7 Ways to De-stress Instantly

Tools

Story Updated: Oct 24, 2012

p>What is it about the word "relax" that just makes me tense? As a mom, I often feel like I'm at my best when I'm dutifully working my way through my to-do list, giving each item a satisfying check when I'm done. "Relax" just doesn't seem to cut it when the list includes send out bills, make kids' dentist appointments, finish the laundry (is it ever really done?). You know the drill.

It's also hard to unwind when I have so much to do. I always vow I'll take a little time when everything's done. But it's amazing what even taking a five-minute break from your regular routine can do to help you recharge -- and give you even more energy. So step away from that to-do list and try one of these seven quick de-stressers.

1. Use your nose.
Certain scents can soothe your stress. Lavender tops the list, but there's also eucalyptus, rosemary, cloves, grapefruit and peppermint. Look for the scent that relaxes you. My scent of choice is white linen, which just smells clean, so I keep a scented candle in my home office. Even if my desk is stacked with papers, taking a few minutes to light the candle and think about something other than my to-do list works wonders.

2. Create a haven.
Make your own relaxation spot in the room you pass through the most, whether it's the laundry room or bedroom. Pin a picture – it could be from last year's vacation or the country that tops your bucket list. For me, it's a photo of the wharf in San Francisco, where I spent an overcast day walking around with my family. Just giving myself the excuse to remember our good times eases the kinks in my shoulders.

3. Make your own heating pad.
Grab an old sock, fill it with dried beans, then tie the top. Place it in the microwave for 45 seconds, and you have an instant heating pad. I like to put mine in the middle of my back while I read an article or thumb through a catalogue. Then I'm ready to tackle the rest of the day.

4. Breathe it in.
Taking deep, long breaths helps you focus on your body instead of your mind – which, if yours is like mine, is often racing. Find a comfortable place to sit or stand. Close your eyes and breathe through your nose. When I really need to quiet myself down, I count to five while inhaling, then five while exhaling. By counting, I don't shortchange or quicken my breaths. I feel like I get in sync with my whole body.

5. DIY manicure.
Perk up your day with a little color on your fingernails. Even if you just put on a clear coat, painting your nails forces you to sit still and take a rest.

6. Savor a square of chocolate.
You probably know that eating chocolate has been linked with lower blood pressure and improved circulation. And that chocolate raises the level of feel-good brain chemicals. So you really owe it to yourself to find a good, high-quality dark chocolate that comes in small squares. When you need your five-minute holiday, let a square or two melt in your mouth while you pinpoint the flavors – is it a hint of fruit or something bitter?

7. Make some noise.
You may have heard the expression "Music soothes the savage beast." I couldn't agree more. It may sound counterintuitive, but when I'm feeling tense, cranking up the volume on my iPod gives me a chance to tune out the world. For me, something new from One Direction or old U2 classics are the most relaxing. Figure out what music helps you distress, whether it's Beethoven or Led Zeppelin, and turn up the volume.

Over
to You
What's your favorite way to unwind?

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