Breathing is so innate that most of us don’t even pay attention to how we do it, but there is a way to breathe for better health and for managing stress. “Breathing from your diaphragm oxygenates your blood, which helps you relax almost instantly,” says Robert Cooper, Ph.D., coauthor of The Power of 5, a book of five-second and five-minute health tips. Shallow chest breathing, by contrast, can cause your heart to beat faster and your muscles to tense up, exacerbating feelings of stress. To breathe deeply, begin by putting your hand on your abdomen just below the navel. Inhale slowly through your nose and watch your hand move out as your belly expands. Hold the breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly. Repeat several times. Here’s how breathing can improve mindfulness.
It sounds New Age-y, but at least one study, done at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, has found that it’s highly effective in reducing stress. Dr. Cooper recommends imagining you’re in a hot shower and a wave of relaxation is washing your stress down the drain. Gerald Epstein, MD, author of Healing Visualizations, suggests the following routine: Close your eyes; take three long, slow breaths; and spend a few seconds picturing a relaxing scene, such as walking in a meadow, kneeling by a brook, or lying on the beach. Focus on the details—the sights, the sounds, the smells. (This quick trick shuts down stress in the moment.)
Make time for a mini self-massagePeopleImages
Maria Hernandez-Reif, Ph.D., of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, recommends simply massaging the palm of one hand by making a circular motion with the thumb of the other. Or use a massage gadget. The SelfCare catalog offers several, such as the S-shaped Tamm unit, that allows you to massage hard-to-reach spots on your back. Work in these self-massage tricks for soothing full-body relaxation and help with managing stress.