Whether you’re dealing with a tough day or simply want to have a better one, these strategies may help boost your mood and ease anxiety.
Whether you’re dealing with a big work deadline, mile-long task list, or a few cranky kids, one thing is certain: You’re feeling overwhelmed. And when we’re overwhelmed, we tend to feel helpless, thinking there’s nothing we can do.
But that’s not true. We can ease our big feelings and feel good throughout the day by turning to a few small, simple practices.
Consider these well-being tips to help reduce your anxiety, boost your mood, and tend to your needs morning, noon, and night.
When you find one that works for you, consider building it into your daily routine.
You’ve heard it many times, and it’s true: Starting the morning off on the right foot sets a positive tone for the rest of the day.
Begin with a win
Small actions add up. The act of accomplishing even the tiniest task builds momentum and boosts your self-confidence.
So, start your day off with a win or two, says Ryan Howes, PhD, a Pasadena, California-based clinical psychologist and author of “Mental Health Journal for Men.” Small wins can be super simple, he notes, such as:
- making your bed
- making a delicious cup of coffee
- taking your dog for a walk
Set an intention
Your intention can be a “sound, word, or powerful statement that you can repeat to yourself throughout the day that reminds you that you do have the strength and commitment to get through the day,” says therapist Kruti Quazi, LPC. Quazi is also clinical director of Sesh Therapy, which provides online group support.
Your morning intention can be a general guiding principle or a specific action you’ll take. According to Quazi, this might look like:
- “Positive thoughts will guide me through any challenge I may face today.”
- “I am facing obstacles every day with the power I have within myself.”
- “I choose what I will spend my energy on, and I choose to spend it in a positive way.”
- “I will take a few minutes to meditate and nourish my soul.”
Delay using your phone
Consider keeping your phone outside your bedroom overnight. This way, you’re not tempted to reach for it when you first open your eyes in the morning.
Replace social and doomscrolling with gratitude. Let yourself marvel at the magic all around you — big or small.
Quazi suggests jotting down a few things you’re grateful for such as:
- “Someone held the door open for me last night.”
- “My partner brought me coffee this morning.”
Savor some encouragement
“We often focus on the negative or how much work we might have ahead of us,” says Imani Wilform, MHC-LP, a therapist at Empower Your Mind Therapy in New York City. To start your day with a dose of positivity, she says, read some encouraging words, like:
- kind texts from friends
- birthday cards from family
- inspirational quotes
- a meaningful passage from a favorite book
Weekdays may feel like a big blur of work, errands, and chores, easily upping your frustration and stress levels. But you don’t have to get sucked into the storm — at least not for too long.
There are some strategies you can try to give yourself that boost in the afternoon.
Set timers to conquer big tasks
When you’re staring down a mountain of to-dos, you might find yourself becoming anxious and burnt out — leading you to procrastinate on the very tasks you’re stressed about doing, says Emma Giordano, a mental health counseling intern at Empower Your Mind Therapy in New York City.
To make progress, she says, pick one task to focus on and “set a timer for 5, 10, 15, or 30 minutes, or whatever time feels most manageable to you.” After the timer goes off, check in with yourself to see if you’d like to keep going — whether you do or don’t, acknowledge your accomplishment.
Take a restorative walk
Walking is a wonderful way to break up the day — even if you have only a few minutes. In a small 2016 study, participants who took 5-minute strolls throughout the workday experienced:
- more energy
- improved mood
- less fatigue
There are also other proven benefits of walking, such as:
- decreasing your chance of heart disease
- easing join paint
- reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood
- helping you think creatively
While taking your walk, focus on your environment using your five senses. Quazi recommends picking out:
- five things you see
- four things you hear
- three things you smell
- two things you touch
- one thing you taste
Give yourself a pep talk
When painful or overwhelming feelings arise, we have a tendency to blame or shame ourselves, so we feel even worse. Instead, extend yourself some kindness and support with positive or empowering self-talk.
Not sure what this looks like? Borrow these powerful statements from Iris Vargas-Pagan, LCSW-R, a therapist with The Keely Group in New York City:
- “This feeling isn’t comfortable or pleasant, but I can accept it.”
- “I can be anxious and still deal with my situation.”
- “I’ve survived this before and I’ll survive this time, too.”
- “These are just thoughts, not reality.”
- “These are just feelings, they will not last forever.”
Take a power nap
When you need a reset in the middle of the day, power naps are an excellent practice. According to Quazi, naps can boost our energy, stamina, productivity, and mood, as well as reduce stress and anxiety. To start, she suggests listening to this Theta power nap track on YouTube.
If a nap isn’t an option, take a few minutes to simply sit back in your chair and close your eyes.
After a tough workday, you might find yourself having trouble unwinding or falling asleep. Try to focus on having some fun and settling your brain and body with these well-being tips.
Find a hobby
“Whether you’re drawn to jigsaw puzzles, crochet, remote-control cars, or building ships in bottles, it doesn’t matter,” says Howes. “If it’s of interest to you, and you look forward to doing it, you’ll boost your mood.”
Besides a mood boost, research also suggests additional health benefits from hobbies. In fact, a 2015 study found that engaging in leisure activities resulted in less stress and a lower heart rate.
To help find a hobby you’d enjoy, consider asking yourself these questions:
- What did I love to do as a child?
- What instrument have I always wanted to play?
- What topic would I love to learn more about?
- What sounds like fun?
Be precise with your feelings
As the day winds down and distractions cease, you might experience unhealthy emotions. What can help is to pinpoint the exact emotions you’re feeling — whether that’s stressed, anxious, sad, or worn out.
“Being able to identify your feelings more precisely will help you better understand, communicate, and tend to your needs,” says Vargas-Pagan.
Go beyond vague descriptions, like “I’m feeling bad” or “I’m stressed,” she says. Instead, Vargas-Pagan recommends that you tune in to your experience and name the exact feeling. For example, try saying:
- I feel afraid.
- I’m ashamed.
- I’m disappointed.
- I feel guilty.
- I feel ignored.
- I feel misunderstood.
Breathe deeply to unwind
- To begin, empty your lungs by breathing out of your mouth.
- Close your lips and breathe in through your nose as you silently count to 4.
- Hold your breath as you count to 7.
- Forcefully breathe air out of your mouth for a count of 8
- Repeat these steps up to four times.
You can also try these three deep breathing exercises to help ease feelings of anxiety.
Soothe your senses
When you engage each of your senses, “you nurture your needs in the moment, bringing calmness to your mind and body when it’s needed most,” says Wilform. She notes that this might look like:
- focusing your eyes on something pleasant
- looking at happy pictures on your phone
- listening to your favorite music or podcast
- lightly massaging your temples
- squeezing a stress ball
- drinking a warm cup of tea
- using your favorite lotion
- lighting a scented candle
You might have a lot going on in your life — from pressure at work to stress at home. In the midst of it all, remember that the smallest practices can help you ease those feelings.
Even the smallest gestures can empower you to face the toughest tasks or challenges. Then, by the end of the day, you’ll feel relaxed and ready to face tomorrow.