By Lorraine Allen
Studies have repeatedly shown that stress can have serious negative effects on our health, in addition to putting us in a bad mood, and generally making us feel miserable. To help you decompress and de-stress, we’re sharing our favorite techniques for releasing tension just about anytime, anywhere!
Play Relaxing Tunes
Music lowers cortisol and stress levels in our bodies – which in turn lowers blood pressure and slows the heart rate – making it the perfect technique to employ when you’re stuck in the car. Whether you're sitting in traffic, running late for an important appointment, or busy shuttling your kids to and fro, you can use that time to boost your spirits by playing some soothing, relaxing tunes. When you think of relaxing in a hammock on the beach, what music comes to mind? Play some of that as you drive around, and you’ll find yourself instantly tuning out your stress.
Write a List and Rip It Up
Keeping a journal is a great way to let go of pent-up emotions and thoughts. But let's face it – most of us don't have time to sit down and fill many pages at a time. Instead, the next time you’re facing a stressful project at work or trying to keep track of your family’s hectic schedule, jot down a quick list of everything bugging you. Get it ALL out. Then cross them out one by one (vigorously, if needed), crumple or shred that paper, and toss it in the trash. You'll feel an immediate release from those negative emotions, and freer to move on with your day.
Waiting impatiently for that water to boil so you can finish preparing your hungry family’s next meal? This is the perfect time to stop stressing for a few minutes by sitting down (or lying down, if you can) and allowing yourself to be transported through visualization, a technique that can quickly improve your mood. Close your eyes for a few minutes, take some deep breaths, and picture a peaceful place, like a lake or meadow. Imagine yourself there, and think of details like the smell of fresh air, the colors of flowers, or the soothing sound of water. Picturing this happy place will melt away tension and stress right away, and fill you with calmer, more positive energy.
Take a Smile Break
Here’s a trick that helps release stress no matter where you are. Say CHEEEESE! It may sound silly, but studies have shown that putting a smile on your face, even if it's forced, releases endorphins, which reduces stress and even enhances the body's ability to handle pain. So when you feel extra tense, smile nice and wide; you'll be truly happy you did.
Make “Scents” of It All
The scent of lavender releases tension in our bodies and helps us relax. To enjoy the calming effects of this lovely scent all day, no matter where you are or what you’re up to, pick up a lavender-infused hand cream or massage oil and keep it in your purse, dabbing a little bit on the insides of your wrists and behind your ears when you need a pick-me-up. You can get a reed diffuser for your car, bedroom, or office, too. Or at the end of a long day, soak in a warm tub with some lavender-infused Epsom salt for 10 to 15 minutes, and feel all that stress slip away.
Deep, meditative breathing – even for a few moments at a time – can be incredibly relaxing. Whenever you find a natural pause in your day, however brief, take the time to make a conscious effort to breathe deeply and slowly – like when you’re waiting at a stop sign or a red light, or before you take another sip of coffee. Breathe slowly in and out every time you sit or bend down, and as you get back up. Before you know it, you’ll find that you’ve slowed your breathing regularly throughout the day, and feel calmer and less stressed.
How do you unwind when you’re pressed for time?