How to be less uptight


It’s easy to be less uptight when you know how. Many of us don’t even realise how stressed out we actually are. Bills to pay, queues, all sorts of daily problems that many of us can’t avoid…what do you do? Sometimes when I lie in bed and focus on loosening my muscles, I realise how tensed up I am, especially in my neck and shoulders. Stress has become an inescapable part of life.

There are ways to be less uptight, some you can do instantly, and others will take time to get into the habit of doing.

Grounding techniques

When we are stressed, our bodies feel it. Adrenalin and cortisol are released, our muscles tense up ready for action. Our nervous system activates fight, flight or freeze response and relaxing becomes impossible. Grounding techniques help your body turn the panic alarm off, so it’s a good place to start.

Try taking deep breaths – what’s great about this is you can practise this anywhere, anytime. Box breathing is a good technique for helping you de-stress. Breathe in slowly counting to 4, then hold your breath and count to 4, breathe out slowly counting to 4 and finally, hold your breath once more counting to 4.

Get out of your head

Spending time worrying is the worst waste of time. All it does is increase anxiety when we go down the “what if” tunnel. We imagine all sorts of awful scenarios that might never happen. Focus your attention externally on the world around you. This takes practise but remember that the real world is out of your head – most of the ideas in your head aren’t backed by evidence and are up for negotiation.

Don’t believe every thought you think!!


Below is a list of questions to be used in helping you challenge your maladaptive or problematic beliefs. Not all questions will be as appropriate for the belief you choose to challenge.



• Is it logical?
• Would a scientist agree with my logic?
• Where is the evidence for my belief? What is the evidence for and against this idea?
• Where is the belief written (apart form inside my own head!)?
• Is my belief realistic?
• Would my friends and colleagues agree with my idea?
• Does everybody share my attitude? If not, why not?
• Am I expecting myself or others to be perfect as opposed to fallible human beings?
• What makes the situation so terrible, awful or horrible?
• Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?
• Will it seem this bad in one, three, six or twelve months’ time?
• Will it be important for me in two years’ time?
• Am I exaggerating the importance of this problem?
• Am I fortune telling with little evidence that the worse case scenario will actually happen?
• If I “can’t stand it” or “can’t bear it” what will really happen?
• If I “can’t stand it” will I really fall apart?
• Am I concentrating on my own (or others’) weaknesses and neglecting strengths?
• Am I agonising about how I think things should be instead of dealing with them as they are?
• Where is this thought or attitude getting me?
• Is my belief helping me to attain my goals?
• Is my belief goal focused and problem solving?
• If a friend made a similar mistake, would I be so c critical?
• Am I thinking in all-or-nothing terms: is there any middle ground?
• Am I labelling myself, somebody or something else? Is this logical and a fair thing to do?
• Just because a problem has occurred does it mean that I/they/it are “stupid”, “a failure”, “useless” or “hopeless”.?
• Am I placing rues on others or myself (e.g., shoulds or musts, etc.)? if so, are they proving helpful and constructive?
• Am I using words or phrases that are extreme or exaggerated (for example: always, forever, never, need, should, must, can’t and every time)?
• Am I taking things too personally?
• Am I blaming others unfairly just to make myself (temporarily) feel better?
• Am I confusing a habit with a fact?
• Are my interpretations of the situation too far removed from reality to be accurate?
• Am I thinking in all-or-none terms?
• Am I taking selected examples out of context?
• Am I making excuses (for example: I’m not afraid, I just don’t want to go out; The other people expect me to be perfect; or, I don’t want to make the call because I don’t have time)?
• Is the source of information reliable?
• Am I thinking in terms of certainties instead of probabilities?
• Am I confusing a low probability with high probability?
• Are my judgements based on feelings rather than facts?
• Am I focusing on irrelevant factors?


This is the only time you should spend inside your head – when you problem solve you look for solutions instead of ruminating. Brainstorm solutions to your problems and do your best to action the plan where possible. Know the difference between what you can and can’t control something and find a way to accept the things you can’t change currently.

Attitude of gratitude

This is an instant pick-me-up. Focusing on what is good in life can automatically improve your mood. Remind yourself regularly of what is good in your life – there is always something but our brains’ tend to focus on the negative things in an attempt to keep us safe. Do you have someone who cares about you? Are you healthy? Do you have a roof over your head? These are some of the pertinent questions to ask yourself.

Accept what you can’t change

There are things you can change and some you can’t. Resisting what you can’t change is futile and will lead to misery.

Care less about what others think

Dance to your own beat. Act dumb. Do whatever you have to but don’t take on board what others think. It’s your life, your decisions and choices. Others love to judge, and why should you care if they do? Only you define yourself, so let them be amused if it makes them happy. When you care too much about that others will say, you live your life for them and not yourself.

Stop taking life so seriously

We all end up in the same place so get some persepctive. Something that upsets you now probably won’t matter in a few days/moths time. Keep perspective and keep a sense of humour. See life as an adventure and stop catastophizing. It’s probably not as bad as you think it is.



Further reading:


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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