Stress Hacks

This site has lots of information concerning places to go and things to do when you are feeling stress or strain, however extreme it may be. The advice I give often includes ‘mindfulness’ techniques and calming ideas, but there is nowhere central to find that information – until now!

So, welcome to the Stress Hacks page of Creative Steph!

I’m sure you’re aware this site is mainly about managing mental health creatively, but that doesn’t mean you need to write a poem or paint some fruit, as is often assumed. There are lots of ways you can feel calmer without even moving from where you are right now, and I’m hoping that if you’re feeling stressed you’ll find something helpful on this page before you find a long term solution to the problem through the appropriate professionals.

Unlike Creative Coping Strategies, these stress hacks are fast fixes when you need to get away from difficult, jarring situations. And, to be honest, most of them aren’t particularly creative either.

So have a glance at the list below and please don’t be afraid, most ideas I’ve given have been tried by me, with varying levels of success. Stress solutions are never a ‘one size fits all’ remedy. Sometimes a little trial and error is needed, but don’t let that put you off because the ideas below will take no time at all to test, and you might just find something that really calms your nerves. 😴😴

If you do find something that gives you some relief, happiness, calm, ignites a passion or ANYTHING POSITIVE, then get your notepad out and be ready to remember to use it next time you’re feeling strained (because we all know it’ll come back again, don’t we?!).

Below is a list of ideas I’ve either heard of or personally tried. 
This list will be regularly updated with new projects to test.
The list was last updated in


  1. Mindful breathing (links to mindful breathing instructions and ideas are at the bottom of the page).
  2. Journaling/writing down your feelings.
  3. Talking to someone you trust .
  4. Join an online community and discuss your mental well-being (some sites allow you to do this anonymously).
  5. Close your eyes and sigh deeply. Repeat as many times as you need.
  6. Hug yourself.
  7. Make a hot water bottle and a hot drink.
  8. Turn everything off and appreciate the silence.
  9. Listen to some calming music.
  10. Smell some lavendar.
  11. Run a bath, soak for a while and enjoy it!
  12. Take a proper break.
  13. Back to basics – nature is your friend. Go for a walk.
  14. Play with a pet.
  15. Download a calming app (a list of app ideas is at the bottom of this page).
  16. Learn a new dance (and do it as freely and terribly as you want!).
  17. Bake a cake (or cakes!).
  18. Find a comedy programme you’ve always loved and stream it for as long as you need (Friends always works for me).
  19. Hug a friend or loved one.
  20. Cry…yes, it’s ok to let it out when you need to.
  21. Put together a special dinner and invite someone to enjoy it with you (or order a bloody takeaway and enjoy it alone!).
  22. Find a new podcast, put your earphones in and close your eyes…fall asleep listening if you want.
  23. Call someone you’ve missed, and tell them you’ve missed them. Then talk as much or as little as you can.
  24. Play a computer game or smartphone app (nothing aggressive or stressful though – Candy Crush or a traditional platform game might work)
  25. Listen to white noise via an app, your smart device or the television.
  26. Turn everything off, close the curtains and blinds, then lay back and enjoy the darkness and quiet
  27. Walk to a pond and feed the ducks
  28. Learn your favourite song or poem by heart
  29. If you’re tempted to shop online when stressed (you’re not alone, I do it too), then browse some second hand book shops for a few low-cost books you’d enjoy. Books aren’t just fiction. There’s poetry, how to learning books , short stories, drawing guides and my favourite – picture books. All a fraction of the price and you’re doing something good for the environment
  30. On a clear night, spend some time looking at the start, planets and other incredible sights out there. Apps are available to help you navigate.
  31. Change round all the framed photos in your house
  32. Draw something to put in those frames – why shouldn’t you display your art?
  33. Time for nostalgia – look up your favourite old school songs and listen to them. Let the good memories back in.
  34. Put together a grocery shopping list that’s different to the usual hum drum sausages and cereal. Give yourself something to look forward to.

There are so many things you can do to calm yourself down in a pinch. Like I said earlier, trial and error will be your friend as you find out what works best for you.

I heartily recommend testing things out when you feel calm too – this will make it easier to find and use the most valuable technique to you when it’s needed.

HOWEVER – I can’t stress highly enough that these are stress busting ideas to support yourself in the moment and will only help with PART of the problem.

If you need help managing stress, sadness, anger, depression, anxiety, worry, paranoia or any other feeling / emotion then it’s vital to speak with a professional and discuss what will help you manage things in the long term. It could be therapy, medication, pain relief, physio, relaxation, counselling or a combination of everything.

Having stress-busters like these ready to use alongside your professional long-term fix will give you lots of ammunition to manage life’s many challenges.

The more weapons we have in our mental arsenal, the more likely we can win the war (not just the battles).

Mindful breathing

I mentioned mindful breathing techniques at the start of the list and this can be a difficult nut to crack, but I recommend persevering as it’s so simple and when you get it right, it’s also incredibly effective…and totally free!

There are lots of relaxing breathing methods out there and all are based on counting your breath in, counting as you hold and counting your breath back out. I’ve found a personalised count works best for me (I do 4, 4, 5), and it always has a rapid calming effect, but again, this is rarely a ‘one size fits all’ situation. To give you some pointers here are some links with information on calming breathing techniques to help get you started.

Web MD – this is their ‘breathing techniques for stress relief page’ which has instructions for various styles of calming breathing. As I’ve mentioned before, there are many ways it can work and this site gives you several to test.

NHS inform – this Scottish NHS webpage is incredibly useful with breathing and relaxation exercises specifically aimed at helping with stress.

NHS – the main U.K. NHS website also has a similar page with additional techniques and ideas to try.

Childline – an incredible U.K. charity that supports children in a variety of ways also has a ‘calm zone’ on its website, where you’ll find breathing exercises aimed at kids. If you need calming ideas for a child, this is the perfect resource.

Mind – one of the UKs leading mental health charities has a dedicated relaxation page, with breathing exercises included.

These are just a few links here in the U.K., but millions more exist. A simple search for ‘breathing techniques’ or ‘calming exercises’ on Google will return many more ideas!

Support lines

Of course, one of the best stress-busters is talking. If you’re feeling really low, depressed and / or desperate then talking to someone is essential, and you can do so privately through your GP or by finding an appropriate support line.

Below are the same details you’ll find on the ‘Our Brains’ page of this site, including information and links on where you can go for support.

NHS – the NHS website has so much information, but this page could be a good place to start, with links to charities, what to do in a crisis and links with details of support groups. NHS Mental Health Charity Page

Mind – probably the website I’ve used the most when trying to untanglethe mess in my brain. The website offers so much, from information on mental illness and mental health issues and the many drugs and treatments available, to details of local groups and the best places to obtain support, often specific to your needs. Mind – the mental health charity

Kooth – this site is relatively new to me, but it’s great for anyone more comfortable asking for anonymous advice through their tablet or mobile. It’s an active community with peer support as well as more useful information and links. Kooth

The Mental Health Foundation – long standing and well respected, the Mental Health Foundation website is all about information and education. Their ‘help’ page quickly gets you the details of the various outlets available for someone in a crisis, a link to that page is here.

Rethink Mental Illness – Improving the lives of people severely affected by mental illness through a network of local groups and services, expert information and successful campaigning. The site has even more information and links on everything from education, rights, benefits and help for carers. It’s a huge resource and well worth a look. Rethink Mental Illness

CALM – the Campaign Against Living Miserably has been specifically created to help anyone struggling to understand that life is worth living. Whatever your situation, they have a 365 day helpline open from 5pm until midnight, where they answer peoples calls and messages. The website is also a huge source of information both for those who need help and those who want to get help for someone else. If you’re suicidal or concerned about someone who might be, then try their website. CALM

SANE – a wonderful charity working towards making sure no one with mental illness suffers alone. They have a helpline open 365 days a year and offer an online community for people to join where you can read blogs and post your own (if you’d like to). I’ve joined and write about my own experiences on there regularly. It’s a good start for anyone thinking of talking about their mental health publicly. SANE


I mentioned downloading apps as an idea for stress busting. Here are a few apps I’ve personally used along my decade-long journey into mental illness. They’ve all worked in different ways and some of them are still on my phone today. I’ve chosen a variety of apps that are either entirely free OR offer a ‘free trial’ period. It’s worth researching what’s right for you before you commit to paying for anything, as something more appropriate might be available cheaper or at no coat at all.

1. Calm – this is an app with videos, calming audio books, calming sounds (rainfall has been a huge help for me) and simple mantras and positivity.

2. Calm Harm – this app is specifically created for those experiencing the urge to self harm. It needs to be downloaded and ready to use, so I tried it out when I wasn’t in distress to understand how it works before I truly needed it.

3. I am – this is a simple app filled with motivational quotes that refresh throughout the day. I have the widget on my home screen and it acts as a nice reminder of something randomly positive every now and then.

4. WHM – for any fans of Wim Hoff this app is developed around his ‘method’ of loving slower. Within the app are breathing exercises and ideas that are aimed at helping you feel calmer and more centered. Not everything on this app is appropriate for stress busting though.

5. Finch – such an original little idea, turning self care into a cute game encouraging you to look after yourself, which in turn looks after a cute pet that hatches and lives in your phone. Think ‘Tamagotchi’ for mental well-being!

6. Better sleep – Does exactly what it says on the tin!

7. Fabulous the daily habit tracker – this app is a bit like the physical health app ‘my fitness pal’ as you get to input your levels of self care and habits and gradually work on improving them.

8. Being, the mental health friend – a beautifully designed app for tracking your mental health.

9. NHS well mind – simple app delivered by the NHS and easy to navigate and use. Another habit tracker that gently encourages you to better your self care.

There are THOUSANDS of apps out there to be tested, so I found it useful to try a couple then decide what I’m looking for (based on what worked when I was stressed) before searching closely and finding an app (or apps) that fit my needs.

Thank you for visiting.

*You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website

Creative Steph

“A kinder, more thoughtful world is a place we all deserve to live”

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