While there’s nothing more effective than a vacation when you need to unwind, reducing stress is a year-round job. Do these small, supportive actions for yourself every day to stay cooler, calmer and more collected until your next getaway.
At this point pretty much everybody has heard of meditation and knows it’s something they ought to be doing. The benefits are significant and immediate, but actually starting a practice can feel intimidating. The solution is to start small. If three minutes is all you can manage, then three minutes is good enough. Over time you’ll work up to longer sessions. Until then, understand that even a short meditation is effective.
A 30-minute walk
Besides the fact that it improves body composition, reduces the risk of chronic diseases, and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, a half-an-hour stroll is a real mood booster. If ever you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, getting out in the fresh air and stretching your legs also helps clear your mind.
Put your legs up the wall
You might recognize this pose from the end of yoga practice. Known in sanskrit as Viparita Karani, “legs up the wall” is a passive inversion that calms the nervous system. Blood flows from your legs into your upper body, allowing your heart beat to slow, relieving knee and back pain, and helping subdue headaches.
An elaborate bath
There’s something about being immersed in water that’s innately healing for humans, which explains why so many cultures around the world have their own specific hydro-therapeutic treatments and rituals. If you have a decent tub at home, fill it with hot water, add a scoop of epsom salts and a slosh of essential oil. Throw some fresh flower heads in there if you like, and even a crystal or two. It’s the ultimate act of self-care.
Many of us, when we’re feeling tense and anxious, clench our jaw without even being conscious of it. Massage the tissues gently with your fingertips or invest in a jade roller and glide it along your jawline to your temples. If you can work on loosening those muscles the rest of you will unclench too.
Even if yoga isn’t really your thing, restorative stretches—where you relax in comfortable passive positions that gently open the muscles—can work wonders to de-stress you. Substitute yoga props with stacked cushions and pillows, and focus on postures that feel calming, like forward folds (think child’s pose with pillows under your torso), and remain there for around 5–10 minutes.
Aromatherapy makes us feel better via a very specific biological process. Chemical compounds in the essential oil bind with receptors in the olfactory bulb (a neural structure involved with our sense of smell) which then affect the limbic system—the brain’s emotional epicenter. Some scents are better at calming our limbic system than others, in particular lavender and camomile. Buy a handy roll-on oil for on-the-spot use, and a pillow spray to help you get some restorative sleep.
Find a routine
Routine gets a bad rap for being unexciting, but when you’re feeling anxious, repetition can be a comforting and grounding force. Try to stick with a routine of self-care that includes, for example, healthy dinners at the same time each evening, light reading or a gentle comedy show, and a regular sleep schedule.
Sip kava tea
Kava root tea is popular among communities in the Pacific, and is said to introduce mellow vibes thanks to it’s main compound, kavain, which acts like a sedative. Keep a packet on you and sip whenever you’re feeling highly strung.
Box it out
When you’re in fight or flight mode, literally doing the former can help. Boxing is one of the trendiest cardio classes of the moment (bolstered by the fact it’s the supermodel workout of choice) and going a few rounds with a bag can work wonders to dispel cortisol (a steroid hormone linked to stress).
The links between social media consumption, anxiety and depression paint a bleak picture of our virtual lives. If you feel like Instagram, Facebook and the rest are eroding your self-worth, log out for a while and give your brain a break from constant bombardment.