10 Stressbusters

Looking for ways to de-stress? Try these research-based ways to relax.

1. Give your partner a hug every day before work
. It’s so simple, yet so often overlooked when you’re trying to make your lunch, find your shoes and keys, and get on the highway before rush hour. Research from the University of North Carolinahow to reduce stress at Chapel Hill reveals that the few seconds it takes to hug your partner can help you remain calm as chaos unfolds around you.

2. Buy yourself flowers once a week and display them prominently on your desk
. Women who sat near a bouquet of flowers were more relaxed during a typing assignment than women who didn’t have flowers, according to a study of 90 women completed at Kansas State University. If buying flowers every week doesn't fit in your budget, get a single rose or daisy, or pick some wildflowers. You can also cut plants from your own garden and put them in a pretty bud vase.

3. When you’re ready to rip out your hair, phone a friend instead.
People with strong social ties live longer. A close romantic partner, friends and family members help prevent stress hormones from triggering high blood pressure and other health complications. When you get your friend on the phone, vent.

4. Frame your children’s or grandchildren’s pictures and use them to decorate your office walls.
Studies find that viewing works of art – and yes, children’s pictures are art – lowers stress hormones. If you don’t want to hang up finger-painted stick figures, buy a few cheap posters. You can find master works of art, calming landscapes, and more. 

5. Relax with a cup of basil tea.
Thought to help induce a state of calm, this herb is easy to grow in a container garden and one of the easiest fresh herbs to find at your grocery store. Place three washed fresh basil leaves in a cup of hot water. Steep for 10 minutes, then sip.

6. Go somewhere blue or green
. Cool colors, such as light blues and greens, help people to relax, feel calm and relieve stress. When you’re at the end of your wits, sit in a room where you can surround yourself with cool colors or find a bench in a garden. Keeping growing things in your home or office can make small doses of this benefit available to you all the time.

7. Have a really good cry.
Studies find that crying boosts the immune system and reduces levels of stress hormones.

8. Schedule six to eight hours of free time each week.
Use the time to daydream, read a novel, take a nap, see a movie or relax in whatever way feels best to you. This is your time, guard it as closely as you do your ATM pin number.

9. Take up needlepoint.
Research shows that repetitive tasks such as needlepoint and crochet can reduce stress just as effectively as meditation or yoga.

10. Put notes on your bathroom mirror, your car dashboard or your computer that say “Slow down” and “What’s your rush?”
Your brain takes many cues from your body and, sometimes, it misinterprets the cues. Slowing everything down – walking instead of running, listening to slow music, speaking more slowly than normal – will trick your brain into calming down your stress level, too.

Published 10/2008, Updated August 2012