On a busy day when you need a bit of a breather, this beginner-friendly yoga sequence will help revive the spirit, as it helps relax muscles and release tension. The poses are still active, but there are no intense vinyasas or arm balances necessary. Instead, consider this a luxurious massage for your whole being.
In all honesty, we're heading into the most stressful time of the year . . . the holidays! While stress is unavoidable and completely normal, there are a few ways — 24, to be exact — that will help you remain calm, cool, and collected. Whether you choose to sweat it out or take 10 minutes for a good laugh, these stress busters are here to help. Now breathe.
- Inhale, exhale, and repeat: This will immediately slow things down and help you regroup.
- Make a list: Just jotting everything down will help you get organized and see things differently. As a list, your stresses may not look so bad after all!
- Step outside: Head outside for some fresh air — it will energize you.
- Turn off your phone: If emails and texts are the source of stress, turn off your phone (especially before bed).
- Do Downward Dog: A beginner-friendly, relaxing yoga sequence will relax muscles, release tension, and help get your head in a happier place. Just 20 minutes is all you need to revitalize your body through yoga.
- Jump on YouTube: Go online to watch a few funny (cat) videos. Laughter instantly reduces stress hormones.
- Reward yourself: If you've been working hard, treat yourself to a manicure, facial, or your favorite meal. You deserve it.
- Turn up the tunes: Research has shown that lying down and listening to music is as effective as massage.
- Take a nap: Sleep it off. A power nap will help you rest up and reset for the remainder of the day.
- Hit the gym: There's nothing a sweat session can't solve. If you're feeling anxious, raising your heart rate and taking time to zone out with exercise will relieve the stress, anxiety, and tension holding you back.
- Vent (to an extent): Call a friend who will simply listen. Talking it out with someone you trust may lead to a solution — or at the very least calm you down.
- Sip up: Sipping a cup of black tea is known to have a positive effect on stress hormone levels in the body, ultimately reducing blood of the stress hormone cortisol.
- Give yourself a mini massage: Acupressure is a great way to relieve stress. Try relaxing by adding pressure to the little mound of flesh where your thumb meets your palm (also known as the union valley). Hold for 30 seconds.
- Say thank you: Returning your focus back to what you are thankful for rather than your stresses will calm you down almost immediately.
- Reach for a (healthy) snack: Although a handful of M&M's tastes amazing, foods rich in vitamin C have been proven to help reduce both the physical and mental symptoms of stress.
- Stretch it out: Ever notice how everything seems tight when you're stressed? A few of your favorite stretches should have everything opening up in no time!
- Laugh: Laugh it out by looking at a few old photos or watching home videos. Smiles guaranteed.
- Organize: Take a few minutes to organize something manageable, like your desk. Once you see everything back in place, it will feel like a fresh start.
- Smile: Fake it till you make it with a smile. Studies show that smiling reduces stress almost instantly.
- Puppy love: Petting a dog or cat will instantly calm your nerves and lower your blood pressure.
- Practice perfect posture: Bad posture can lead to muscle tension, pain, and increased stress. Stand or sit up straight to feel taller and breathe better.
- Study up: No joke — reading these 15 facts will make you feel instantly happier.
- Take a coffee break: Stepping away for a coffee or tea fix will help you feel refreshed and more awake (of course!).
- Just pause: This may be the hardest "buster" to try, yet it is the most important. Whatever you do, don't lash out. Anger leads to regret and added stress.
It's been proven that exercise eases anxiety and depression, but some days require a little something extra. With the holiday season closer than we realize, there's no better time to take preemptive measures and make good habits that will help you keep calm and carry on — regardless of what the season brings.
You finally stand up after sitting all day at your desk, and your hips, lower back, and shoulders are screamingly tense and sore. Shake off the tightness and stress of the day by stepping onto a yoga mat, and do this relaxing yoga sequence to target all those oh-so-tight areas.
The peace and tranquility you experience during yoga can extend far beyond class — I'm a big believer in the benefits of yoga off the mat. Living yoga doesn't translate to an isolated existence on a private island or chanting on a picturesque mountaintop; you can easily incorporate aspects of your practice into your everyday life. Making these connections will help you feel happier and more connected through your day-to-day hustle.
Have a beginner's mind: Hitting the mat with no preconceived notions about what you can or can't accomplish is referred to (and revered) as the "beginner's mind." Approaching your practice with fresh perspective can be easily translated towards a ton of different areas in your life. Doing your best not to replay past experiences in the present will constantly surprise you.
Breathe more: The connection of movement to breath is central to the practice of yoga, but it's surprisingly easy to forget to breathe during the day. Making a point to check in with yourself will call attention to your daily relationship with your breath — you may realize you haven't really taken a good, deep breath yet. Even if you don't have the time to start your day off with a morning meditation, taking a handful of deep, full-belly breaths will get you excited for what's to come, instead of calculating all the stressful things on your list.
Turn inward: As you go deeper and deeper in your yoga, you'll stop checking out everyone around the room, and instead focus on what's going on with you. This was one of the most meaningful lessons I took off my mat. Instead of looking to other people or things for praise, validation, or solace, take the time to tune and turn in. It may be difficult at first to retrain your brain, but you'll be happy with what you find.
Keep reading for three more ways to live yoga off your mat.
Are you bogged down by stress? Here's the good news: you may have more control over the situation than you realize. The way you approach stressful circumstances can make all the difference in your mental health and general perspective. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Michael Friedman, dealing with stress boils down to two steps: "understanding and action."
Get real: Without awareness of what's stressing you out, many people come up with hypotheses that might not be related which just adds more stress to your frenzied state. Don't begin by placing blame on external factors; Dr. Friedman says to dig in and be honest about how you could be contributing to the experience of discomfort or agitation.
Start simple: It's not always complex emotional issues that lead to stress. Often, it relates to our most basic human needs. Did you sleep the night before? Have you eaten recently? If you typically exercise, did you exercise? Did you have too much caffeine, maybe? Sure, romantic relationships and familial obligations add to your stress levels, but sometimes the stressor is more simple than you realize.
Oh, domino: Everyone has had one of those mornings where one thing goes wrong, then another, and it feels like it just won't stop! According to Dr. Friedman, this "domino effect" results from people not taking that time to "understand what’s happening, stopping the train, and making the right intervention." If you truly take the time to breathe and check in with yourself, chances are, the fog will start to clear and you'll realize what's really grinding your gears.
Being aware of your stress is the first step, but it's not enough on its own. Learn more about the step that most people miss.
Curious why that one friend of yours is always happy? It's not just the luck of the draw. Science is discovering that diet, exercise, and daily habits play more of a role in day-to-day happiness than once believed. And that even after all these years, adults still have the power to change. Keep watching to see how you can become one of those people that always seems to have a smile of their face.
If you ever find yourself in the midst of a panicked or stressed moment, check in with your breathing. If it feels shallow or strained, try taking a deep breath — no, a really deep breath.
When discussing deep breathing, we're referring to breathing from your diaphragm (the large muscle right below your lungs). When you take a truly deep breath, you are expanding the lungs, pressing down the diaphragm, and causing your abdomen to expand as your lungs fill with air. This is not only wonderful for reducing tension, but research has shown that it may also help with diseases that inhibit breathing, like emphysema.
Diaphragmatic breathing rapidly and effectively calms you down and is an immediate stress buster. For athletes and runners, it's good to get in the habit of breathing this way, since it will help you take in lots of oxygen during physical activities, hopefully preventing dizziness and nauseousness.
If you're not sure you're breathing deep enough, find out with a helpful breathing exercise.
Being quiet and introspective can relieve stress, but depending on what transpired — and your personality — sometimes only loud music will suffice. The following playlist is full of upbeat classic and indie rock songs to help you breathe deep, let loose, and feel better sooner.
Be forewarned: this playlist does lend itself toward an impromptu dance party; it might feel silly at first, but dancing around the house always manages to get me out of a stressed-out funk. Subscribe to the Spotify playlist, and keep reading for the full list of songs.
You can't completely eliminate all stress from your life, but you can take certain steps to eliminate the stressors you have control over and bring a calm, clear mind to whatever issues arise. If your list of daily obligations and responsibilities have been feeling unusually heavy, bring these tips to your routine to let go of that weight.
In the Morning
- Don't snooze: The first mistake happens before you even get out of bed. Those extra 10 minutes of sleep make no significant difference in your level of energy throughout the day, but if you're running late and feeling harried, everything from making breakfast to getting your purse together seems strangely taxing. Wake up when you say you're going to wake up, and start your morning out with a calm mind.
- Get moving: It's been proven that in addition to all its other health benefits, exercise eases anxiety and depression. Heading to the gym or a yoga class may be all you need to rearrange your perspective and shed some positivity and let go of stress. If you tend to put off workouts until the end of the day (and then skip them), don't leave it up to chance. Kick off the day with a workout.
In the Afternoon
- Do one thing at a time: It seems simple and obvious, but this can change your whole day. Circumstances arise where you have to be flexible and shift gears, but you do have control over whether your phone is buzzing away on your desk all day or you're working on three open projects on your computer screen at once. When too much is happening at one time it can feel overwhelming and stressful. Ironically, when you do one thing at a time, you end up finishing sooner!
- Take a moment to laugh: Lightening up the mood soothes tension in your body and relieves your initially stressed-out response on the spot. But the long-term benefits have been proven too, since it's been found that laughter can improve your immune system. Call a close friend, check out a funny video, or read an article from your favorite writer. These mini breaks during the day bring you back to your responsibilities with a refreshed outlook.
Keep reading for the ways you can tame stress at night.