Three Simple Steps to Chilling Out When You Are Having a Negative or Overwhelming Day

by Henrik Edberg

Image by: notsogoodphotography (license).

“If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.”
George F. Burns

“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the nonpharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.”
John W. Gardner

Lately I have been very busy with working hard on the final part of my new course, Simplicity.

When you are busy like that at school or at work or just in life in general it’s very easy to from time to time fall into a couple of negative headspaces – such as victim thinking, feeling overwhelmed or just plain pessimistic – that make life and work more difficult.

In this post I’ll share how I usually to get myself out of such destructive inner places.

1. Releasing the stress.

Working out – I use free weight + body weight exercises – is my number one way to release stress and inner tension. If feel whiny or pessimistic then I put in maybe just 25 minutes of free weights as soon as I can (I have them at home so that makes is easier to get going with it).

That one step will most often work to feel stronger and better emotionally once again.

If that only works a bit I move one to…

2. Shift to a healthier perspective.

I usually do this one as the second step. But sometimes I use it as the first step and then I move on to or skip the exercise.

If I’m hung up on a smaller or medium sized detail or feel overwhelmed by something then I ask myself a question like:

Will this matter 5 years from now? This usually let’s me see that it doesn’t. Or that it is a very small deal in the long run.

If I fall into victim thinking I ask myself:

Does someone have it worse on the planet? Of course. So I should probably just chill out and snap out of the somewhat ridiculous, childish “poor, poor me” thoughts.

If I get irritated or angry at someone else then I ask myself:

How would I think and feel it if I were in his or her shoes? Putting myself in the other person’s shoes helps me to gain a more levelheaded mood and better perspective to solve a situation practically or to let it go. Instead of building a molehill into Mount Everest in my head.

If that doesn’t bring me fully around I move one to…

3. Focusing fully on rest.

I take a time out. I watch some fun comedies like the Simposons, the Office or Community and just laugh some time away. Or I lie down on the couch to read some fun or thrilling mystery novel.

And I do nothing more for maybe a half a hour or an hour. This is very important. I basically single-task and just focus on such relaxing – and for me fully absorbing – activities to 100%. This usually works wonders and lets me get back into the work with a relaxed and optimistic mindset again.

So find the activities that you get fully absorbed in – some sport, a walk, swimming perhaps or playing a video game – and take a fully focused break when needed.

Bonus tip: I remember to keep things extremely simple.

This one works when I get overwhelmed for example but is also one of my best tools to keep out of negative headspaces in the first place by focusing on what is helpful and nipping destructive thoughts patterns in the bud.

At the very top of a whiteboard on my wall I have written down: “Keep things extremely simple” (I also have this phrase as a desktop wallpaper on my laptop).

And whenever I feel I am making a thing bigger or more complicated than it is or I simply become confused or negative in some way I can look at the wall to help guide my thoughts back into a constructive and calm place.

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Leisa Watkins April 29, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Great tips. Yesterday morning I woke up feeling so overwhelmed. After struggling through everything, in an attempt to work my way through it all, I paused and just decided to devote a few hours to play of some kind. I wanted to get outside, but physically I wasn’t feeling well. So I decided to just focus on socializing on Facebook. Something I rarely do. It helped take my mind off of things as I focused on other people and what was going on in their lives.

My favorite method is usally a quick nap. I am always amazed at how much brighter things look after just a little sleep.

Viola Wilson April 30, 2011 at 2:39 am

Great tips…I smile every time I see a new entry =)

viktor April 30, 2011 at 3:06 am

Thanks for sharing, very useful tips…!!

Brian April 30, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Such a timely post.

I’ve been very busy recently and have struggled to balance my day job, launching our blog on a new domain and starting up an entirely new blog.
I easily slip into the negative headspace and paint myself the victim. I find that taking time out to watch TV is a great way to relax. I will try to follow this advice when I’m feeling overwhelmed next!

Dana Lightman, Ph.D. April 30, 2011 at 11:48 pm

Practical and useful tips. One more I’d like to add that works for me. Stop resisting what is. My stress usually comes from not accepting the current situation. So I say to myself, “It is what it is.” That doesn’t mean I have to like it, but accepting it helps me calm down and find viable solutions. When I resent what is happening, in contrast, all I can see is the problem. “It is what it is.” There is relief in acceptance.

Punita May 3, 2011 at 10:38 am

I agree with you as it works for me as well. To take the unlikely issues and circumstances with ease helps to ease out the mindset as well. It is well said that “Life is 90% reaction and 10% action”. So if our reactions are wholesome that the actions tend to fall in line.

Justin | Mazzastick May 1, 2011 at 2:38 am

Releasing stress is so important in our modern, busy world. Exercise followed by some “chill-out” time will do wonders for our well-being.

Cat May 1, 2011 at 5:11 am

Thank you for this. Finals are just around the corner, which means no sleep for me. I have forgotten the power of sleep. I plan on getting some shut-eye earlier tonight. Thank you for reminding of it’s importance. :-)


Brandon Yanofsky May 2, 2011 at 9:48 am

Watching comedy is so great. No matter my current problems, a comedy makes everything right.

Peter Yiannikouros May 2, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Great advice. It helps to slow down a bit and just do something I love. Priorities are priorities but I like to take a few breaks throughout the day to clear my head and relax.

Henrik Edberg May 2, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Thank you guys for adding all of your awesome tips for how you handle a difficult day!

CC Lawhon May 3, 2011 at 12:50 am

Simplicity is absolutely the key. To change our lives, we just simply start noticing. NOT JUDGING. Just noticing. When do we have a thought that makes us feel bad? What are we doing or who are we with? The simple act of noticing will begin to cause a shift for us.
-from the upcoming book Guru-YOU!

Love & Light

Henrik Edberg May 4, 2011 at 9:58 am

I agree, just noticing can cause a shift in how you think and feel about things.

tapping technique May 3, 2011 at 5:19 am

I believe in the energy of positive thinking. You have employed that thought here. And I agree with you with these tips. Great blog.

Henrik Edberg May 4, 2011 at 9:54 am

Thank you!

Amelie de Vera May 3, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Thank you for sharing these very useful tips. I especially like tip#2 – shift to a healthier perspective. It’s true that I worry about very trivial, small things but whenever I reflect on it I realize that it isn’t that much important. It’s really best to think positively. Rather than worry about a problem, take it as an opportunity to grow and learn.

Henrik Edberg May 4, 2011 at 9:57 am

Thank you for sharing your experience! Very true, with a bit of reflection one often realizes that what you are worrying about isn’t really that big of a deal.

Lauren @ MRS May 4, 2011 at 4:01 am

My mind is a tricky thing, I know how to shift my thoughts into a more positive environment, but it always comes back to the problem or stress at hand. Though, my go to trick is just to laugh it all off, and find the humor in the situation.

Henrik Edberg May 4, 2011 at 9:02 am

That’s a really good one too, it certainly helps me too to find the humor in the situation and to not take that situation too seriously.

John Sherry May 4, 2011 at 9:36 am

I agree 100% Henrik that the Public Health Enemy #1 is stress and worry. We are experts at fretting and concerning ourselves with every trouble under the sun but amateurs at letting things wash over us. It’s true that probably 99% of all we worry about never happens so we are wasting energy and shortening our life by getting worked up over nothing. Your post acts as a real chill pill and permission pointer to relaxing and releasing and fully enjoying the plain positive. Now, where did I put that cocktail?

Henrik Edberg May 4, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Thanks John! Yes, most things we worry about will never happen, we just need to remind ourselves of that on a regular basis to stay in the relaxed headspace.

Jussi May 4, 2011 at 11:07 am

Once again, I have to agree with you Henrik. To relax and just let go for a moment or two and you’ll be like new-born baby with a lot of energy.
Sometimes I go running or just take a long walk or do some Tapping on the sofa. Have nice day!

Henrik Edberg May 4, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Thanks for the kind words and for sharing how you go about things! :)

Mae May 5, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Hello everyone!

The world is very busy nowadays. We need to accomplish a lot of things in just a very little span of time. When I am very stressed out of work, I usually take a few minutes doing “happy things” like Facebooking, playing with my son, or watching inspiring videos about life… :)

Romny May 5, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Sometimes one can see no viable solutions!

Children are always the most perfect for the soul. They are so special in what they see and do not. Always take lots of time with them. One day they will be gone – or older with scars of their own.

Darren Poke May 6, 2011 at 8:21 am

Great tips Henrik,

I would add to have really positive people in your life who you can call upon for encouragement and positivity.

They can really lift your spirits and energise you for the remainder of the day.

Great blogs like this one help a lot as well.

Keep up the great work!

james yaskiewicz May 12, 2011 at 4:47 am

Strength through Christ has no equal.

Courtney May 15, 2011 at 2:43 am

When you are stressed, refocusing on what is truly important to you is at once both a great stress reliever and mood lifter. Give someone a hug. Go rub a dog’s belly. Take 10 seconds to just close your eyes and breathe.

Keith Cook May 20, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Thank you for sharing your insights and tips. I’m always learn something uplifting. One idea I’ve come up with is making a joy list. Listing all the things that bring me joy and adding at least one item a day. So whenever I get sad or frustrated, I can read over may joy list and reading all that positive reinforcement changes my mood. Thank you again.

Jennifer May 23, 2011 at 7:10 pm

The hard part is getting into a negative frame of mind when your at work. Most of us can’t nap, work out, or rest so it makes it hard. So a lot of times I just think to myself :
1. This is only a feeling, it is not reality.
2. This too shall pass.
3. Find one small thing to look forward to.
4. Know that I’m not alone.

Geraldine June 16, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Henrik, I shared a link to this excellent post, over at my new happy break blog:

I found this so helpful, I wanted to share it with my readers too.

thank you so much! G

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