Let's be real, nowadays it's 24-7 pedal to the metal. Between work, family and attempting to have a social life, it's pretty hard to find a morsel of time to just sit still and do something for ourselves. And if, for some reason, that occasion does present itself, we normally just want to curl up for a nap.
Stress is just an accepted way of life — but consider this your very
friendly word of warning. Researchers have discovered as of 2016 that chronic stress can actually change the brain and lead to anxiety and depression. So you can probably guess that your stress compounds and gives way to more stress, and more anxiety and depression that create more stress, and the vicious cycle continues.
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We don’t have all the answers, but we do know that taking small steps in the right direction can make a huge difference. These little stress-busters, when used regularly, could bring your stress down to that normal-crazy level. You can try one idea for every week of the year:
1. Curl up with your real S.O., Netflix. (And use these
Netflix hacks to make binge-watching so much easier.)
2. Take a bath while drinking a glass of your favorite wine.
3. Try a new, easy cardio activity: walking around the block, hiking at a well-lit park or swimming a few laps at the community pool.
4. Listen to a guided meditation podcast as you drift off to sleep.
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5. Clean that one room/area of your house that has been driving you crazy. (Trust us, you’ll feel a lot better when the organizing is done.)
Watch fish swim in an aquarium and release all those to-do lists in your head.
7. Go to bed an hour earlier or set your alarm an hour later to get some extra sleep.
8. Try a
gratitude journal — write down three little things you’re grateful for at the end of each day.
9. Write down everything that is stressing you out on the next page.
10. Eat clean for one day (cutting out all processed foods) and observe how you feel before you go to sleep.
several cycles of deep breathing at the beginning and end of your lunch break.
12. Set up a “walking date” with a good friend you haven’t seen enough of lately.
13. Drink just
one glass of red wine with your evening meal.
Learn to meditate — and try it at least once a day.
15. Take an afternoon nap.
16. Set aside a shopping budget, and go spend the money on whatever catches your eye.
17. Buy a fancy coffee before work.
18. While you’re at it,
pay it forward by buying a fancy coffee for the person in line behind you, too.
19. Serve dinner on your finest china.
20. Buy yourself that high-end shampoo and conditioner you’ve been eyeing.
21. Use a Groupon to hire a housecleaning service to clean your home from top to bottom.
22. Send a friend, your mom or your sister a “just thinking about you” text and wait for their sweet response.
23. Read an old love note or love email.
24. Read an old work email, praising you for one of your biggest accomplishments.
25. Don’t just hum — sing along with music in the car at the top of your lungs.
26. Say “no” to an unnecessary commitment, with absolutely zero guilt.
Next Up: Have an at-home spa day
Originally published March 2008. Updated July 2017.
Image: Hill Street Studios/Getty Images
27. Have an at-home spa day, with a
DIY mani and pedi, all by your lonesome.
28. Sit in silence for 20 minutes.
29. Try a new, alternative workout class at the gym — PiYo, pole dancing or roping, to name a few.
30. Write a positive affirmation and stick it on your mirror for one week.
31. Create a vision board of where you would like to be in one year, five years and 10.
32. Run around and play outside with your kids or pets, without any time constraints.
33. Write out a plan for one looming task for the week, whether it’s a new work schedule, workout plan or menu plan for the family.
34. Smell a relaxing scent, like a calming basil or chamomile essential oil or candle.
35. Spray lavender essential oil on your pillow before you go to sleep.
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36. Pack a
bunch of healthy snacks to keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout your workday.
37. Turn off your phone and silence your email alerts for an entire afternoon.
38. Do a
full sun salutation cycle when you wake up to start the day.
39. Eat one piece of dark chocolate, and enjoy every bite.
40. Plan a special treat or reward (that only mean something to you) to look forward to at the end of a long day.
41. Draw freehand or spend a few hours doodling in an
adult coloring book.
42. Practice staying present for one hour — focusing on each sense in succession: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.
someone you love a hug and hold on a little longer.
44. Practice that hobby you’ve been neglecting — painting, piano or learning French.
45. Sign up for a free workshop or class at a local community center.
46. Spend some time browsing travel deals and book a nearby weekend getaway you can look forward to all month long.
47. Talk to your boss about that work problem that’s been bugging you and try to come up with a workable solution.
48. Eat lunch picnic-style at a local park, if the weather permits. (And bring some cheese and sparkling water or wine.)
49. Walk through a new neighborhood in your town that you’ve never visited before.
50. Bake cookies from scratch.
51. Go see that movie you’ve been dying to see — alone!
52. Set the timer on your phone so that you don’t miss the sunset, and watch it without any interruptions.