Seven days to a stress-free you

A week's worth of tips to help you find your inner calm


Day 1: Write it out
Use a stress journal to scribble down all the things keeping you up at night. Boss doesn’t appreciate you? Not enough time with family? Computer crashed in the middle of writing a report? Big or small, write them all down. Just getting your stressors on paper will put you on the path to feeling better.
TRY IT NOW: Take 10 minutes and jot down today’s problems—and possible solutions.

Day 2: Stretch
Everyone can benefit from a calming stretch. Even something as simple as standing up from your chair and rolling your neck is enough to un-stick your brain and give your body a boost.
TRY IT NOW: Extend your arms in front of you to stretch out your back for five seconds, then reach behind you to stretch out your chest for another five.

Day 3: Get moving
Want to alleviate anxiety? Add activity to your day. It definitely works, says a 2010 study that examined how exercise helped Swiss police officers and emergency response workers—those most at risk for chronic stress exposure—deal with their high-pressure jobs. Even better news: Moderate exercise can be more effective than high-intensity workouts.
TRY IT NOW: Commit to some form of physical activity at least three times a week, even if it’s only a 30-minute walk. Schedule it as you would any other appointment so you’re more likely to do it.

Day 4: Start with what you love
The next time you’re about to work on a project you hate, stop. Don’t do it. Work on something you like doing instead, and you’ll not only build momentum, you’ll also put yourself in a better mood. Just remember, switching gears works only if you immediately follow up the pleasure project with the one that typically gives you pain.
TRY IT NOW: Hate cleaning the tub, but love making dinner? Prep the food, then scrub the tub right away. Reward yourself with a lovely homemade meal.

Day 5: Get tense — on purpose
Bring awareness to your body by breathing in through your nose and tensing your muscles, says Kenford Nedd, author of Power over Stress and director of the International Stress Control Centre in Vancouver. Then release and relax, and something almost magical will happen. “We know as physiologists that when you let go, the tension level does not go back down to where it was before. It actually goes down far beyond that,” he says.
TRY IT NOW: Completely tense your whole body for 10 seconds, or choose just one area to clench up. Then relax. Notice how much better you feel?

Day 6: Let the sun in
Get a little illumination and your body will thank you. Studies show exposure to natural light can boost your mood, increase productivity and concentration, and help combat certain conditions such as seasonal affective disorder.  
TRY IT NOW: Fling open your curtains this morning and take in the sun. Eat breakfast beside the window, sit on the porch to read the paper or head out to the garden and pick your early-fall harvest.

Day 7: Ask for a hug
When stress is about to make you snap, a tight squeeze might make you feel better. Researchers examined women before and after they received warm embraces from their spouses and found a post-hug drop in the women’s blood pressure and heart rates.
TRY IT NOW: Don’t wait until you’re stressed to the max; embrace your partner, sister or mom or a girlfriend right now.