Meditation, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can decrease heart rate, lower blood pressure, diminish muscle tension and reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels. These activities restore balance to the body and lower your stress.

Deep breathing can lower your stress levels in a matter of seconds. To do this, place one hand over your belly, and silently count to five while you take a deep breath in lasting the entire count. Hold your breath to another count of five. Then breathe out to a count of five, noticing your hand falling with the out-breath and rising again with the next in-breath.

Meditation is another way to lower stress. Harvard professor, Dr. Herbert Benson, (see suggested reading box) recommends that you find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, sit or lie down in a comfortable position, and silently repeat a calming word or short phrase until you feel relaxed. Benson recommends words to repeat like one, or peace or anything you find personally meaningful. Remember, meditating requires patience and practice. When distracting thoughts pop up, just return your attention to the word or phrase you have chosen to say. Practice every day for 15 to 20 minutes.

Progressive muscle relaxation is a simple technique for tensing and relaxing muscles one muscle group at a time. You can start at the head and work down to the toes: Take a deep breath in (hold it) and tense all the muscles in your forehead, scalp and face, and clench your jaw, while you count to ten. Now release that tension, as you breathe out and focus on the relaxation that naturally follows. Concentrating on one area at a time, tense and relax your neck and shoulders, your lower back, your belly, your arms and chest, and finally your legs and feet.

Other outlets for reducing stress include yoga, journaling, guided imagery, being in the present moment, (mindfulness) reading a good book, listening to music, getting a massage, taking a hot bath, talking to a friend, laughing and exercise. (See Benson’s The Wellness Book for more information on these techniques.) Remember, most people try to ignore their stress symptoms. Don’t put up with aching muscles, tension headaches, recurrent colds, and stress-related digestive tract issues: Choose one or more of the above outlets and practice it for 20 minutes every day until these stress related issues go away.

Ideas for developing better Stress Outlets

  1. Save for stress.
    Think of stressful events like money spent and relaxing events like money saved. Consciously save for unexpectedly stressful periods in your life.
  2. Make big deposits.
    Activities that require 20-30 minutes, like exercise, meditation, or yoga, count as big deposits.
  3. Make little deposits.
    Laugh, read, listen to music or imagine yourself in a relaxing place.
  4. Try them all.
    Try every technique mentioned on this page, at least once. Then choose the ones that work best for you.
  5. Practice mindfulness.
    Think about what it is you’re doing while you’re doing it. For example, when taking a shower, think about how good the water feels running down your back, instead of what you are going to do later.

For Stress Management Apps see: