30. Put Post-it notes on your bathroom mirror, on your car dashboard, and on your office computer that say “Slow down” and “What’s your rush?” “Your brain takes many cues from your body, and sometimes it misinterprets the cues, so use that to your advantage,” says Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and the author of How to Be Your Own Therapist. Slowing everything down — walking instead of running, listening to slow music, speaking more slowly than normal — will trick your brain into calming down your stress level too.
31. Think of your children or your pet. Sometimes diverting your thoughts momentarily to those who love you, who matter more to you, and who bring you pleasure helps you instantly put things in perspective during very stressful moments. You don’t have a pet? Get one. Studies find that pets, particularly dogs, are one of the best stress-relievers and health promoters around.
32. Carry a small notebook with you everywhere. This is your “worry” journal. When you feel stressed, whip it out and scribble down everything on your mind at that minute. Close the journal. Close your eyes. Take 10 deep breaths. Now open the journal and read what you’ve written. You’ll find your worries are not nearly as stressful as you thought now that you’ve gotten them out of your head and onto the page.
33. Spritz lavender scent into the air (don’t forget to spray yourself). Studies find the scent is instantly relaxing.
34. Unclench your muscles. Until you do this exercise, you won’t even know how tense you really are. It’s called progressive relaxation and it works like this: Starting with your toes and working your way up, clench each muscle for 10 seconds, then thoroughly relax them. The whole exercise shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes, and you’ll feel as if you’ve just undergone a massage.
35. Deprive your senses. You’ve heard of sensory deprivation, right? That’s the theory behind those tanks in which people float in body-temperature water in a dark, enclosed capsule. Well, you don’t always have access to one of those. Instead, find the darkest room in your house or office. Turn off all the lights, pull the shades, and close the door. Slip an eyeshade over your eyes and stuff earplugs into your ears. Then lie back on the couch or a few pillows, get comfortable, and let the relaxation take you away. (You might want to set an alarm clock just in case you fall asleep.)
36. Slip in a CD of solo piano music from Chopin. Or Enya, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye, or Hawaiian guitar. Soothing music, researchers find, actually produces slower brain-wave patterns, like those observed when people are about to fall asleep or are taking certain medications.
37. Find your own credo, or words to live by. It could be something as simple as the Serenity Prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change … ” or as complex as the Rudyard Kipling poem “If,” one of our favorites.
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