Six Simple Research-Supported Tips for Fending Off Freak-Outs

You know you have them, but you can stop them in their tracks

We’re all stressed, and we’re not coping very well, even when we know how.

That’s the conclusion of a University of Cincinnati study on college students: despite the fact that there are simple ways for students to relieve stress and feel happier, they don’t use them enough.

“It’s not rocket science, but the reality of it is a lot of people aren’t doing the positive to get happy. People don’t really know or they think some of the basics to happiness that we suggest are too fluffy. They’re not. They’re research-supported. Do these things and you’ll feel happier,” lead researcher Keith King says.

Here, the easiest six tools you could possibly use to manage stressful situations:


  • Stop, pause and breathe: “In the moment when you’re stressed, you need to slow down, you pause, you take some deep breaths. Maybe you count backwards from 10. Those types of things calm everything down and slow it down.”
  • See the bigger picture: “Try to see the bigger picture. Is what you’re experiencing really that big of a deal or not?”
  • Contact a friend: “Everyone has phones on them. Call your buddy and let him know what’s going on so you can express those feelings and get them off you as quickly as possible.”



  • Diet and exercise: “People who eat healthy and exercise tend to have lower stress levels. Exercise allows for some of that negative energy to get burned off. Eating healthy helps individuals avoid feeling weighted down.”
  • Daily ‘me time’: “Take time out of the day that’s your time. It could be just 10 minutes. Go outside and walk, just enjoy something for you. Do something you enjoy. That’s paramount.”
  • Remember H.A.L.T.: “Make sure you’re not Hungry, you’re not Angry, you’re not Lonely, and you’re not Tired. If you can take care of those four things, you’re significantly more likely to be unstressed.”

Just because these techniques are simple, doesn’t mean they are ineffective.

King notes that people tend to over-complicate their lives and to ignore the potential benefit a five-minute walk outside or a quick water break could have on their emotional state.  “This study is looking at college students, but it is generalizable to all people. Let them know if they want to be happier, they need to focus on reducing their stress and get some social support and care.”

Image: The University of Cincinnati’s Keith King (at right) studied college students’ levels of perceived happiness.

Category: Psych


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