When Life Feels Like a Ball of Crap, Try One of These 3 Stress Reduction Techniques That I Swear Really Work

What do you do when you have that underlying feeling of yuck-ness?
Publish date:
June 13, 2013
relaxation, stress reduction

1. I force myself to think about what I actually like or what will make me happy, and then I do it, even if it's not healthy for me.

There's something about free will that is so soothing. A lot of times depression and hopelessness for me comes from that feeling that my life is happening to me and events are out of my control and life is kicking my ass and laughing maniacally: "You like that, do you? WELL TAKE THAT!"

It's times like this where I force myself to think of one thing that I like in the world. Even if I only dig 5 percent of it and I'm not even sure of that much, that's better than nothing, right?

So for me, I might think: Well, I like movies. So I go to a movie and buy some popcorn and sit through it. There might be some twinkle in a preview that reminds me of some feeling I had when I felt really happy and queen-of-the-universe-unstoppable or take me back to a moment in time that softens my heart and reminds me of how life is such a long, nuanced journey there's no reason to think that some current stress will even be something that I'll remember.

Going through the motions and faking it until you make it can be very powerful.

There have been times when I've called friends and the sadness clouding my brain made talking with me like talking to a pile of toxic sludge. But the real true friends didn't care about me not being wildly entertaining, they wanted to just talk. They asked me the questions I couldn't ask myself: What's one nice thing you can do for yourself right now that will give you a bit of happiness?

2. Scream as loud as you can into a pillow.

I don't do this nearly often enough, but it is incredibly powerful. You can feel the stress and anger and frustration drain out of you as you let loose the pent-up rage and helplessness you feel inside. Scream into the pillow until you are hoarse. Trust me, it feels really good. The more blood curdling the better. The pillow will prevent the neighbors from hearing but you'll be able to explode in a very healthy way.

3. Do the Metta Bhavana.

My brain is way too distractable for me to try to do this meditation without listening to a guided version of it. The one that I own is here. This is my favorite meditation when I am so pissed at someone or something or myself that I cannot even think. It washes over me like a cleansing tonic.

Essentially, the Metta Bhavana stands for "loving-kindness," which is what you cultivate through doing it. All you do is first actively concentrate on wishing yourself well with these words, imagining as if you are dropping them into your heart, like flowers into a pool of water: "May I be well, may I be happy, may I be free from suffering."

You really spend some time just actively wishing yourself well and cultivating these feelings and good will and love in your heart -- to yourself. Second, you do this same exercise -- except you direct the loving-kindness to a good friend. Third, you do the same exercise -- except you direct it to someone you hardly know at all, perhaps someone who sells you bagels every morning, or the neighbor you always see around. Fourth, the most difficult of all -- you direct it to someone you are having conflict with. Fifth, you imagine all the people together, and you direct the loving-kindness to everyone collectively.

For some reason, every time I do this, so much stress lifts from my heart. The idea is that all human beings desire the same thing: to be happy and free from suffering. Developing this empathy and compassion muscle thereby frees you from the vitriolic desire for revenge or anger that often is way more toxic to you than to the other person.


Those are my three favorite techniques to stop being so stuck in anger or sadness or overall crap-ness. What works for you? I don't care how silly it sounds. I just suggested people scream into a pillow, and I stand by that, damn it.


Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.