We’re a stressed-out nation: We work too much, sleep too little, skimp on exercise, eat the wrong foods. And if the nail biting and teeth grinding aren’t bad enough, just look at what stress does to you on the inside. Blood pressure revs up and immune system function slows down, leading to any number of health problems, not to mention the six top causes of death like heart disease and cancer. Relax! Here are quick tips and tricks to use anytime you need to chill out—before the big meeting, after that argument with your spouse, as you’re racing through your daily to-do list. Try these, and you’ll feel just fine.
Roll up your area rugs and walk around the house barefoot, like you’re on a beach house vacation.
Crawl between soothing sheets, freshly washed with scented detergent or linen rinse, such as Tide Simple Pleasures lavender and vanilla.
Pop some bubble wrap. Can’t find the real thing? Go to virtual-bubblewrap.com.
Quickie yoga: Standing, bend and place palms on your thighs. With chin parallel to the floor, breathe in and arch your chest forward; breathe out and arch it up like a cat.
Balloon Blow Up
Blow up a balloon in slow, three-second puffs.
Stare at the blue sky (a calming color) and watch the clouds float by.
Watch a two-minute replay of your favorite TV show.
Lie on your back and position a tennis ball under the tense points—your lower back, between your shoulder blades, etc. Roll gently up and down and side to side.
Soak a hand towel and microwave for two minutes until steamy. Place on back of neck, on face or computer-achy hands.
Quick Stat: Be aware of the top 10 stressors: sick family member, money, your own health, children, work, personal safety, state of the world, terrorism or natural disasters, intimate relationships, discrimination based on race or ethnicity.
Power off your computer so the screen goes blank and that ever-present buzz stops. Think of a fantasy place—the beach, the mountains, playing at home with your kids—for five minutes before restarting.
A tip from air traffic controller Mike Clark, Newark, New Jersey: “I call my girlfriend, parents or friends. Just hearing their voice is a great escape and helps me to decompress.”
Pick up a bouquet of purple lisianthus and light blue or green hydrangea, which have a calming effect. Place in a glass bowl so you can see the water, and keep it on your desk.
Take a punch at the Desktop Speed Bag from Everlast (amazon.com) and pummel away stress as needed.
Stare at a picture of Monet’s Water Lilies.
Dab lavender body oil on your wrist and sniff a few times.
Squirt StressLess mouth spray, packed with passionflower and cinchona, under your tongue three times a day (sprayology.com).
Drink green tea—packed with theanine, which increases the brain’s output of relaxation-inducing alpha waves and reduces the output of tension-making beta waves.
DIY reflexology: Tap the tips of your fingers together to clear your head. Or, hold one finger at a time between your other thumb and finger and roll the finger like a pencil. Believe it or not, this is thought to relax neck muscles and improve circulation.
Play a free version of Bejeweled Blitz or Bookworm on popcap.com. Designed by a stress doctor, these games require concentration and focus without violence or adrenaline.
Touch a talisman or object that has meaning to you—your grandmother’s crucifix, a shell you found on the beach as a child, a cherished stuffed animal—and let pleasant memories seep in.
Sitting down, as you inhale, touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Exhale, relaxing your tongue. Repeat.
Water and Air
Drink a glass of cold water, then go for a walk outside. The water gets your blood moving and the air invigorates by stimulating the endorphins that distress you.