Take 5: Easy ways to de-stress at any time of the day
We're just going to come right out and say it: Stress is inevitable.
The key is learning how to manage it. When things get hectic, that's when you need to chill out for a few minutes. Here are some simple ways to take a breather during the craziest of days.
Between trying to excel at work, get to the gym, look after the kids and keep your relationships in check, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. When your to-do list is long and you're running on empty, that's exactly when you need to stop and de-stress. If you've got a few minutes to spare between meetings or before the school run, here's how to go about bringing some calm into your day.
We naturally breathe shallowly and quickly, but deep breaths really calm the nervous system. Spend five minutes doing deep breathing exercises: Close your eyes and count to five as you breathe in through your nose. Then, lowly exhale through your mouth for five full seconds. Try to focus all your energy on breathing and nothing else. This kind of deep breathing will trigger your body’s "relaxation response" (yes, that’s a thing), resulting in a lower heart rate and a clearer mind.
Check out our beginner's guide to meditation >>
Stretch it out
If you’re anxious, loosen your body. After all, if your muscles and joints are tight, it’s physically impossible to feel relaxed. The remedy? Stretching. Try this routine: Flex and point your feet, roll your ankles around in circles, stretch out your calves (put one leg out in front of you and lift the ball of your foot off the floor) and bring one heel up to your butt to work your quads. Then, bend down from the hips and hang there until you feel the blood rush to your head. When your bottom half is done, focus on your upper body: Twist your tummy without moving your feet, do a few lunges to loosen your hips and stretch your arms by bending one arm over your head. This quick routine will release endorphins and relax your entire body.
Got time for a class? Check out the benefits of yoga >>
Make a cuppa
The act of making tea is simple and mindless, and drinking hot (not boiling) liquids instantly relaxes both the digestive and nervous system. (Think of how amazing hot chocolate tastes on a freezing day — it’s the same principle). If you want to amp up the soothing effects of tea, choose a herbal brew like green or ginseng.
Indulge a little
When it comes to cravings, women got the short straw: While men crave high-protein foods like meat, most of us crave starchy carbs like chocolate and ice cream. These sugary foods boost our serotonin levels, which results in a feeling of satisfaction and relaxation. Sound familiar? If you need something to lift your spirits, indulge in a small treat. 100 calories should do the trick: that’s 4 Hershey’s Kisses or one fun-size chocolate bar.
Technology is to blame for a lot of stress in today’s society. All of those beeps and vibrations excite the brain, which makes it harder to wind down, separate "work" and "play" time and get quality sleep. When you need to de-stress, one of the best things you can do is turn off your phone and computer. While a few minutes of peace can make a real difference, if you can go without technology for an hour or more, you’ll feel amazing.
Flick through photos
When you’re feeling down or stressed, flip through photos of things that make you smile. Snaps of your family, friends and memorable holidays will transport you to a happy place, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Daydreaming is also an excellent way to decompress — try creating a mood board of holiday destinations and pretty pictures on Pinterest. Finally, save a digital album to your phone so that smile-inducing photos are on hand when you need them most, like on the commute.
Get some sun
Vitamin D is a huge energy-lifter and most of us aren’t getting enough of it. For a double whammy of stress release, combine your sunshine time with some exercise. When you have a few minutes at lunch or between meetings, unclip that imaginary chain on your desk and go outside for a walk. The change of scenery will elevate your mood and clear your head.
Other tips and tricks
- Ditch your blaring alarm clock and buy one that gently rouses you with soft music instead.
- When you’re washing your hair, massage your scalp and pull your hair up by the roots to release tension.
- Concentrate on your posture.
- Inhale the scent of a fresh flower.
- Email or call a friend "just because".
- Do something mindless and repetitive, such as knitting.
- Rub your bare feet over a golf ball.
- Have sex!