ON THE BALL: Exercise helps the brain release feel-good endorphins.
"There are little things you can do for yourself every day to live a less stressful life," says Catherine Fisher Collins, associate professor of community and human services at New York's Empire State College. Stress saps your energy and also leads to poor decisions, like driving too fast or drinking too much. But you don't have to succumb to it. So when life's working your last nerve, try one of these five tips for instant calm:
1. Deep Breathing: Close your eyes, take some deep breaths and try to relax your mind and body. It's a quick way to restore calm. "It helps because you're focusing on your breath and taking your mind off whatever stressful event," explains Collins.
2. Positive Thinking: By repeating encouraging affirmations (phrases you'd like to believe about yourself and your life) you can reprogram yourself to see things in a more positive light, says Elizabeth Scott, a family therapist and life coach based in Los Angeles. Instead of saying, 'I don't want to feel stressed,' say, 'I'm feeling peaceful.'
3. Soothing Tunes: Research shows that listening to music can reduce tension, slow breathing, and lower your blood pressure. Songs with a slow, meditative tempo were found practically effective in one study printed in the British Medical Journal publication Heart in 2005.
4. Massage Therapy: With the intense demand and pull we put on our bodies -- lugging around laptops, kids, heavy grocery bags -- sometimes we just need to have our muscles loosened, says Nmaku Onyewu, a certified US-based massage therapist. Massage is helpful for reducing anxiety, alleviating pain, and even enhancing immune function. In fact, some studies suggest that massage releases endorphins, those brain chemicals that weaken pain and elevate mood.
5. Move Those Bones: We all know exercise can greatly improve our health by keeping our weight in check and by strengthening our cardiovascular system when we do it most days for at least half-an-hour at a time. But exercise can also eliminate stress and help the brain release feel-good endorphins. As it turns out, moving about may be all the mellowing out you need right now.