You have a client meeting in 10 minutes and you're stuck in traffic. Your car breaks down the week rent is due. You realize you have more items on your to-do list than any human could possibly accomplish. Sound familiar?
Stress is an unavoidable part of our modern, hectic lives. But what if there were simple techniques you could use to restore your calm stat whenever life starts to feel overwhelming? Mindset coach and yoga instructor Kate Hanley outlines 100 ways to do just that in her new book, Stress Less ($14; amazon.com). Whether it's a simple stretch or a visualization exercise, each brief activity is designed to bring you back to your center in minutes. Here are five of our favorite tips from the book.
Take a “Noticing” Walk
At some point today, take yourself on a walk where your sole purpose is to see how many interesting, or weird, or beautiful things you can notice.
This isn’t about getting your 10,000 steps (although it will help you do that). It’s about learning how to observe what’s happening in any given moment, instead of getting distracted by, or hung up on, your thoughts.
Whenever you find yourself lost in a train of thought—and you will, because you’re human—come back to this question: What can I see when I allow myself to look?
Go to the Place That Brings You Peace
What’s the most relaxing place on Earth for you? Is it in front of a fire in a mountain lodge, or on a hammock near the ocean?
Close your eyes and imagine yourself there, wherever it may be. Really experience it—what can you see, smell, taste, and hear? How does your body feel when you’re there?
Because your brain can’t perceive a difference between real and imagined relaxation, you can enjoy a truly restorative mini-vacation even if you can’t hop a flight or take time off.
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Five Little Things
Appreciation is a form of loving attention, and creates an uplifting state of mind that we don’t tend to spend much time in. Build your appreciation muscles by taking note of five small things—things you might not otherwise notice—that you appreciate.
In a notebook, number a list 1 to 5. Then, throughout the day, fill each line with one thing that makes your life better—the friend who leaves a funny comment on your Instagram, the sneeze that clears your sinuses, the scent of your neighbors barbecue, the way your child instinctively reaches for your hands as you walk down the street.
To really boost the benefits, make writing this list a daily check-in for three weeks—about how long it takes to establish a new habit. The more you make a note of the things you value, the more things you’ll find to appreciate.
Put ‘Em Up
Raising your arms above your head does many wonderful things—it opens the chest, shoulders, and neck (all the areas that get congested by sitting and looking at a computer or phone), creates more space in the torso for your lungs and digestive organs to have the room they need to function optimally, and strengthens your core muscles. And yet, we rarely do it. Let’s change that.
1. Stand up with your feet at hip distance. Raise your arms out straight in front of you at shoulder height.
2. Interlace your fingers and turn the palms to face out. Now raise your arms until your palms point straight at the ceiling.
3. Lift your shoulders up toward your ears, and then let them drop down so that your neck is long and tall.
4. Finally, lift your ribs and spine up off your pelvis so that you unfurl to your tallest height.
5. Stay for three breaths, and repeat a few times throughout the day.
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Get It Out of Your Head
Here’s a tried-and-true technique taught in Julia Cameron’s classic self-help tome, The Artist’s Way: Start your day with some no-holds-barred journaling. Set a timer for three minutes and write down absolutely anything that pops into your head, even if it’s I have no idea what to write. Don’t take your pencil off the page until time is up.
The idea is to give every fear, concern, and complaint a place to go so that you don’t have to carry them around. Also, putting them on paper helps you see that your thoughts are separate from you, and that you can decide if you want to put stock in them or not. It also invites your inner wisdom to chime in.
Excerpted from Stress Less: Stop Stressing, Start Living by Kate Hanley (msmindbody.com). Used by permission of the publisher, Adams Media, a division of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.