Work is driving you nuts, the bills are piling up, the grass is gnarly enough to swallow your dog, and your youngest child just reminded you that he must build a multimedia recreation of the Battle of Trenton—by tomorrow. Of course, you’re stressed. But you can tame all that tension using your five senses. Here’s how:
Hug it out! Embracing others—whether it’s your kid, your dog, your partner, or your friend—releases the feel-good chemical oxytocin, and it lowers cortisol (the hormone that surges when we’re under pressure).
Surrounding yourself with nature and green spaces has been shown to help lower stress hormones. Find 20 minutes to sit in the sun, take a walk in the park, or relax on the porch and soak up your natural surroundings. That’s all you need to reap the benefits. And while you’re out there, focus on your breathing and the beauty around you—and feel those stress levels drop.
There’s a reason yoga studios and spas play music: It’s relaxing. But slow or soothing varieties of music aren’t the only kinds that can help you unwind. The next time you’re feeling tense, crank up your favorite tunes. It doesn’t matter if it’s Pharrell’s “Happy,” a Michael Jackson classic, or an old-school rock jam: Music absorbs our attention, allowing our minds to wander away from stress and giving our bodies a chance to relax.
The part of your brain that tackles stress is very close to the one that processes odors. So if you take a whiff of a scent you enjoy, it’s likely to lower your heart rate and help you calm down. Citrus, peppermint, lavender, and cinnamon are known soothers, but you may find that comforting scents like baked cookies or freshly cut grass have the same effect.
Here’s some really good news: Chocolate has been shown to lower stress. That’s right, your favorite indulgence is actually a powerful tension tamer. Dark chocolate is your best option, and you don’t need to eat a lot to gain the benefits. A few small squares a day can keep the stress hormones away.