3 Things to Do When You’re Paralyzed by Stress

When you’re so frazzled that you can barely see straight, let alone deal with one more crisis, that’s a sign that you’ve been tense for too long, and that your stress is on the verge of morphing from the run-of-the-mill variety into the toxic kind. Here are three proven ways to break the stress cycle.


Be of Service, Especially if You’re Crazy Busy.

Photo by Kenji Aoki

When your iCal is so jam-packed that looking at it makes you want to cry, that’s the best time—surprise!—to volunteer. People who spent even 10 minutes helping another person felt as though they had more time, not less, according to a 2012 study published in Psychological Science.


Crack Open a Good Book.

Fiction, nonfiction—no matter. People who consider themselves regular for-pleasure readers report less stress than do nonreaders, and they’re also better equipped to cope with difficult situations, according to a 2015 study from the University of Liverpool, in the United Kingdom. Researchers believe that books allow you to “live” through more experiences, which gives you perspective about your own life.


Step Away From Your In-box.

It might not be the number of e-mails clogging your in-box that is causing you stress, but how often you check, indicates a 2014 study published in Computers in Human Behavior. When researchers asked students and professionals to read and respond to e-mail just three times a day, their stress levels dropped. Constantly being available on e-mail reduces your sense of control, says study coauthor Kostadin Kushlev, a Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia.