78 Instant Stress-Busters

Find immediate relaxation with these easy instant de-stressing techniques.

By Cynthia Dermody from readersdigest.com | January 2008


  • 23.

    Beverage Brain Power

     Break your focus—stir your coffee backward, close your eyes and hum a song, drink your soda in exactly 24 sips.

  • 24.

    Quick Laugh

     Log on to theonion.com for hilarious fake newspaper stories.

  • 25.

    Steamy Shower

     Take a steamy shower with a luxurious gel such as Aveeno Stress Relief Body Wash with lavender, chamomile and ylang-ylang.

  • 26.

    Ear Massage

     Starting on the bone directly behind your earlobe, apply gentle pressure with your thumb and forefinger and follow to the top of your ear, two or three times. Then rub briskly.

  • 27.

    Black Tea

     Order black tea instead of coffee. A study by University College London shows that drinking black tea four times a day for six weeks lowered the stress hormone cortisol after a stressful event.

  • 28.

    Heating Pad

     Place a heating pad or pack such as ThermaCare HeatWrap underneath clothing on your tight shoulders or lower back.

  • 29.

    Stress Ball

     Squeeze a stress ball for two seconds, then release. Once your muscles begin to relax, the tension will slowly go away.

  • 30.

    Hold Hands

     Hold your loved one’s hand. Brain scans show the contact provides immediate relief from stress.

  • 31.

    Seated Pose

     Sit up straight, and let your arms drop limp at your sides. Inhale, and on the exhale lean forward and rest your chest on your thighs. Slowly come up and inhale.

  • 32.


     Light a lavender candle and inhale the fragrance in three long, slow breaths through your nose. Let the air out slowly through your lips, only strong enough to make the flame flicker.

  • Quick Stat: Consider this — Nearly half of all Americans are concerned about the level of stress in their lives. Source: American Psychological Association 2006 Stress Survey.

  • 33.

    Bundle of Joy

     Hold a sleeping baby.

  • 34.

    Eye Mask

     Moisten a lavender and chamomile eye tea bag and place over strained eyes.

  • 35.

    Dog Race

     Race your dog around the backyard.

  • 36.


     Keep a desk toy, such as the executive Slinky, handy for a few seconds of that hypnotic hand-to-hand “schling, schling” sound effect.

  • 37.

    Slow Breaking

     While reading e-mail, breathe slowly and focus your attention on your breath. Make the out-breath two times longer than the in-breath.

  • 38.

    Body Lotion

     Slather on Johnson’s Melt Away Stress body lotion, which in studies reduced tension and anxiety by 50 percent.

  • 39.

    Good Posture

     When seated or standing, pull your shoulders back and down—good posture and alignment brings oxygen directly to your brain to help you think more clearly.

  • 40.

    Hand Gesture

     Rub the palms of your hands together vigorously to create heat. Quickly place hands over each closed eye and relax for a full minute.

  • 41.

    Music Therapy

     Play a song by Norah Jones. A recent study found that people who listened to slow-paced tunes had lower heart rate and blood pressure than those who listened to faster songs.

  • 42.

    Take a Walk

     Take a walk in a natural setting—a park, field, the woods.

  • 43.


     Forgive someone.

  • 44.


     Cross your bare foot over your opposite leg, and place one thumb at the base of the pinkie where the soft sole meets the ball. Bend toes forward and back with the other hand as your thumb massages up toward the big toe, in this diaphragm-relaxing move.

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