7 Easy Ways to Manage Stress
If You Have 1 Minute…
Trigger a Pressure Point
Turns out, your body has a stress-release button. Between the tendons, two or three finger widths above the center of your inner wrist is a point called pericardium 6 (PC6), explains Nada Milosavljevic, MD, director of the Integrative Health Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. Research shows that using your finger to apply pressure to PC6 has a calming effect on the central nervous system (CNS).
Balance Your Breath
Experts say that slowing down your breathing can get you out of “fight or flight,” which can help lower the stress hormone cortisol. According to Erin Telford, a certified breath-work healer, there is a quick exercise to help you relax. Inhale and exhale through your nose for counts of five in and out. Do this for a full minute, and you will start to feel the tension leave your body.
If You Have 5 Minutes…
Pop a Mint
When you get worked up, your brain goes into default mode network (DMN), which is associated with depression and repetitive rumination, says Melanie Greenberg, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist in Mill Valley, California, and author of The Stress-Proof Brain. “In DMN, the brain is wired to bring up undone tasks, which can take you away from enjoying the moment.” However, sucking on a mint activates your task-positive network (TPN), which turns off DMN. We like these sugar-free Spearmint Pur Mints ($2 for 20; thepurcompany.com).
Give Yourself a Hug
But not just any ordinary hug—a butterfly hug! Here’s how: Place your right hand on your left shoulder, and cross your left hand over to touch your right shoulder. Then, repeatedly tap one hand after another for five minutes, says Greenberg. Experts believe that bilateral stimulation—stimulation on both sides of the body—produces a physiological relaxation response, sort of like when you rock a baby to sleep.
Clear The Clutter
Chaotic environments create more stress, says Susan Biali Haas, MD, wellness expert and author of Live a Life You Love. “Taking a few minutes to clean up can automatically make you feel better,” she says. The benefit of tidying is actually twofold. We already know that an organized area can elicit feelings of control and clarity. But research also shows that completing tasks with your hands can have a soothing, therapeutic impact on the brain. “When you engage your senses, like touch, it takes you out of your stressed-out mind and has a meditative effect,” says Dr. Biali Haas. That said, the thought of tackling a large mess can be overwhelming, so start small by throwing out trash or cleaning crumbs off your desk.
If You Have 10 Minutes…
Think Good Thoughts
Remember that amazing vacation you took to Turks and Caicos? How about that blissful vibe you felt on your wedding day? “When you’re stressed, imagining yourself in a safe, happy place can be very helpful,” says Greenberg. “Conjuring up happy memories can help you calm down from negative emotions.” Having a hard time getting your mind there? Whip out your phone and scroll through photos. “This can help you to stop thinking about the things that may be causing your stress and will bring you back to a time you felt grounded and relaxed,” says Greenberg.
Sip on This
That jittery feeling you get when you’re anxious—your central nervous system may be to blame, says Dr. Milosavljevic. That’s because your CNS can become overstimulated when the body tries to process chronic or unrelenting stress. “Try lemon-balm or passionflower tea: Both are thought to calm the central nervous system,” says Dr. Milosavljevic. What’s more, the act of stopping what you’re doing to perform a ritual— like making tea—can also help take you out of your stress spiral.