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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

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It's Amazing How Much How Little Will Do: The Return of the Mini-Toolkit

Back in the spring of 2020 I offered a series of eleven blog posts that I called "Anti-COVID Anxiety Toolkits" which described a variety of exercises, behaviors and breathing techniques I've learned over the years that help induce calmness and reduce anxiety. Some of the tools were simple, some more complex. Some were accompanied by stories (which meant they took a little longer to read), some were short.

Since September 2020 I've been including one of those anti-anxiety tools in almost every post. Here's the (linked) list of all the toolkits.

The (slightly re-tooled) Mini-Toolkit that I offer here, first published on April 9, 2020, was among the most popular of the toolkits, presumably because it focused on the quickest, simplest tools.

All of them only take a few seconds to do or, like humming, can be done while you're doing something else. Of course, if you relax and take a few minutes longer, they could be even more helpful. Try one, or try them all--see what you think.

It's amazing to me that doing one simple thing or changing one simple thing can help shift my mood. Many of these tools are things we do without thinking--taking a deep breath, yawning, etc. But if we know they help us calm down or relieve tension we can do them more deliberately.

There's science behind many of these, and the collected wisdom of years of practitioner and client experience behind them all. As well, they demonstrate a tenet of the various modalities I studied and offered, before I retired, as a healing arts practitioner: "It's amazing how much how little will do" (Hugh Milne).

Scroll down if you want a little more info on each tool. Or click on one of the links if you want the original entry for that tool--in some of the posts you may have to scroll down to locate a tool.

It is amazing how much how little will do.

2. Humming

6. Yawning

9. Smiling

  • basically a big sigh

  • longer (gentle) exhale than inhale

  • sends a message of safety to the brain

  • can be whispered for privacy

  • even better when done looking at the sky

  • whatever random notes you want

  • or just one note

  • feel the vibrations move through your body

  • kind of like a cat's purr

  • can be done with others

  • wiggle and shake (all body parts that don't hurt)

  • rapidly (100+ times/minute)

  • make it into a dance

  • relax and have fun!

  • bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb...

  • looser than a raspberry/Bronx cheer

  • helps loosen tension in the face

  • helps you get past feeling like "I can't!"

  • gets you laughing

  • brings you back into your body

  • brings you back into the present where you have resources

  • calms you down

  • increases oxygen

  • stretches & relaxes head & face muscles

  • gets more more juicy fluids going

  • shifts awareness

  • boosts immune system

  • reduces depression

  • improves self-esteem

  • relieves tension and stress

  • decreases stress hormones

  • improves immune system

  • is fun

9. Smiling (it's worth faking it--here's how)

  • lift up the corners of your mouth

  • keep your teeth apart

  • wrinkle the outside corners of your eyes

  • wait a few seconds...feel a bit better?

  • improves immune system

  • improves mood

  • lowers blood pressure

  • Place you hand on or near your heart

  • Take a deep breath and let it out gently

  • Something you might do spontaneously when feeling compassion, for yourself or someone else, or when greeting or leaving a fellow human being

Oh, and did I say? Most, if not all, of these things can help strengthen your immune system, by reducing stress if nothing else.

Until next time,


Photo credits:

Tools, Philip Swinburn, unSplash

Felt heart, Sharon McCutcheon, unSplash

Purring cat, Yerlon Matu, unSplash

Yawning puppy, Daniel Lincoln, unSplash

Laughing girls, Caroline Hernandez, unSplash

Girl, unknown


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