Four Steps That Will Help You to Turn an Overwhelmed and Stressed Out Day Around

Some days when you do your work things go just as planned.

On some days there are a few small bumps in the road.

And on some days things simply get overwhelming in school, at work or in your business.

You feel the pressure and stress rising inside of you. You become unfocused and dark thoughts start to brew and fill your mind.

But such days don’t have to continue that way. You can often turn them around or at least make them a lot less uncomfortable and more focused again.

Here’s what I do when I feel trapped in one of those days.

1. Breathe.

First, just breathe and calm your mind and body down a bit so that you can think a little more clearly.

I do this by first sitting down. Then I breathe with my stomach for a minute or two. During this time I keep 100% of my focus on the air going in and out.

I find this is always a good start when the mind is racing and the stress and overwhelm make everything feel tough.

2. Zoom out.

I have often found that zooming out a bit alleviates stress and inner pressure.

When you feel trapped and like the world is pressing down on you then it is easy to get a very unhelpful perspective on things.

So I ask myself: Will this matter in 5 years? Or even 5 months?

This allows me to see things from a broader perspective.

3. Unclutter your focus.

When you feel overwhelmed and stressed out it’s easy to get stuck in thinking you have to do 5 things at once to get a handle on things and to get back on track.

So I ask myself:

Honestly, which ones of these things can wait until tomorrow or next week with no or small consequences?

This usually helps me to find a bunch of things that can wait and that I don’t have to think about anymore today.

4. Go for just taking care of the rest of today one small step at a time.

After I have alleviated pressure, overwhelm and stress by using the three steps above I narrow my focus.

I do not look forward because then I’ll see all the things I have to do to reach my goal or get all the way to done with a project.

Instead, I go smaller and focus on just taking care of the rest of today.

Nothing more.

This makes things feel even easier and less stressful.

And then it is time to take action. So I narrow my focus even more and ask myself:

What is the most important thing to focus on right now?
What is the most important step I can take right now to get that one thing done?

When I find that first step I focus on just that and nothing else until it is done or the work day is over. And after I am done with the first step I focus on the next step until I am done with that. And so on.

If that first step leads me to procrastinating instead of taking action then I chop it up into even smaller steps. And I take action on the first one of them.

Image by Steve Snodgrass (license).

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Great post. I find tip number 1 works best for me. I just jump out of my chair, lie on the ground and take a couple of minutes to concentrate on each breath. I also find going for a walk fr a few minutes works wonders as well

    • Thank you for the kind words and for sharing your experience, Anthony!

  • I enjoyed your tips on dealing with stress, but I’d like to add one of my own personal favorites straight out of my mental toolkit! When there’s something bothering me, I consciously ask myself “Will it bother me later?” I know people like to do the think ten years from now scenario, but that’s too intense. Ponder on whether the current issue of the day will even be in your mind an hour, a day, a week from now. If you won’t be bothered by it in a few hours from now, chances are it’s manageable and the stress is unnecessary.

    • Thanks for the addition, Vincent! I appreciate it and I’m sure the other readers will too.

  • I think you have some excellent advice here that is great for nipping a stress spiral in the bud. Nothing can ruin a day faster than letting your stress get the better of you.

    Another suggestion would be to use the moments after you have taken your breath and centered yourself to examine why the situation/task/workload is causing you negative stress. Being able to identify the root cause behind the stress reaction can go a long way towards successfully turning that negative stress into positive energy that can motivate you through the rest of your day.

  • Great article. One additional tip that I’ve personally found very helpful is to a 5 minute ‘brain dump’ where I rapidly write down whatever I think of. This often helps me to organize my thoughts and clear my mind so I can focus.

    • Haven’t heard about that one before, thank you Omer!

    • Dear Omer,

      Your thinking with regards to brain dump is awesome and do you write down all the thoughts or just random thoughts..


      • Thanks Rafi! Whatever comes in my mind first. Whatever I can think of I write it all down. It keeps my mind clear at peace not thinking of everything.

  • Hello,
    The tips about breathing looks great, because some people may become nervous due to stress. The art of breathing has power to reduce the nervousness. Great post

  • Keeping to the present is a crucial way to avoid that build up of pressure and worry that can develop from having a giant and continually growing to-d0 list.

    Like you say, it’s important to know which tasks are urgent and which can wait. Then focus on those most pressing.

    Training ourselves to focus on each small step, and enjoying its completion, will allow ourselves to reduce the anxiety and actually get more stuff done. After all, wasting our time worrying accomplishes nothing.


    • As always, thank you for the smart and practical comment, Trevor.

  • I just discovered your blog! FANTASTIC! Great post, and I love everyone’s comments, they are all great tips.

    • Welcome! And I really appreciate the enthusiastic and positive support. :)

  • Great post and great tips to deal with stress. I always use the breathing technique whenever I feel too much stressed about a meeting or a deadline or anything that’s happening in my life I am not happy about. I take a time-out, be with myself for a while and take deep breaths. It works wonders for me.

    • Thank you, Shyra! Seems like we are quite a few who use the breathing technique. :)

  • Great post, Henrik, concise and useful tips, everyone can use.

    It’s great to have some handy, simple tips you could use, whenever you get too stressed.

    There are also other ways to deal with stress and even eliminate it, but they require time and effort, which not everyone is willing to put forth.

    I would like to add another tip, which I sometimes use. I ask myself, what’s the worst thing that can happen, if I don’t do something, postpone it for other time, or if a plan or goal does not work out.

    In 99.9% of the cases I find I can live with the sequences. This brings a sense of calmness and detachment, and the strange thing is that when I feel relieved, I find the energy and motivation to act and do things.

  • Great tips! I usually go for a walk or hit the gym and lift weights. It always calms me down and allows me to breathe easier. I don’t know if it’s the fresh air, the exercise, letting my mind wander, or a combination of all of the above but it always works.

  • Hi Henrik,

    Yet again you have struck the rite chord with these 4 points. How about going for a whole body massage?

    And I have posted your interview in my blog. Thank you once again for your love and willingness to share your feelings. Kindly share it with your friends and readers when you get time, so that they can see you in action, once again.



  • 4 great points that are very useful in dealing with everyday stress.
    Thank you very much for sharing them.

  • Lee

    Hi Henrik
    My big way of de stressing through the day and it also helps me productivity wise is as soon as I feel something coming on or I am slowing down I take 5 minutes like you say and just get your brain away for a minute or two. I find this helps so much I would boil over otherwise. You feel like you can get on again when you come back as well.

    These are great tips thanks lee