We’re taught that being busy is a good thing. We’re always occupied, on the go, and one step ahead. But this nonstop sort of lifestyle, in which we have no time for anything but our obligations, can take a serious toll on our wellbeing. Our modern world makes it nearly impossible for us not to feel stressed: between deadlines, bills, traffic, and debt, we can easily fall sick and stagnant. We would all like to break out of cycles and progress toward our goals, but we can’t do so until we’ve sorted out our emotions and ensured our minds are at peace.

Stress goes beyond our “fight or flight” mechanism, the automatic response to a perceived threat. It can cause us to enter something called freeze mode, a state in which we find it nearly impossible to take any action. Think of a deer in headlights: the animal senses oncoming danger yet it remains rooted to the spot. In terms of daily life, freeze mode can translate into avoiding tasks because they seem overwhelming, not being able to make decisions, and experiencing an overall sense of dread. Even small actions like not wanting to partake in social activities, feeling a sense of heaviness in certain parts of the body, and finding that we can’t stop scrolling on social media can indicate freeze mode.

Here are five actions to break out of freeze mode and redefine your lifestyle to reduce stress once and for all:

Put things in perspective. A large part of managing stress involves realizing what is in and out of your control. Stress robs you of your personal power and the influence you have over your circumstances. If there is nothing you can realistically do to resolve or improve the outcome of something, then there is no use in worrying about it. Put it out of your mind and put your energy into better things. Elevating your perspective endows you with the wisdom of detachment so that you let go of situations that impede you. One of the keys to detachment is to train your brain to think less and less about aspects that stress you. When you find yourself creating hurtful or disadvantageous stories in your mind, stop and refocus. Doing so will allow you to reach a healthy emotional flux in time. If you shift your focus, you can shift the outcome. And the less you worry about it, the more likely it is to be resolved.

Mitigate thoughts and emotions. We may not have control over everything, but one thing we absolutely can control are our thoughts and emotions—the ways in which we react to what happens to us. The reason we must learn to mitigate thoughts and emotions is not only to lower stress, but to reduce its harmful effects on our health. Negative feelings translate into health problems, especially in time. Stress lowers the immune system, impairs the digestive system, and triggers inflammation, not to mention that it induces anxiety and depression and makes us say and do things we don’t mean. Only when we acknowledge the devastating effects it has on our minds and bodies can we take the right actions to combat stress. Learning to accept, process, and ultimately control emotions will grant you not only inner peace, but physical and mental wellness.

Spend sacred time. Instead of endlessly fussing over something, participate in a more productive activity: move your body, buy yourself something nice, cook dinner for yourself, mingle with new people, learn a new art, and so on. Walk outside at least a few times a week by yourself, absorbing the scenery around you. Practicing your favorite hobby engages your mind and body in an enjoyable activity. Take up a craft that you love and that requires your attention. Do one thing that redirects your attention and fulfills you each day. It is equally valuable to devote time and effort to the things you want to do, not just the things you have to do.

Keep past, present, and future in order. Putting past, present, and future in their proper places can help you reduce anxiety about what’s to come and appreciate what is right now. Living outside of time disempowers you, while living in the now endows you with strength. When you relinquish unrealistic expectations, you start to live in the present and make the best of whatever situation you’re faced with at the moment. You harness the full might of your power and resources that are within your reach. When you find your thoughts drifting to what could’ve been or what might be, stop them and return to the present. Center yourself by taking several deep breaths and becoming aware of your surroundings: what do you smell, feel, hear, taste, and see? Take note of the date and time—you exist here and now. Developing a healthy relationship with the notion of time destresses you.

Rethink your routine. Sometimes all it takes to reduce stress is a little bit of re-thinking. If your routine is creating stress, strategize how you can avoid certain situations or encounters. Declutter your environment and energy field, freeing yourself from toxic people and detrimental habits. Give yourself a break and reduce the number of activities you have to do each day. If you see that you have extra time, you can add more tasks. Prioritizing your activities from what’s most to least important will help keep you organized. Be a bit more realistic with your time: don’t cram things or think you can do everything in an hour. Things usually take longer than we plan, so give yourself some extra room. Practice the principle of quality over quantity; you don’t have to get everything done in one day. Rather, concentrate on doing things the right way.

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but we shouldn’t allow it to dominate our lives. Practice these actions each day to bust stress and boost serenity.

To more inner peace,

Dr. Carmen Harra