What To Do When Popular Stress-Relief Advice Doesn’t Work For You

Meditation doesn’t work for everyone. Here are some easier practices to try instead.

What To Do When Popular Stress-Relief Advice Doesn’t Work For You
[Photo: Brooke Cagle/Unsplash]

It seems that just about everyone these days is struggling with stress. Between the emotionally draining news cycle, our addiction to push notifications, and our puzzling inability to take a proper vacation–when one stress trigger disappears, another one swiftly takes it place. Naturally, as more  people become stressed, more books and articles pop up to tell us how to reduce stress. But what if none of the tactics work for you?


Despite what experts tell you, what works for them might not always do it for you. So when common tactics leave your head feeling like it’s going to explode, try these alternative (and easier) coping mechanisms.

Instead Of: Meditating

Try: Just Slowing Down

Everyone is touting the benefits of mindfulness  and meditation.  When entrepreneurs and CEOs are asked about their morning routines, you can bet that a common theme is meditation. But not everyone will find meditation beneficial. At the 2016 Fast Company Innovation Festival, author Gretchen Rubin said that after diligently meditating for five to six months, she reaped little benefit from the practice, so she stopped.

Rather than trying to find a 20-minute slot in your calendar to breathe and sit still, try simply slowing down when you’re working. That’s it. As entrepreneur Faisal Hoque previously wrote for Fast Company,  “Feeling like you’re constantly short on time is a state of mind. Sure, you may actually have more on your plate than you can possibly handle, but the way you work might be maximizing rather than reducing the stress of that.” When you train yourself to slow down, you’re also training your brain to pause more often, which helps you focus better, be more efficient, and free up more time which leads to . . . less stress.

Related: This Is How To Actually Work Smarter, Not Harder 

Instead Of: Planning Ahead

Try: Choosing Your Priorities Carefully

I used to think that planning ahead would be the magic bullet to all my stress problems. But as it turns out, that’s not always the case. After all, unexpected things come up, things take longer than you expect, and you end up wondering how you’re going to fit in everything you’ve planned to do. Earlier this year, I tried to implement my own version of a Four-Day Workweek. Given that I started this practice right after the holidays, there was a lot of stress. I turned to extreme planning, and while that helped, it failed to reduce my stress.

What did help, however, was drastically cutting down on my goals. After all, if the cause of our stress is that we have too much to do and too little time, the most painless thing you can do is just do less. But what about when it’s a marching order from the boss? You figure out how to say no . . . without saying no. Here’s an explanation on how.


Related: Here’s How To Establish Healthy Stress Habits Before It’s Too Late

Instead Of: Positive Self-Talk

Try: Embracing The Stress

We’ve been told that our brains can be tricked into getting rid of negative thinking.  While this works for a lot of people, the danger of positive self-talk is that it can veer into emotion suppression territory. And we all know that doesn’t tend to end well.

As Belle Beth Cooper wrote in RescueTime, suppressing emotions can exacerbate the feelings, not to mention cause terrible health implications in the long-term.

Instead, try doing the complete opposite by leaning into the stress. Acknowledge and bathe in the feeling, and then put it to work. As noted in a 2013 study at the University of California, Berkeley, a certain amount of stress can improve your alertness and cognitive performance. Just like slowing down, this counterintuitive tip can make you do your work faster, eliminating your initial source of stress in the first place.

As Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic writes, some level of stress is good for humanity. “It’s only when we’re unhappy, even upset, about things that we will feel the urgency to act and create change.” So the next time you feel a dose of frustration and stress coming on, don’t try to fight it; just embrace the feeling and let it fuel you to do something productive. Your stress will likely go away faster, and you might just end up instigating some positive change in the world.

About the author

Anisa is a freelance writer and editor who covers the intersection of work and life, personal development, money, and entrepreneurship. Previously, she was the assistant editor for Fast Company's Work Life section and the co-host of Secrets Of The Most Productive people podcast.