time, it isn’t what’s currently happening that’s stressing us out so much, it’s the anticipation of what’s about to happen. Dreading your doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning? Get yourself back in the moment by periodically asking yourself “Am I OK right this second?” Chances are, you’re hanging in there just fine for the moment. Continue to ask yourself whenever you need a quick positive affirmation. “Are you OK right now?” Yep, you’re OK.

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2. Enlist Friends to Cheer You On

When you’re having a bad day (or week, or month), your first instinct might be to isolate yourself—no one likes a Debbie Downer, right? But confiding in someone helps, we promise. Text a friend (or five), tell them you’re having a rough time and request empowering texts, funny GIFs or cute animal photos. Have a scary meeting with your boss tomorrow afternoon? Before you walk into her office, you’ll have ten adorable baby goats waiting for you.

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3. Take a Five-Minute Breather

We know. You’ve tried meditating a couple of times and it’s just not your thing. But give Insight Timer a shot—it’s a free mindfulness app you can download right this second. Play a selection of stress-releasing guided meditations to get you in the zone—some are as quick as five minutes. When you feel yourself start to enter the Stress Zone, it’s the best reset.

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4. Sip a Cup of Peppermint Tea

When you’ve hit peak “my life is falling apart, AHHH,” getting a massage or taking a long bubble bath probably isn’t at the top of your list of priorities. If you can’t sneak away for an hour, make (or buy) a cup of tea. Feel the warmth of the mug with your hands, inhale the steam and sip slowly. And if you can make it peppermint, it’s been scientifically proven to cause calming effects, both on the GI system and on the nervous system. It’s a quick, effective way to release a little of that tension.

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5. Imagine Everything Going Perfectly

OK, yes: Positive visualization sounds like something you’d read about in a cheesy ’90s self-help book. But multiple studies (including this one from the Cleveland Clinic) have proven that mental practice is nearly as effective as actual physical practice. So if you’re terrified of bombing your big presentation, imagine walking up to the podium feeling relaxed and confident. Imagine delivering an engaging presentation that the audience loves. Imagine the roaring applause. It’s most definitely cheesy, but it works.

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6. Look on the Bright Side (Even If You Really, Really Don’t Want to)

For most of us, it’s easier to dwell on everything that could go wrong—if you’re expecting the worst, you aren’t disappointed if stuff actually doesn’t end up going perfectly. But a study from Stanford University School of Medicine argues that positivity is key. Kids who stayed positive had better grades and achieved more than the kids with more negative attitudes. So start thinking more like Pooh and less like Eeyore.

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7. Listen to Your Favorite Song

You know the one. The super embarrassing one with eight key changes that makes you feel all melty inside. (If it’s “Mandy” by Barry Manilow, your secret’s safe with us.) A study conducted by the University of Zürich concluded that listening to music has an effect not only on your stress level, but on your body’s ability to recover from stress. So put on those headphones and blast it.

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Freelance Editor

From 2015-2020 Lindsay Champion held the role of Food and Wellness Director. She continues to write for PureWow as a Freelance Editor.