Activate Your Relaxation Response
“Do something on a daily basis that breaks the chain of everyday thinking,” says Herbert Benson, M.D., director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Doing an activity that requires focus—for instance, tai chi, yoga, meditation, or repetitive prayer—can work to keep you feeling calmer.
Shift Your Paradigm
“Change your lens from negativity to positivity,” advises Laura Delizonna, Ph.D., a life and happiness coach (choosinghappiness.com). We tend to have a “negativity bias,” which means we look at situations and ask what went wrong, a negative view that strongly influences how we feel and increases our stress levels. “Instead, ask what went well or will go well. This allows us to have more control over our environment, which reduces stress,” says Delizonna.
Take a Coffee Break
Sit down with your favorite hot beverage, blow across the top to cool it, and then inhale the fragrant steam. “Take a few minutes to do this every time you have a hot drink,” advises psychologist and stress expert Ronald G. Nathan, Ph.D., coauthor of Stress Management: A Comprehensive Guide to Wellness ($16, amazon.com). “Breathing deeply, slow and from the belly, is the opposite of what we do when we’re stressed, so it resets everything toward relaxation.”
Use the Quieting Reflex
When something angers you or stresses you out, take about six seconds to perform this tension-busting exercise, says Daniel Kirsch, Ph.D., president of the American Institute of Stress (stress.org). First, imagine yourself smiling and consciously relax the muscles in your face. Take a deep breath, visualizing yourself drawing in warm air through the bottoms of your feet and feeling it slowly filling your lungs. Then exhale, visualizing your breath going back out the same way. “This is a quieting response that helps us break the cycle of everyday stress,” says Kirsch.
“The more stuff you have the more stress you have,” says Pauline Wallin, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide for Transforming Self-Defeating Behavior ($19, amazon.com). Most everything we buy requires some kind of maintenance; owning less means having less worry about needing to take care of things. And there’s real freedom in that, says Wallin: “For example, no new car means no worrying about dings in parking lots.”
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