1. BREATHE: how many times are you stuck in traffic but feel like you're stuck inside of yourself? Just because we're stuck in an immobile vehicle doesn't make us trapped in choices. Deep belly breathing is wonderful in so many ways...from bringing down blood pressure, to even relieving constipation, massaging the internal organs, re-oxygenating the brain. You can do this as you're typing at your desk, stuck in rush hour, or as you're trying to dose off.
2. MEDITATE: it's quoted that the people who have the most trouble meditating are exactly the ones who should be doing. Meditation is actually known to slow down brain waves and calms your whole system, and when combined with meditation on the breath, is one of the quickest ways to reduce stress. Try it just for 5 minutes a day before starting your day (to center) or before sleep (to relax).
3. PROGRESSIVE RELAXATION: Many people have tried this over the years, and there's a few ways to do it. It's relatively easy, and the only thing keeping you from receiving the benefits are actually doing the exercise. Here's one version of many ways to do this: Lay down on a comfortable soft surface. Close your eyes, begin to imagine your feet. Flex your feet and hold that flex for 5 seconds. Then completely relax them. Imagine your knees and thighs, and flex them for 5 seconds, then relax. Work your way up to your hips, bottom, belly, chest, shoulders, arms, face, hands. And then just continue to linger in the final stage of relaxation and enjoy it.
4. PERCEIVE NO THREAT: This one is the most rewarding, the quickest to cure, and the hardest to do for some people. Stress is in its very essence, the flight or fight response. Whether it's an argument or the dry-cleaning not being done on time, your body perceives that there's a threat - to livelihood, body, family, health, anything. What if we were to actively view the situation differently? That perhaps being late 5 minutes to leave home might mean missing an accident. Or maybe a disagreeable moment with someone might be a way to learn about them and actually become closer to them, once you find out what they need (and once they find out what you need). Perceive it differently, and that may be your quickest ticket to getting rid of stress.
5. BUILD IN TIME FOR A BREAK: are you a travel eater? Eating in the car, in the train, in the subway? First off, how do we ever think that this is a respectable way to treat your body? Would you allow your child to eat standing, or walking, or driving? Somehow, the lines of accountability are vague for us, as adults, and we allow our bodies to keep going, nonstop, no matter what. And then we take a pill for indigestion since we haven't noticed we inhaled our food, and included big breaths of air as we did so. This is not indicative of a TUMS deficiency. This is a lack of quality time with your needs being met. Take your lunch break. Stop reading, stop watching TV and just eat. And just talk to your spouse. And just sleep. Just do exactly what you're doing, at least long enough for you to meet your immediate needs.
6. EXERCISE: part of the reason we have stress is because we let it build up and we never let it have the chance to escape us...to vent...to let it all out. Exercise does that for us. Exercise builds up the intensity of our body's strength, and then in one fell swoop, nourishes it with flowing blood, flowing lymph, oxygenation, and increased brain activity. After you vent through it, it allows you to relax. Find the time to do something every day, however little, to allow for this to happen. It will thank you many times over and add years to your life.
7. STEADY SLEEP: if you don't sleep well, the rest of your day doesn't go well either. Your body needs to recuperate and when we don't give it that chance, then it rebels during our waking state. Shut off electronics before bed, read a good book (perhaps no horror before bed), place some lavender drops on your pillow, shut the blinds. Take some chamomile or valerian root tea every so often if you need a herbal helper. And get the zz's you deserve.
8. EAT VIBRANT FOOD: eating food that's dead leaves our bodies feeling...well...dead. Eating vibrant food that's still growing (peppers, bananas) and that have a shelf life are so much more invigorating than dead food in a box or a can. Eating close to the source is "home" for the body - it recognizes it! Eating far from "home" means that the body has to work that much harder to assimilate the little nutrients found within it. Again, give your body a break. Eat real food.
9. MAKE YOURSELF COUNT: if you're always depriving yourself of something (a fun night out, a new book, even a healthy raw dessert) your mind and body will feel under stress, suffocated, hurt. Give in a little, once in a while. Work on the 90/10 rule, where you follow a straight path 90% of the time and then occasionally, you have a little treat. Hug a little longer. Take a full hour lunch (when did we last do that?). Go out and walk and then come back to your project, so that you can actually see the light of day.
10. FIND SOMETHING TO LOVE: a partner, a puppy, and a new hobby. Fill your life with the things that bring a smile to your face. Life isn't all about getting things done. It's about experiencing things, loving things, having relationships with everything around you. If you're a Type A, of course, going on an outing or a date isn't practical, but it's important. See that movie, start the vision board, and fill your life (and sights) with things that matter and that inspire you. And watch the stress pour away.