3.WHEN YOU HAVE ONLY 5 MINUTES Try a repeat performance. Doing almost any routine, repetitive activity (like vacuuming, shredding paper or knitting), or reciting a word that represents how you wish you felt (such as calm) is a quick way to achieve a Zen-like state. Studies show the effects lower blood pressure and slower heart rate and breathing, and decreased muscle tension are the result of the relaxation response, says Herbert Benson, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Harvard University and Shape advisory board member. The crucial elements are to focus on a word, your breathing or a movement and to bring your attention back to your task if your mind wanders or negative thoughts intrude. Or look to your religion for a mantra:A recent study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that repeating phrases with spiritual meanings helped participants cope with a range of problems, from anxiety to insomnia.
4.IN THE BATHROOM Wash your hands. When youre under pressure, youre more susceptible to cold viruses and other germs because your immune system is suppressed (see Your Body, Under Stress, page 109). Hand washing is your best defense. Lather up with soap and warm water for 1020 seconds, or the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday.
5.IN YOUR CAR Turn on some tunes. According to a recent study published in the British journal Heart, slow or meditative music (such as Beethovens Symphony No. 9) is a proven stress buster, so set your dial to a soothing station during your commute. And, if youre stuck in a traffic jam, sneak in this quick exercise from Pelletier: Grab your steering wheel and clench the muscles in your fingers, arms, shoulders and back. Do this until your muscles begin to tremble (about 45 seconds), then release. Youll produce a wave of relief in your upper neck and arms all the way down to your fingers, Pelletier says. Just make sure your foots on the brake when you let go of the wheel!
6. ON WEEKEND ERRANDS Use the ATM once. Limiting your cash withdrawals to once a week is a quick, easy way to monitor your spending habits, says Deborah Fowles, author of The Everything Personal Finance in Your 20s & 30s Book (Adams Media, 2003). Multiple trips to the ATM make it harder to track your money, Fowles says. If you put yourself on an allowance and pay cash for everything, youre more aware of what youre spending and more careful about what you buy.
And while thinking about your finances may be enough to send you over the edge, it turns out that getting them under control eases tension in the long run. (Money and work tied for rst place as the leading sources of stress, according to the APA survey.)
When you have a weekend afternoon free, do Fowles No. 1 take-control move: Write everything down, so you can see exactly where you stand financially what you owe, the amount of interest, your monthly income, your budget. Not facing what youre up against creates even more stress, because its always in the back of your mind, Fowles says. But once you have the information down, you can begin setting concrete goals using real figures. And taking action will make you feel so much better.