You know the feeling. Your neck is stiff. Your jaw aches from clenching it. Your head is pounding. Your back hurts. And you just want to close your eyes for a minute. It’s one of those days where the stress is taking over. You may not have time for a massage or pedicure (wouldn’t that be relaxing?)! But there are some simple things you can do to help relieve the stress.
1. Breathe. The University of Michigan’s Michigan Medicine says that “deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax.” Try these tips for deep breathing from Healthwise. According to the American Institute of Stress, breathing exercises can help reduce the long-term effects of stress.
2. Take a quick walk. You know exercise is good for you. But did you know that you don’t have to walk several miles to benefit from walking? When it comes to stress, psychologists suggest that even a 10-minute walk can offer a quick mood boost. Of course, a longer, fast-paced walk will have other benefits, so don’t give those up!
3. Take a catnap. You’ve heard of the power nap. Its power is backed by research. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism showed, besides helping make up for poor sleep, a short nap could help “reduce stress and bolster the immune system.”
4. Give a hug. Hug your child, grandchild, cat, dog, spouse… it doesn’t really matter! Hugs help relieve stress in part because they increase oxytocin levels. It’s that “feel good” chemical. (An added benefit: This study shows hugs may help you get sick less!)
5. Smile. “Put on a happy face.” It’s true. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, the simple act can reduce stress. A study by psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman of the University of Kansas found that “all smiling participants, regardless of whether they were aware of smiling, had lower heart rates during stress recovery.” In other words, smiling can help you through those challenging situations.
6. Be kind. Finally, do something kind for someone else. Step away from your problem and shift your focus to another person. It won’t make whatever is stressing you go away, but it will help you gain a different perspective. One study even found that people “who performed more daily acts of kindness were less likely to feel stressed.”