Too much noise can stress you out, so try spending time in complete silence, especially in the morning when the level of cortisol—the stress hormone—is at its highest. Too much cortisol over time can put you at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, impaired mental performance, and even abdominal fat.
- Spend time without your cell phone, computer, and other high-tech gear that’s become embedded into daily life.
- Drive with the car radio off.
- Do household chores without the TV or iPod for background noise.
Play releases worries, negative emotions, and frustrations. The activity you choose doesn’t matter. The key is to cultivate the right attitude toward anything you do, to immerse yourself in an activity, and to lose yourself in the here and now.
Set aside 15 minutes every day to do something that’s pure fun. Choose an activity that uses your imagination, frees you of any burdens, and fully engages your attention. Consider revisiting activities you enjoyed as a child.
- SPEND TIME WITH YOUR GIRLFRIENDS
- Girls’ night out isn’t just fun—it produces a real stress-reducing response. “Hanging out with women friends increases prolactin levels,” says Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom (Bantam Books, 1998). “Prolactin is a bonding hormone that also decreases stress.
With your friends, you can savor the chance to talk, laugh, and temporarily escape from your worries. Making time for friends doesn’t have to be difficult, and the variety of ways to spend time with friends is endless.
Keep it simple with a movie night, a long hike, or a potluck meal. Round up friends for an evening of stargazing and s’mores in your backyard. Host a wine-tasting party at your house.
- With your mouth closed and shoulders relaxed, inhale as slowly and deeply as you can to the count of 6. Push your stomach out as you breathe in.
- Hold and slowly count to 4.
- Exhale through your mouth as you slowly count to 6.
- Repeat 3–5 times.
Under stress, you’re apt take quick, shallow breaths, which increases heart rate and sweating and raises your stress levels even more.
“Get control of your breathing, and the spiraling effects of stress will automatically become less intense,” says Brent Bauer, M.D., director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic, and medical editor of the Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine.
Try this breathing technique when you’re stressed out or anytime you want to feel more relaxed:
SOAK IN THE TUB
A hot bath can work wonders to relieve stress and can also set the stage for a good night’s sleep. Fill a tub with scented bubble bath, oils, or salts. Bring a good book to read. If you’re in a more romantic mood, light some candles, too.