Stress Relief Tool #17

Stress Relief Tool #17

Here’s a quick and easy tool taken directly from Chapter 4 of:

“The Stress Relief Toolbox: For Women Who Take Care of Everyone But Themselves.”

It may seem counter intuitive to smile when feeling stressed, but it actually works to reduce stress symptoms.

A study at the University of Kansas, published in Psychological Science, demonstrated the positive affects of smiling, even if it is not a genuine smile. Simply by using those facial muscles needed to smile, participants activated a positive physiological response.

The positive physiological response was not found in the participants who had neutral expressions while doing stressful tasks. The vagus nerve’s stimulating relaxing effects, as discussed above with Stress Relief Tool #16, is at work here, too.

By using the facial muscles needed to smile, you naturally stimulate the vagus nerve.


Here’s how to do it:


  • The next time you feel stressed; try smiling, even if it’s a forced smile.
  • If you need assistance in getting your smile going in the midst of feeling stressed, put a pen or pencil in between your teeth and you’ll activate the same muscles.
  • Before you know it you may be looking through the eyes of someone who is feeling more relaxed and no longer thinking about that stress!


Practice session:


  • Think about someone who gets “under your skin,” that person who irritates you whenever they are around.
  • Now, force a smile on your face or put a pencil in between your teeth!
  • Keep that smile going for at least 30 seconds
  • Notice how difficult it is to feel irritated now.


As strange as this may seem, it really works. Sooner than later, you’ll find yourself picking up that pencil and putting in between your teeth every time that person comes around. And you’ll be smiling away at how easy it is!

Would love to hear how smiling when feeling stressed works for you!



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  • It’s a 2 way street

    If you feel happy you start smiling and if you just feel ‘neutral’ and start smiling you feel happy.

    Practicing this in front of a mirror does wonders


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