Though our triggers are different, most of us know what it feels like to be overcome with difficult emotions. Maybe you feel stress after opening up an email, anxiety when thinking about an upcoming presentation, or sadness when rehashing a conversation that didn’t go your way. These moments can cause us to get lost in our feelings—even if they’re not the most logical or helpful.
The next time you find yourself in a charged moment, Caroline Leaf, Ph.D., author of Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess, has some tips for quickly making your way out of it. The key, she says, is using decompression activities that, by definition, help us return to a normal, more relaxed state. “By utilizing decompression activities, we can enter a space that allows us to bring whatever emotions we have down to a more manageable state,” Leaf tells mbg.
Here are four of the cognitive neuroscientist’s favorite ways to decompress and stop negative thinking spirals in their tracks—all of which are free, fast, and easily accessible.