Calm your anxiety with these simple activities

With all the hustle and bustle of modern life, it’s easy for thoughts to become overwhelming. But cultivating a calm and balanced life starts in your mind.

These seven exercises are powerful ways to quiet your thoughts in times of stress, and they can all be done in five minutes or less. Bookmark this page for when you’re in a moment of spiralling thoughts or high anxiety.


  • Listen to the ocean: Take in the calming sounds of waves washing ashore. If you aren’t one of the lucky few who live near the ocean, find a video online of the tide—bonus points if there are birds chirping in the background or an image of the sunrise. Whether you’re listening in person or virtually, close your eyes and focus on the sound of the waves washing along the beach. Take deep breaths as you focus on the smooth ebb and flow of the tide. Just a few minutes of concentrating on this calming sound will clear your mind.


  • Doodle: The key to this technique is giving yourself five minutes to concentrate on drawing. Let go of all the errands or work projects as much as you can. Find a pen or other writing utensil as well as a fresh piece of paper and let yourself draw. You don’t have to be an artist—in fact, you can simply write your own name or sketch shapes; just concentrate on the way your pen moves across the paper. Include loops and curly Qs. If you can, imagine your anxiety flowing from your body to the pen and onto the paper.


  • Breathe in a square: We couldn’t make a list about relaxing the mind without mentioning breathing. The square breathing technique is a great way to focus on your breath and not on stressful thoughts, increasing your relaxation. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds then hold your breath for four seconds. Now, exhale through your mouth for four seconds and hold your breath for another four seconds before beginning again. With each step, imagine the side of a box, and by the end of the exercise, you’ll draw a complete square.


  • Focus on your surroundings: Step away from whatever you’re doing and find a quiet place to sit. Once you’re settled, concentrate on something in your field of view. It could be a potted plant, a knickknack on a shelf, or a decorative rug. Focus on the item and its shape and colors. Sinking into the details will ground you in the moment and calm your mind. You can also do this with scents by lighting a candle and closing your eyes to focus on the smell.


  • Stretch: The mind and body are connected, so you can quiet racing thoughts by relaxing the body. Take five minutes to work through a couple of simple stretches, making sure to breathe deeply during each movement. Need inspiration for good stretches? Check out our blog post on the best moves for any time of day here.


  • Watch a funny clip: This is a perfect exercise if you have a favorite show or comedian. Go onto the internet, or turn on your TV, and find a clip of a funny scene or heartwarming show. Give yourself give five minutes to laugh or to enjoy a scene that warms your heart.


  • Make an excitement list: This is an excellent diversion technique that gives your mind something positive to latch onto. Find a piece of paper and brainstorm things you’re looking forward to in the coming days. It could be as simple as grabbing a fresh cup of coffee from a nearby shop to something grand like a date night or vacation. Write down all the things you’re excited about until you can’t think of anything else. If you have time left, pick one of the items, close your eyes, and visualize yourself doing that activity.


  • Read a poem: If you have favorite poets, bookmark works that bring you calm and joy to read when you’re feeling anxious or need a break from the demands of everyday life. If you need some inspiration, here are a few poems to try in moments of anxiety:


  • Get outside: It’s amazing what a ray of sunshine or a breath of fresh air will do for the mind. If you’re stuck inside and getting out will take longer than five minutes, try popping open a window or finding a sunbeam to enjoy. Surrender to the change in your atmosphere, focusing your thoughts on your new environment.


  • Sip a warm beverage: Make yourself a cup of tea or mug of hot chocolate and take a seat. Hold the cup and feel the warmth in the ceramic. Breathe in the aromatic smell of your drink, and when you take a sip, concentrate on the warm liquid in your mouth and stomach. This exercise will root you in your body and focus your thoughts on sensations rather than spiralling thoughts.