No one ever plans on feeling stressed (8 a.m. breakfast; 10 a.m. meeting; 11 a.m. stress out), but it happens to all of us. And since stress usually hits when there’s a whole lot going on — including looming deadlines, wedding weekends and visits from the in-laws — we can’t always bust out the yoga mat or slip into a candlelit bubble bath. That’s why we rounded up this list of quick and simple strategies to ease anxiety anytime, anywhere. Try one or try them all the next time you’re feeling tense to start feeling better now!
Your Stress RX
1. Let Pandora soothe you.
When your blood starts to boil, pump up the beats. In stressful environments, music has been proven to decrease anxiety. Even better, create your own relaxation station on Pandora or iTunes. Soothing songs like Pachelbel’s Canon in D have been shown to encourage relaxation.
2. Take a deep breath.
No matter when or where stress finds you, this old standby can ease the pain. All you need are a few deliberate deep breaths to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Simply inhale for a count of four, then exhale for another count of four (all through the nose). Continue in this pattern until feelings of calm set in.
3. Get off track.
If meeting a deadline is stressing you out, losing focus may be just what you need to calm down and move on. Studies show that distraction can effectively alleviate anxiety. So pick up a book, surf YouTube, research a healthy meal to make for dinner — anything to keep your mind off the stressor at hand.
4. LOL with cats.
Need we say more? Merely being around animals can improve mood. But if you don’t happen to have access to a dog or cat when the anxiety hits, try looking at cute animal photos. One Japanese study found that looking at adorable images is enough to focus attention and produce positive feelings.
5. Let’s get physical.
Another “natural reward” that works? Sex. While this, better-for-your-body alternative may not be a viable option at all times, sex can be a way to reduce feelings of stress without raiding the kitchen cabinets.
6. Find the sweet spot.
We admit it; there is a reason you reach for calorie-heavy sweets when feeling anxious. These foods actually do reduce the body’s stress responses. The key here is just not to overdo it. Try keeping a healthy stash of fresh fruit on hand — watermelon can be more versatile than you’d think!
7. Fake it ‘til you make it.
Just like feigning confidence at an interview, simply imagining yourself calm can help do the trick. If conjuring up the image of a relaxed you seems daunting, try downloading a guided relaxation app on your phone. We love Relax with Andrew Johnson Lite and Take a Break! Guided Meditations for Stress Relief (both free, available for Android and iPhone).
8. Get some green.
If a windowless office or a day organizing the dark, dank basement has you feeling blue, step outside. Exposure to green spaces is good for you health and has been shown to reduce stress. Don’t have immediate access to a backyard or public park? It might be time to get a houseplant or two. Even small doses of nature might help boost your mood.
9. Laugh a little.
Whether you chuckle, snort or snicker, laughter has been shown to reduce the psychological effects of stress. And if letting out even a little laugh is hard when under pressure, these misguided fitness videos are sure to get the giggles going.
10. Chew on this.
Gum isn’t just for fresh breath anymore; it actually reduces levels of cortisol in the body. Next time you’re tempted to reach for some comforting carbs, opt for a stick of gum instead. Not only does it ease negative feelings, you won’t be ridden with guilt from breaking your diet, too.
11. Let your inbox fill up.
Allowing emails to pile up may seem counterintuitive to reducing stress, but avoiding your inbox may be just what you need in times of unrest. In one study, workers not only stressed less but were more productive when deprived of email. For a quick fix, log out and be sure to turn off any alerts on you mobile devices to reap the benefits of going e-free.