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Serenity Now: 103 Ways to De-Stress Your Life


No matter at what stage you are in life, stress is inevitable. But if you're constantly feeling frazzled or stressed, it may be time to evaluate your daily habits. Over time, chronic stress can have a negative impact on your physical and emotional health. Read these tips to learn more about reducing your stress level.

Health, Fitness, and Emotional Wellness

1. Do cardio. According to the American College of Medicine guidelines, healthy adults under the age of 65 should do moderately intense cardio five days a week.

2. Yoga, anyone? "Yoga helps you work your whole body and focus on breathing," says Jessica Rose Cohn, graduate student at Rowan University.

3. Scale to new heights. Sophomore Tony Wang at the University of Pennsylvania loves to rock climb. "When I start climbing, everything else melts away," says Wang.

4. Work out. "Exercise increases serotonin and endorphin production," says Beth Shaw, author of Yoga Fit. "This can help students reduce their stress level."

5. Go to the gym on a regular basis. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, 30 minutes of exercise a day can prevent weight gain and offer maximum health benefits.

6. Moderate your alcohol use. That one's easy!

7. Visualize achieving your goal. "Visualizing helps slow you down," says Jeff Davidson, author of Simpler Living.

8. Maintain good posture. "Sit up in your chair with a tall spine," says Gavin McKay, fitness instructor at Philadelphia-based Fusion Cross Training. "No lying down or slumping back in your chair."

9. Go for a walk. "Clear your mind by using walking meditation," says Todd Scott, fitness instructor at Platoon Fitness,Bryn Mawr, Pa. "As you findyourselfdrifting back toward little details, let it pass," says Scott.

10. Talk out your feelings. Venting your concerns can do wonders for the stressed-out soul.

11. Ask for help. Take advantage of your college or employee health center, which normally offers a number of free or low-cost sessions with a therapist.

12. Don't multitask. "If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or stressed, allow yourself to concentrate on the task at hand," says Davidson.

13. Take a mental vacation. Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D. who practices in Wexford, Penn. recommends taking a break by allowing your mind to drift towards a place you'd like to visit.

14. Attempt pilates. "I love doing Pilates videos in the privacy of my own room, or at a studio," says Ariela Rose, a Pilates Group Fitness Leader at Vigor Works in Philadelphia.

15. Hang out with friends. "I like to de-stress by hanging out with my friends in their dorms," says Ali Greenman, a senior studying human communications at Shippensburg University, Shippensburg, PA.

16. Pet an animal. A study by the Journal of American College Health found that a pet therapy program could temporarily fill the absence of previous support systems.

17. Volunteer. Doing something for someone else can improve your self-esteem and impact someone else's life.

18. Take frequent breaks. "You work better when you're refreshed," says Jeannette Samanen, Ph.D. who practices in Philadelphia

19. Eliminate background distractions. Davidson recommends turning off electronic devices when you're working to help reduce distractions.

20. Slow down. Take time out for yourself. The work will still be there when you get back.

21. Stop smoking. Smoking can have an adverse effect on your health.

22. Even happy events can be stressful. Holidays can be nerve-racking. Reduce anxiety by planning for the holiday weeks in advance.

23. Join a support group. There's no shame in asking for extra help.

24. Work to resolve conflicts with other people. Learn how to communicate more clearly with people whose personality traits differ from yours.

Build Your Relationship

25. Go on a date. "Sharing new experiences together can give you both an adrenaline rush, which in turn can raise your dopamine levels," says Stephanie Auteri, sex columnist at The Frisky.com and assistant editor at YourTango.com.

26. Share a new experience. "It can be great for couples to try new things," says Auteri. Some ideas: Plan a trip together, Take dance lessons, or Visit an amusement park.

27. Try a massage. Auteri recommends using massage oils or massage candles to relieve tension.

28. Have sex. "Sex can relieve tension and release endorphins and oxytocin," says Auteri.

29. Go hang gliding. "It may seem counterintuitive to do something crazy in order to de-stress, but the rush you'll get will feel fantastic," says Auteri.

Find Your Inner Peace

30. Avoid excessive competition. According to Mental Health America, excessive competition adds emotional and physical stress. Physical and emotional stress can impact your mental health and affect your ability to focus.

31. Go easy on criticism. Your worst enemy is you.

32. Manage your anger. Channel your anger and learn to let go.

33. Be honest with colleagues. When something is on your mind, be open about it and try to work things out as a team.

34. Talk it out with a loved one.Sometimes a sympathetic ear may be all you need.

35. Recognize what's causing your stress. Be aware of external and internal stressors. De-Clutter, Unwind

36. Create your own space. "Have a space that can ease you through the tough times and help you make the most of the good ones," says Christine Eisner, author of Comfort Living: A Back-to-Basics Guide to a More Balanced Lifestyle.

37. Put family and friends close. "Download some photos of family, friends, and favorite places," says Eisner. Such mementos are perfect for instant, anywhere pick-me-ups.

38. Grab a throw pillow. "There's nothing like being able to settle into a comfy spot when you need a soft place to land after a rough day," says Eisner.

39. Get organized. "Try to keep your belongings in the same place to reduce clutter," says Eisner.

40. Create a to-do list. It can help you stay on track with your daily goals.

41. Say goodbye to guilt. Feel like you're taking on too much? "Don't overload yourself with activities," says Davidson.

42. Find a secure place by the door or entry to hang or hold your keys. This can help you keep track of your belongings on a daily basis.

43. Clean off your desk. Piles of papers and unfinished projects can be a breeding ground for chaos. Healthy Heart

44. Sew, knit or crochet. A recent study shows that women who sew experience a drop in heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate.

45. Start an art project. Art can be a great tool for stress reduction.

46. Take up a hobby. Having a hobby can help improve your physical and emotional health.

47. Play cards or board games. These activities can help reduce stress by shifting attention away from what's bugging you.

Nod Off

48. Use the bedroom for sleep. Try to avoid reading or doing crossword puzzles in bed.

49. Establish a regular sleep schedule. Sleep is essential for a person's health and wellbeing, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

50. Avoid naps, particularly in the later afternoon or evening. Naps can train your body into thinking it's time for bed.

51. Create a sleep environment that is dark, cool, and comfortable. The more cave-like, the better!

52. Stay away from bright lights. Bright lights help your body feel more adjusted and awake, no matter what time it may be.

53. Soak in a hot bath. Taking a hot bath can reduce muscle spasms, and relieve tension in the body.

54. Avoid activities that arouse the brain. Avoid the television or computer to help your body fall asleep naturally.

Try a New Sport

56. Go mountain climbing. "Connect with the outdoors," says Davidson.

57. Unplug, and go hiking. Davidson recommends leaving the cell phone in the car while you exercise.

58. Join a sport team. Davidson recommends joining a team that can help you connect with others and stay in shape.

59. Go long-board surfing. "It's pretty relaxing when you ride a wave," says Jonathan Shih, a junior at University of Berkeley. "It's fun to try out new tricks with my friends." Take Control of Your Finances

60. Create a spending plan for each semester. "When you know whatyou'respending, you'll feel more in control," says Shay Olivarria, author of 10 Things College Students NeedtoKnow About Money.

61. Start an emergency fund. "Keep putting money away until you have $500 in a money market account," says Olivarria.

62. Track your spending. "Know how much money you have," says Olivarria.

63. Go easy with the credit card. Don't spend money you don't have.

64. Make minimum payments. Stay on track by paying your bills as soon as they arrive.

65. Review your living expenses. Do you know how much you're spending? Track your monthly purchases with sites like Mint.com, which can help you manage your budget.

66. Identify your financial stressors. According to the American Psychological Association, writing down ways to reduce stress can help you manage your finances.

67. Ask for professional support. If you're stuck in a financial bind and you can't get out, consult a financial counselor. Reducing debt will go a long way to reducing your stress level.

68. Pause but don't panic. No matter what's bugging you, it's important to remain calm and focused. Pamper Yourself

69. Enjoy a facial. "Facials are a great way to relax and help the body get rid of toxins," says Cecilia Wong, owner of the New York-based Soie Aroma Spa. "When doing these treatments, I find that lavender, rose oil, and sandalwood have especially effective calming powers."

71. Give yourself the "spa" treatment. "A DIY sugar scrub can be made using olive oil, brown sugar, and a few drops of essential oils such as peppermint or lavender," says Julia Martin, spa owner at Nite Spa, Venice Beach, Calif.

72. Try some aromatherapy. "Aromatherapy can provide a calming sensation," says Martin. "Try lavender, geranium, or chamomile to reduce anxiety."

73. Beautify yourself. "When you put on a face mask, you are committing to spending some time alone," says Wong. "This can help bring balance."

74. Make a homemade face mask. It's easy to make your own face masks by using commonplace ingredients such as oatmeal, plain yogurt, and honey, says Wong. Recipe: Mix together 1 tablespoon honey, 1 egg yolk, 1/2 teaspoon almond oil and 1 tablespoon yogurt.

75. Invest in a "me" day. "I focus on what I need," says Dara Adeeyo, a senior at Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY. "I love to shop, so I'll go to the grocery store and stock up on things I need."

76. Get a pedicure. "Pedicures are great," says Adeeyo. "It can just be you, a good book, and the beautician."

77. Prioritize your health. "Prioritizing time for sleep and healthy eating helps you improve academically and maintain joy in your life," saysMaria Pascuccui, founder of CampusCalm.com

78. Relax with a reflexology or scalp massage. "A scalp massage can reduce tension," says Wong.

79. Tea for two. "A 'tea' date with a friend can help ease the load off school," says Martin.

The Power of Music

80. Crank up the tunes. "If you find listening to music helps you handle stress, do it on a regular basis," says Pascucci.

81. Make a playlist of relaxing music. "Depending upon your mood, you can alter the list," says Eisner.

82. Make some music of your own. "Creatingmusicis a wonderful way to deal with the pent-up energy and frustration that might be the cause of stress," says David Marcus, music therapist at Nordoff-Robbins Center forMusicTherapyat New York University. "Using instruments such as drums and cymbals, or using the voice to sing, chant, or shout can help release stressful energy that is otherwise blocked."

83. Addressing your issues. "Musiccan be used to address the underlying issues that might be the cause of ongoing or chronic stress, " says Marcus.

Squash Stress

84. Slow down. "Right in the middle of a hectic day, schedule five minutestojust pause and relax," says Dr. Roberta Lee, author ofThe SuperStress Solution. "This can break thestresscycle," says Lee.

85. Avoid too much caffeine. "Daily consumption of 300 mg or more of caffeine can magnify anxiety andstress,"says Lee.

86. Steer clear of being a mind reader. "Don't assume you know what others think without sufficient knowledge," says Lombardo.

87. Keep a journal. "Write down three things that you were grateful for during the day," says Donald Altman, author of The Mindfulness Code.

88. Read a good book. "I love going to a place where there is absolute silence," says Jessica Herring, a junior at Temple University. "I can sit and read for a long time."

89. Watch your brain. "Your thinking patterns can contribute to stress," says Lombardo.

90. Use positive self-talk. "You will make mistakes," says Lombardo. "Learn from them and move on."

91. Watch how you breathe. Altman recommends mindful breathing to help overcome anxiety. How it works: Take a deep breath from your diaphragm. Inhale slowly after three seconds, and then exhale.

92. Meditate. According to Lombardo, meditation can help relieve anxiety and improve mood.

93. Put a smile on your face. Scientific studies have suggested that smiling can put you in a happier mood.

94. Get a proper night's rest. A study from the Journal of Research on Adolescence found that college students in their first semester with too little sleep may put students in a bad mood.

95. Laughter is the best medicine. According to a 2007 study, laughter led to a decreased heart and respiratory rate, which can help your body relax and soothe tension.

Eat Right

96. Eat a balanced breakfast. "Fuel your body with some protein and whole grain foods," says Lee.

97. Hungry? Don't reach for that Snickers Bar. "Fatty foods and processed products can make you feel better in the short-term, but not in the long-term," says Amy Regina, R.D.

98. Eat fish. Studies have shown that fish can improve mental health and reduce signs of depression.

99. Get your dairy. Single servings of dairy like low-fat string cheese or cottage cheese, can provide a balanced diet.

100. Eat some broccoli. Broccoli is a folic acid food, which can help reduce blood pressure and calm your nerves.

101. Think in color. Kati Mora, RD recommends "coloring" your plate with three foods of a different shade. "By choosing a variety of colors at each meal you will be providing your body with a wider variety of nutrients it needs," says Mora.

102. Drink your water. "It's easy to mistake thirst for hunger and grab a high calorie snack instead of getting a drink," says Mora. "Stay on top of your healthy by getting your daily H20."

103. Treat Yourself. Flavonoids in cocoa can help relax your body's blood vessels, reducing blood pressure, says a study at The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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