7 ways to calm your mind

The mind-money connection

Sometimes life comes at you fast—but these tips can help you rein in your thoughts to stay calm and in control.

Finding joy and calm during your day can feel great—especially since, according to a recent study, we’re all pretty stressed.Disclosure 1 We’ve got some tips to help you check in with yourself and regulate your emotions when things feel a little out of control.

“We’re all going to experience emotions, we’re all going to experience stress,” says Bright Dickson, happiness expert and co-host of the Money and Mindset podcast. “We’re wired for it. But it’s really important to know how to self-regulate, and know that it’s a skill you work on. You don’t just suddenly ‘achieve’ peace of mind—it’s something you’re always working toward.”

Here are seven ideas that can help you manage stress so you’re left feeling more in control and ready to tackle whatever comes your way. 

1. Put your most daunting task first on your to-do list

Whether it’s working on a presentation, calling the dentist to take care of that nagging toothache, or checking on your bills and budget—completing the task you dread the most (and have probably put off the longest) can give you an immediate sense of accomplishment. This also gives you a chance to get it out of the way before you get pulled in different directions by your co-workers or family.

2. Pivot to think like an optimist

Research shows that optimism can help people cope with disease, recover from surgery, and live a longer lifeDisclosure 2—all on top of giving you more peace of mind. But for a lot of us, seeing the glass half full is easier said than done. Training your brain to see challenges as opportunities to learn and find creative solutions is something you can practice—and eventually it can become a habit.

So how do you do it? The next time you face a challenge, take some time to think about how it might help you grow. For example, going through a breakup or divorce could drive you to understand yourself and relationships better. When faced with a situation like this, you could journal to help you reflect and process your feelings, which could help you in your next relationship. To improve your optimism, try starting or ending each day by listing things you’re grateful for or excited about. The more you do this intentionally, the easier it’ll become. 

3. Get outside

Research shows that spending time outside can calm a busy mind and improve your mood and overall cognitive function.Disclosure 3 Taking a short walk is a simple and free way to give yourself a chance to reset and take a breath.

4. Practice meditating

Meditation has been around for thousands of years—and for good reason. It’s free, requires no tools, and can be done anywhere—like on the train or while waiting in a doctor’s office. But what exactly is meditation? It’s the act of focusing your attention and clearing the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind.

Two hours is the minimum amount of time spent in nature per week that led to greater health and well-being.

There are lots of different ways to meditate—breathing exercises are a popular way to start, or listening to a guided meditation through an app or website. Be sure to find a quiet, comfortable place for your meditation or breathing practice sessions. If you learn better with an instructor or group, try searching for local guided meditation classes (many yoga studios offer guided meditation classes or events). The more you practice, the easier it gets—and soon, you might start to see health benefits, like reduced anxiety and stress, fewer headaches, and better sleep.Disclosure 4

5. Accept what you can’t control

Working out what you can—and can’t—control in a stressful moment is key to being optimistic and keeping calm. For instance, if your car breaks down, you can’t control that you’ll be late to work and might lack transportation for the next few days. What you can control is how you react: calling your boss to explain the situation, brainstorming ways to get around (Ride-hailing app? Bike? Calling a friend?), and having an emergency fund to tap into for unexpected expenses like this. It’s normal to feel frustrated when things don’t go right, but after giving yourself a moment to experience that feeling, it’s important to shift your focus to your response to the situation. 

Twenty minutes of reading a day is all it takes to start reaping the health benefits like memory retention, empathy, and stress reduction.

6. Curl up with a book

There are lots of benefits to reading—like improved focus, memory, empathy, and communication skills. Learning new things, using your imagination, and connecting with friends or family over a good book can have great mental health benefits, too.

Not sure what to read? You could dust off an old favorite or check out these ideas for finding a new book you’ll love. For community and inspiration, check out a library or search for a local book club. And if you prefer to use your ears instead of your eyes, audiobooks are always an option.

Make it easy to commit to reading more by taking your book (or audiobook) with you wherever you go and focusing on books you actually enjoy. Don’t feel guilty if you decide to stop reading a book because you just can’t get into it—reading should feel enjoyable, not like a chore. 

7. Talk with someone you trust

Connecting with friends and family can offer two stress relievers: conversation and laughter. One study found that adults 65 and older who laughed every day had a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.Disclosure 5 They do say that laughter is the best medicine.

And for more complex conversations, a counselor or therapist can be a great resource. Research shows that verbalizing our feelings can help us process stress and anxietyDisclosure 6—and talking with a mental health professional is a good way to do this. 

Tips for easing financial worries

The American Psychological Association found that 65 percent of Americans are stressed about money.Disclosure 1 Brian Ford, head of financial wellness at Truist and co-host of the Money and Mindset podcast, offers four ways to bust money-induced stress.

1.     Really manage your money: This can look like setting up automatic payments or transfers for your accounts, talking with your partner, checking on your investments, working with a financial counselor or advisor, or simply setting a new savings goal. Whatever your priorities, come up with a plan for your money goals—and stick to it. Creating a budget based on what matters most to you is a great place to start—and keep track of where your dollars are going each month so you can adjust spending as needed.

2.     Prioritize a debt pay-off strategy: Debt can be a major cause of money stress. Ford says your debt should be appropriate relative to your income. “That means you can pay all of your debt payments on time, with ease, without being worried about it from month to month,” he says. If that’s not the case, consider the snowball or avalanche strategies to pay down what you owe, especially for higher-interest debt.

3.     Save up for your financial stressor: If there’s one thing that’s causing you stress—say, saving for your kids’ college education, or having money to cover an upcoming or unexpected repair for your home or car—set up and contribute to an account just for that goal. “Not only will it help the actual underlying problem, but it’s going to help you mentally. You’re taking action—which feels good,” says Ford.

4.     Invest in future you: Setting yourself up for a comfortable retirement can give you major peace of mind. Max out your annual 401(k) or individual retirement account (IRA) contributions, grow your savings, and consider talking with a financial advisor to make sure your money is invested wisely. 

This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial, or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial, or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.