We stress about work, about bills, about love (or our lack thereof).
We stress about things we can control and those things we cannot. Stress, it seems, is a natural part of human life—but it doesn't have to run your life. It doesn't need to be enduring. We don't have to just sit back and take it.
When you feel stress creeping into your life, there are steps you can take to come back to normal, to equilibrium, to peace. And, as nice as it would be to get a massage once a week, it might not be feasible for you.
Here are five ways you can de-stress for free:
1. Socialize mindfully.
Depending on your nature (extroverted, introverted, or somewhere in between), socializing can cause or reduce stress to varying degrees. But most agree that spending time with the right people is an energizing, rejuvenating experience. If you fill your time and your mind with the company and conversation of people who nourish rather than drain you, you're likely to feel better after seeing them. So take a careful look at your calendar and really consider what you're saying "yes" to when you accept that next dinner invite.
2. Visualize frequently.
Visualization is a powerful process. When in a state of stress, try visualizing the way you'd rather feel: Perhaps you'd like to feel free, encouraged, surrendering, peaceful? Visualize the state you desire, and watch as your mind and body begin to move into that state now. Of course, visualizing won't erase that looming deadline or bring your soul mate to your doorstep (or maybe it will, who knows?), but it will change your state—mentally, physically, emotionally—today so that you can start experiencing the feelings you'd rather have instead.
3. Breathe deeply.
It always comes back to the breath, doesn't it? Your breath is your saving grace—literally. It keeps you alive! But so often we restrict it, even if unconsciously. When we're stressed or nervous or anxious, we hold our breath or breathe in short, shallow bursts. Make a mental note to yourself to breathe when you find yourself feeling stressed. Stop what you're doing and breathe deeply—in through your nose, out through your mouth—for as long as you need to. Not only will you find that your heart rate slows and the chatter of your mind tends to cease, you'll also likely find greater clarity around whatever was vexing you and a newfound motivation to solve your stressors.
4. Exercise daily.
Without movement, stress lingers in the body. It hangs around far longer than it needs to—unless you take the (physical) steps to clear it out of your body. The next time you're stressed, try going for a run or doing some yoga or signing up for a spin class or simply taking a walk around the block. When you get your body moving, the stress can move through you, too. Even better, make a daily habit of exercise so that stress never has the opportunity to stick around longer than necessary.
5. Bathe indulgently.
And when all else fails (though I promise the tips above won't!), treat yourself. When the stress won't abate, allow yourself the time and space to luxuriate. You don't need to head to the fanciest spa—though you're welcome to! You can create a stress-free, relaxed, indulgent experience right from the comfort of your own bathtub. Water is healing and restorative, too. Just by spending some time submerged in the bath, you'll come out feeling cleaner and fresher in body, mind, and spirit.
Danielle Dowling, Psy.D. is a doctor of psychology and life coach, helping ambitious, driven women achieve the financial, spiritual, and lifestyle abundance they desire and deserve. She holds a bachelor's in business from American University, and her master's and doctor of psychology degree from Ryokan College.
Dowling has spent years helping people live richer, more joyful lives, and she has seen firsthand the nearly magical pairing of psychology and life coaching. Hands down, it’s the best way to bring people into their happiest selves.