78 Instant Stress-Busters

Find immediate relaxation with these easy instant de-stressing techniques.

We’re a stressed-out nation: We work too much, sleep too little, skimp on exercise, eat the wrong foods. And if the nail biting and teeth grinding aren’t bad enough, just look at what stress does to you on the inside. Blood pressure revs up and immune system function slows down, leading to any number of health problems, not to mention the six top causes of death like heart disease and cancer. Relax! Here are quick tips and tricks to use anytime you need to chill out—before the big meeting, after that argument with your spouse, as you’re racing through your daily to-do list. Try these, and you’ll feel just fine.

[step-item number=”1.” image_url=”” title=”Walk Barefoot” ] Roll up your area rugs and walk around the house barefoot, like you’re on a beach house vacation.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”2.” image_url=”” title=”Laundered Sheets” ] Crawl between soothing sheets, freshly washed with scented detergent or linen rinse, such as Tide Simple Pleasures lavender and vanilla.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”3.” image_url=”” title=”Bubble Wrap” ] Pop some bubble wrap. Can’t find the real thing? Go to virtual-bubblewrap.com.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”4.” image_url=”” title=”Relaxing Pose” ] Quickie yoga: Standing, bend and place palms on your thighs. With chin parallel to the floor, breathe in and arch your chest forward; breathe out and arch it up like a cat.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”5.” image_url=”” title=”Balloon Blow Up” ] Blow up a balloon in slow, three-second puffs.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”6.” image_url=”” title=”Look Up” ] Stare at the blue sky (a calming color) and watch the clouds float by.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”7.” image_url=”” title=”Two-Minute TV” ] Watch a two-minute replay of your favorite TV show.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”8.” image_url=”” title=”Mini Massage” ] Lie on your back and position a tennis ball under the tense points—your lower back, between your shoulder blades, etc. Roll gently up and down and side to side.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”8.” image_url=”” title=”Soothing Steam” ] Soak a hand towel and microwave for two minutes until steamy. Place on back of neck, on face or computer-achy hands.[/step-item]

Quick Stat: Be aware of the top 10 stressors: sick family member, money, your own health, children, work, personal safety, state of the world, terrorism or natural disasters, intimate relationships, discrimination based on race or ethnicity.

[step-item number=”10.” image_url=”” title=”Tech Break” ] Power off your computer so the screen goes blank and that ever-present buzz stops. Think of a fantasy place—the beach, the mountains, playing at home with your kids—for five minutes before restarting.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”11.” image_url=”” title=”Quick Call” ] A tip from air traffic controller Mike Clark, Newark, New Jersey: “I call my girlfriend, parents or friends. Just hearing their voice is a great escape and helps me to decompress.”[/step-item]

[step-item number=”12.” image_url=”” title=”Flower Power” ] Pick up a bouquet of purple lisianthus and light blue or green hydrangea, which have a calming effect. Place in a glass bowl so you can see the water, and keep it on your desk.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”13.” image_url=”” title=”Power Punch” ] Take a punch at the Desktop Speed Bag from Everlast (amazon.com) and pummel away stress as needed.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”14.” image_url=”” title=”Monet Moment” ] Stare at a picture of Monet’s Water Lilies.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”15.” image_url=”” title=”Aromatherapy” ] Dab lavender body oil on your wrist and sniff a few times.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”16.” image_url=”” title=”Mouth Spray” ] Squirt StressLess mouth spray, packed with passionflower and cinchona, under your tongue three times a day (sprayology.com).[/step-item]

[step-item number=”17.” image_url=”” title=”Green Tea” ] Drink green tea—packed with theanine, which increases the brain’s output of relaxation-inducing alpha waves and reduces the output of tension-making beta waves.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”18.” image_url=”” title=”Reflexology” ] DIY reflexology: Tap the tips of your fingers together to clear your head. Or, hold one finger at a time between your other thumb and finger and roll the finger like a pencil. Believe it or not, this is thought to relax neck muscles and improve circulation.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”19.” image_url=”” title=”Game Play” ] Play a free version of Bejeweled Blitz or Bookworm on popcap.com. Designed by a stress doctor, these games require concentration and focus without violence or adrenaline.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”20.” image_url=”” title=”Touch” ] Touch a talisman or object that has meaning to you—your grandmother’s crucifix, a shell you found on the beach as a child, a cherished stuffed animal—and let pleasant memories seep in.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”21.” image_url=”” title=”Quickie Yoga” ] Sitting down, as you inhale, touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Exhale, relaxing your tongue. Repeat.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”22.” image_url=”” title=”Water and Air” ] Drink a glass of cold water, then go for a walk outside. The water gets your blood moving and the air invigorates by stimulating the endorphins that distress you.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”23.” image_url=”” title=”Beverage Brain Power” ] Break your focus—stir your coffee backward, close your eyes and hum a song, drink your soda in exactly 24 sips.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”24.” image_url=”” title=”Quick Laugh” ] Log on to theonion.com for hilarious fake newspaper stories.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”25.” image_url=”” title=”Steamy Shower” ] Take a steamy shower with a luxurious gel such as Aveeno Stress Relief Body Wash with lavender, chamomile and ylang-ylang.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”26.” image_url=”” title=”Ear Massage” ] Starting on the bone directly behind your earlobe, apply gentle pressure with your thumb and forefinger and follow to the top of your ear, two or three times. Then rub briskly.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”27.” image_url=”” title=”Black Tea” ] Order black tea instead of coffee. A study by University College London shows that drinking black tea four times a day for six weeks lowered the stress hormone cortisol after a stressful event.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”28.” image_url=”” title=”Heating Pad” ] Place a heating pad or pack such as ThermaCare HeatWrap underneath clothing on your tight shoulders or lower back.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”29.” image_url=”” title=”Stress Ball” ] Squeeze a stress ball for two seconds, then release. Once your muscles begin to relax, the tension will slowly go away.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”30.” image_url=”” title=”Hold Hands” ] Hold your loved one’s hand. Brain scans show the contact provides immediate relief from stress.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”31.” image_url=”” title=”Seated Pose” ] Sit up straight, and let your arms drop limp at your sides. Inhale, and on the exhale lean forward and rest your chest on your thighs. Slowly come up and inhale.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”32.” image_url=”” title=”Lavendar” ] Light a lavender candle and inhale the fragrance in three long, slow breaths through your nose. Let the air out slowly through your lips, only strong enough to make the flame flicker.[/step-item]

Quick Stat: Consider this — Nearly half of all Americans are concerned about the level of stress in their lives. Source: American Psychological Association 2006 Stress Survey.

[step-item number=”33.” image_url=”” title=”Bundle of Joy” ] Hold a sleeping baby.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”34.” image_url=”” title=”Eye Mask” ] Moisten a lavender and chamomile eye tea bag and place over strained eyes.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”35.” image_url=”” title=”Dog Race” ] Race your dog around the backyard.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”36.” image_url=”” title=”Slinky” ] Keep a desk toy, such as the executive Slinky, handy for a few seconds of that hypnotic hand-to-hand “schling, schling” sound effect.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”37.” image_url=”” title=”Slow Breaking” ] While reading e-mail, breathe slowly and focus your attention on your breath. Make the out-breath two times longer than the in-breath.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”38.” image_url=”” title=”Body Lotion” ] Slather on Johnson’s Melt Away Stress body lotion, which in studies reduced tension and anxiety by 50 percent.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”39.” image_url=”” title=”Good Posture” ] When seated or standing, pull your shoulders back and down—good posture and alignment brings oxygen directly to your brain to help you think more clearly.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”40.” image_url=”” title=”Hand Gesture” ] Rub the palms of your hands together vigorously to create heat. Quickly place hands over each closed eye and relax for a full minute.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”41.” image_url=”” title=”Music Therapy” ] Play a song by Norah Jones. A recent study found that people who listened to slow-paced tunes had lower heart rate and blood pressure than those who listened to faster songs.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”42.” image_url=”” title=”Take a Walk” ] Take a walk in a natural setting—a park, field, the woods.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”43.” image_url=”” title=”Forgive” ] Forgive someone.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”44.” image_url=”” title=”Reflexology” ] Cross your bare foot over your opposite leg, and place one thumb at the base of the pinkie where the soft sole meets the ball. Bend toes forward and back with the other hand as your thumb massages up toward the big toe, in this diaphragm-relaxing move.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”45.” image_url=”” title=”Mantra” ] Repeat three times: “I’m doing the best I can,” and accept that you can’t control the current situation.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”46.” image_url=”” title=”Take a Moment” ] When the phone rings, wait to answer until the third or fourth ring. Breathe deeply a few times and tell yourself to relax.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”47.” image_url=”” title=”Sesame Oil” ] Rub warm sesame oil (found in health food stores, not the cooking aisle) on your forehead. Sesame, a calming salve, is the only oil that penetrates all seven layers of the skin.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”48.” image_url=”” title=”Pen to Paper” ] Write down every possible solution to the problem you are facing. Then let it go. Then write down everything you are thankful for.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”49.” image_url=”” title=”Affirmations” ] Keep a running list of compliments and kudos on your computer or in your journal. Read the list when you’re frazzled and down.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”50.” image_url=”” title=”Yoga Minute” ] Standing up straight, put the ball of one foot on top of the other. As you breathe in, bring arms up over your head and touch palm to palm. Bring hands down on the exhale and repeat on the other side.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”51.” image_url=”” title=”Relazation Exercise” ] Do a free relaxation exercise at stressremedy.com.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”52.” image_url=”” title=”Kitty Comfort” ] Pat a kitten.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”53.” image_url=”” title=”Have Faith” ] Say a prayer.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”54.” image_url=”” title=”DIY Reflexology” ] Tug your earlobe with your thumb and forefinger. Gently pull and let your fingers slide off the ear.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”55.” image_url=”” title=”Jasmine” ] Plug in a jasmine-scented air freshener (such as Glade Plug-In). Research subjects who slept in a jasmine-scented room snoozed better and were more alert the next day than those who didn’t.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”56.” image_url=”” title=”Active Gratitude” ] Take a walk and think about five things you are thankful for. Research shows it’s physiologically impossible to be stressed and thankful at the same time.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”57.” image_url=”” title=”Top Five” ] Visit topfive.com for a funny top five list every day.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”58.” image_url=”” title=”Read Aloud” ] Think of someone you love and read your favorite romantic poem aloud.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”59.” image_url=”” title=”Change Gears” ] When you encounter a discourteous driver, try to shift focus to all the good drivers around you. Just five minutes of positive focus raises immune system function for six hours, while focusing on those you resent has the opposite effect.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”60.” image_url=”” title=”Peppermint Pep” ] Spray peppermint Motor Mist Spritz in your car. Peppermint, studies show, decreases anxiety and fatigue while driving, easing frustration behind the wheel.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”61.” image_url=”” title=”Car Yoga” ] Before you start the ignition, lay arms palms up in your lap, take a deep breath through your nose. As you exhale, stick your tongue out and try to touch the tip of your chin. Then, your eyes looking up between your brows, bring your hands up as if you were going to pounce and roar as loudly as you can.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”62.” image_url=”” title=”Bedtime Story” ] Remember being soothed to sleep by a bedtime story? Pop in an audiobook narrated by Barbara Caruso, one of AudioFile magazine’s Golden Voices. Her newest: The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”63.” image_url=”” title=”Cinnamon Gum” ] Chew cinnamon gum, which gave study subjects more energy and alertness, cutting down on stress.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”64.” image_url=”” title=”Happy Place” ] Visualize a “room” of your choice—winter room, floral room, forest room, water room or Zen room—for a quick pick me up.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”65.” image_url=”” title=”Celebrity Inspiration” ] Melaniegriffith.com’s meditation room lets you pick a mantra for one of six different topics, including health, relationships and spirituality, which you repeat while watching a video of nature close-ups.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”66.” image_url=”” title=”Labyrinth” ] Gracecathedral.org has an online “finger” version of the Labyrinth, an ancient maze on which you can walk as you reflect and meditate.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”67.” image_url=”” title=”Visual Stimulation” ] Onegoddessway.com gives you a choice of several soothing nature scenes with audio, including a tranquil waterfall and fire in a hearth.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”68.” image_url=”” title=”Milk” ] Drink a glass of milk. It contains tryptophane, which as it is metabolized is converted to mood-boosting serotonin. Plus, its calcium, magnesium and potassium content may help keep blood pressure down.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”69.” image_url=”” title=”Broccoli” ] Eat broccoli and low-fat ranch dip. Broccoli has folic acid, which aids stress reduction.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”70.” image_url=”” title=”Sweet Tooth” ]. Enjoy sorbet with a vanilla sugar wafer. Sugary foods decrease levels of anxiety-producing hormones, specifically through the production of glucocorticoid, a stress hormone linked to storing more fat in the belly. Just a little sugar on the tongue is enough to produce a feel-good effect, so don’t overdo it![/step-item]

[step-item number=”71.” image_url=”” title=”English Muffin” ]. Have a whole grain English muffin with jam or honey. Complex carbohydrate-rich foods raise serotonin levels, boosting your mood and helping you relax.[/step-item]

Quick Stat: You’re not alone: 30% of workers claim they are working longer hours compared with this time last year, with 32% saying that they are experiencing more on-the-job stress (Source: Adeco North America).

[step-item number=”72.” image_url=”” title=”Visual Stimulation” ] Snack on a handful of nuts. They’re packed with magnesium, which seems to help keep cortisol levels low. Nuts are high in calories, so if you’re watching your weight, make sure not to eat more than a dozen a day.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”73.” image_url=”” title=”Salmon” ] Savor some salmon. Omega-3 fatty acids help brain cells to function more collaboratively, helping you to deal with stress more effectively.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”74.” image_url=”” title=”Dark Chocolate” ] Indulge in some dark chocolate. By far the most potent endorphin-producing food on earth, chocolate contains more than 300 different compounds, including anandamide, a chemical that mimics marijuana’s effects on the brain, and theobromine, a mild stimulant. Look for imported dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or more.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”75.” image_url=”” title=”Hot Cocoa” ] Drink hot cocoa. Warm drinks raise your body temperature—a feeling we associate with comfort, so it triggers a similar response in our brains.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”76.” image_url=”” title=”IN-Fused Chocolate” ] 76. Handcrafted from imported dark organic Dutch chocolate, this bar has 150 mg of L-theanine, as well as aromatic oils such as lavender and chamomile (Intelligent Nutrients).[/step-item]

[step-item number=”77.” image_url=”” title=”Common Scents” ] Top stress-relieving aromatherapy scents to keep around the house: orange, grapefruit, lemon rosemary, peppermint, rose, sweet marjoram, lavender, chamomile, ylang-ylang.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”78.” image_url=”” title=”Friendly Reminder” ] Stress-reduction tip from ER doctor John Rogers, MD, Bolingbroke, Georgia: “For a while I wore a little gold halo-shaped pin on my sleeve. It would remind me to ‘be an angel,’ to stay focused on keeping peace inside me and be compassionate toward others regardless of all the stresses that surrounded me.”[/step-item]

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest