Sure, relaxing is a lovely thing to do, if you’ve got the time. And who has enough time to chill out?
You do. Yes, you!
Because here’s a little secret—you don’t have to go to a 90-minute yoga class or book a day at the spa to seriously calm yourself down. Relaxation isn’t something you have to wait for until “things calm down.” You can turn down the drama and intensity dials on your own life in just a couple minutes.
Don’t believe me? Here are 45 ways. Any one of these things can help you breathe easier, think more clearly and shake off some serious stress.
Try doing one of these—or string a few together in to 10 minutes of ahhh—the next time you’d otherwise mindlessly browse Instagram or check your email.
1. Look out the window. Looking at a brightly-lit screen that is always the same distance from your face is stressful for your eyes—and your mind. Give both a break by looking up and out a window. Gazing at something long-distance will shift your perspective, literally and metaphorically.
2. Walk. Being still in the same shape all day is stressful for the body. When you need to take a breather, stand up and walk around. Even a quick jaunt out to the car or the mailbox will refresh you.
3. Tree therapy. The Japanese have a name for the restorative powers of spending time among trees—shinrin-yoku. Go sit under a tree, or take a detour through a wooded area, or hug a tree!
4. Tend to plants. Nature is grounding. And grounding feels good. You may not be able to take a hike in two minutes, but you can water a plant, clear out the brown leaves, or head outside for a little bit of weeding.
5. Pet your dog or cat. Proven to lower blood pressure!
6. Allow yourself to enjoy your favorite chore. C’mon, there’s some part of housework that you like. Doing it, and savoring it, is restorative.
7. Take off your shoes. The ground is a source of energy and strength (imagine how hard it would be to live without it!). Connect to it by kicking off your shoes and placing both feet flat on the floor. It even works in an office building, but extra points for doing it outside.
8. Lie on the floor. You may not have time for a nap, but you can get a lot of the restorative benefits by simply lying on the floor—it lengthens the spine, creates more space in the torso for breathing, and feels great. Plus, getting down and then back up counts as movement.
Yoga Poses and Stretches
9. Standing dog. This is my favorite stretch, hands down. Put your hands on a counter or a desk and walk your feet back until your arms and spine are long and straight. You should be making the shape of an upside-down L. Great opener for the spine, torso, neck, and lungs! It feels so good you won’t care if people look at you funny.
10. Chair forward bend. Scoot to the edge of your chair, open your knees wide and drape your torso onto your thighs, letting your head and arms dangle down. (If someone asks what you’re doing, say you dropped your pen.)
11. Ring the gong. Stand with your feet shoulder distance apart, knees slightly bent, arms hanging loose. Start twisting your torso to the right and left, letting your arms float along with you. Look over each shoulder as you twist. Keep going for two minutes.
12. Spinal reset. Lie on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and knees resting on a pillow that you’ve placed between them. Let the back of your neck be long and feel your collarbones melting away from each other.
13. Invisible trampoline. While standing, let every joint be soft and begin bouncing up and down. You may build up to actual jumps, or you may not. Either way, imagine every landing shaking stress out of your body.
14. Child’s pose. Get on the floor with knees wide and bring your forehead to the floor. Either reach your arms out in front of you or keep them along your torso. Breathe and melt.
15. Lie on the floor with calves resting on coffee table. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. It gives your heart a break by making it easier for your body to return the blood in your lower legs and feet to your heart.
16. Downward dog. A downward dog a day keeps the doctor away. Do it right after you roll out of bed, or right before you roll in at night.
17. Joining the Valley acupressure point. Extend all the fingers of your left hand. Place your right thumb on the little mound of flesh that formed at the base of your left thumb, and your right index finger on the spot on your left palm directly underneath. Relax your left hand but keep pressing your right thumb and index finger in toward each other, massaging the base of your left thumb. This is a classic remedy for relieving headaches because it draws excess energy out of your head (where you’re probably over-thinking) and down into your hands. Repeat on the right hand.
18. Eyes Bright acupressure point. Take a break from staring at screens (a stress-reliever right there) and revive your eyes. Use your thumb and index finger of either hand to gently squeeze the very top of your nose, then press your fingers up so that they move into your brow bones. Close your eyes and breathe normally while you maintain the pressure for a minute or two.
19. Third Eye acupressure point. The Chinese and the yogis believe the point on your forehead directly between your brows and about a finger’s distance above the top of your brows is the seat of your intuition. Stimulate this point by gently pressing two fingertips into it, and watch your breath—and your thoughts—slow down and deepen.
20. Tennis ball massage. Lie on the floor with two tennis balls on either side of your lowest spine. Take a couple breaths, then roll your body down so the tennis balls move a couple inches up your back. Stay a few breaths, then roll them up a little higher. Work all the way up the base of the skull.
21. Foam roller. Spend two minutes rolling around on your foam roller at night and turn your TV-watching time into a chance to get noodly.
Breathing and Meditation
22. Belly breathing. Coax yourself into taking deeper breaths by sitting up straight and resting one hand on your belly—concentrate on breathing so that your hand moves away from your spine as you inhale and falls back in on the exhale. Take 10 breaths this way.
23. 4-7-8 breath. Inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of seven and exhale for eight. This breath will really clear stale air out of your lungs and pave the way for deeper breathing, even after you’re done.
24. Darth Vader Breath. Clear tension from your jaw, throat and neck by inhaling deeply through the nose, then exhale through the mouth so that you make a Darth Vader-esque whisper sound. As you exhale, allow your lower jaw to fall down away from the top jaw. Don’t force it open, just let it go with gravity. Repeat 10 times.
25. Inhale peace, exhale stress. As you inhale, imagine a peaceful color—like a Caribbean blue—flowing into your body. As you exhale, imagine a stressful color, like red or a gunky brown, flowing out. Repeat as necessary!
26. Mini mental vacation. Take two minutes to close your eyes and imagine that you are in your favorite place on earth. Let yourself soak up every detail—what you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste.
27. Count your exhales. My favorite basic meditation technique – sit up tall, close your eyes and count each exhale. When you get to 10, start again. Set a timer for 2 minutes so you don’t have to wonder how long it’s been.
28. Listening meditation. This is a great one for public places: open up your ears and focus on noticing every little sound that hits your ear drums. I also call this one “The Human Tape Recorder.”
Lying in Bed
29. Foot massage. Keep some moisturizing cream near your bed and use a dab or two to give yourself a good, old-fashioned foot rub before you drift off.
30. One hand on heart, other hand on solar plexus. Lying in bed, place one hand on your heart, the other on the soft spot of your upper abdomen, just below your rib cage. After a minute or two, move the top hand down to your low belly.
31. Cozy corpse pose. Lying on your back, put a pillow under your knees and one on top of your belly. Cover up to whatever extent you’d like and feel yourself being supported.
32. Hug your knees in to your chest. Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest. Give yourself a hug and open up that lower back.
33. Hot water bottle. Nothing says cozy like a hot water bottle either at your feet or on your belly.
In a Motionless Car (please don’t try while driving)
34. Lion’s pose. Inhale a big breath, tightening your jaw as you do and then as you exhale, open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue and roar. Repeat as necessary.
35. Shoulder shrugs. Raise your shoulders as close to your ears as you can, then let them drop. Repeat 5 times.
36. Tighten and release. Squeeze the steering real, clench your buttocks, tighten your quads, and then as you exhale let all that effort go.
37. Scream therapy. OK, this one you can do while driving. If you’ve got some anger or frustration to express, do it here. No one can hear you. Do it with the intention of getting it out of your body and into the air where it can dissipate.
38. Rolling oasis. Put some things in your car that make you feel calm—a pretty rock for the console, a soothing CD, a picture of a favorite view tucked in to your visor. Make your car into a spa on wheels.
Things to Keep in your Purse, Desk Drawer or Glove Box (or all three places)
39. Rescue Remedy. This homeopathic stress reliever uses flower essences to help you take the edge off.
40. Aromatherapy spray. Your natural grocery store likely has these, or you can make your own—distilled water mixed a few drops of your favorite essential oil that you can spray whenever you want to change your mindset.
41. Touchstone. Keep something from the natural world handy to help you stay grounded wherever you are—a pretty rock or shell is sturdy and portable.
42. Lavender essential oil. Famous for its stress-reducing properties, a whiff of lavender essential oil or a drop of it rubbed onto your wrist will produce a palpable sense of calm.
43. Peppermint essential oil. Peppermint is refreshing, physically and mentally. Smell it when you need to focus.
44. Gratitude notebook. Keep something handy where you can write down all the things that go right.
45. Natural chest rub. Mentholatum helps you breathe more deeply when you have a cold, but you don’t have to be stuffed up to benefit from it.