How to recover from stress in a flash

Table of Contents

9 proven ways of stress recovery

Take 5 minutes to try one of these

Whenever your brain decides that it’s in danger, it triggers a series of chemical reactions in your body. This response inhibits your ability to think clearly, and instead calls on the older parts of your brain to steer you towards a more animalistic response. The problem is that this response is often triggered when there is no objective threat – just worries and anxieties. But while the threat may not exist, the resulting stress and mental exhaustion are very real.

The two ways your brain responds to stress are “fight-or-flight” or “freeze.” Addressing the former requires self-calming techniques that activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your energy levels and sleep. Addressing the latter requires the opposite – increasing alertness. Stimulating the sympathetic nervous system will help you find the strength to act on these responses. Both stress reactions can be deactivated consciously, by taking a few minutes to perform one of these quick-acting techniques, taken from various mind-body techniques.


For the “fight-or-flight” response:

  • Coherent breathing. This is a favorite technique of Paul Linden, an expert in mind-body trauma healing. The objective of the exercise is to breathe as evenly as possible, without pausing, or changing pace, while keeping your inhales and exhales the same length. This is the opposite of the uneven, gasping breaths you take when you’re stressed, which can almost feel like you can’t catch your breath.


  • Slouch a little. While either standing or sitting, curve your back into a slight C shape. This is similar to Child’s Pose in yoga, a technique used for recovering and resting between more complex asanas. When experiencing stress, your body actively seeks out this fetal pose in an attempt to elicit the feeling of comfort it felt while in the womb.


  • Rock your body. Why do babies relax and fall asleep when they’re rocked? Turns out that rocking suppresses activity in the reticular activating system, which acts as the intermediary between the senses and your brain. This works for adults too! You can rock your body in a hammock, on a swing, or just by sitting down and rocking your body back and forth.


  • Close your eyes. Dunkeltherapie, or darkness therapy, is a common practice In the Czech Republic in which a patient spends a week in a room without any light. There isn’t a lot of evidence that darkness therapy is beneficial, but we know that bright light activates areas of the brain that keep it alert. To soothe your excited brain, try closing your eyes for a few minutes. You can use a sleeping mask to block out all light, but try not to fall asleep accidentally!

For the “freeze” response:

  • Breathe from your chest. Breathing therapists often teach us to breathe from the diaphragm, taking deep, slow breaths controlled by the abdominal muscles. This is great when you want to relax, but to become more alert, you should do the opposite: take fast, shallow breaths, using the upper third of your lungs, similar to when you feel inspired, angry, or aroused.
  • Jumping jacks. Doing a few aerobic exercises can wake you up just as well as a cup of coffee while moving, and stimulating the tactile receptors of your feet will also cause your brain to release “happiness hormones.” If jumping jacks aren’t possible for you at the moment, try squatting while lifting your heels from the ground. Alternatively, stand on your tiptoes, then drop down onto your heels.
  • Massage your ears. Work your ears with your fingers and make silly faces, all the while yawning and sticking out your tongue to stretch out your face muscles. Gently press or rub the areas around your eyes and nose bridge. In other words, do the thing you’ve seen a lot of people do when they’re tired.
  • Pinch yourself. Pain triggers alertness in the nervous system. The goal isn’t to actually hurt yourself, but pinching yourself in specific areas can still make an impact and increase alertness. One area to try is the skin between your fingers – pinching or pressing down in this area will easily create a pain response.
  • Tree pose. Stand up, put all your weight on your right leg, and bring your left knee up. Open up your left knee, and press the sole of your left foot into your right inner thigh while maintaining balance. Raise your arms and reach up slowly, to avoid falling over. Repeat on the opposite side.

Welltory x Reminder Media, 9 Sept. 2022

Andrea Miklos

20 Sept. 2019

The app makes me focused on the signs my body gives, and translates well what I should do to improve. It’s very useful to see how my body reacts to external factors, such as a walk, workout, meditation. It’s great that I can also add the blood pressure measurements, and it’s comforting to see that the 2 tools measure almost the same heartbeats. It would be even better if I could add a note of each day, not just tags but longer information.

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20 Sept. 2019

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