Stress Relief in Hot Summer Day
Summer used to signal a time for a well-deserved reprieve from life’s rigors. Par for the season: lazy afternoons at the beach, abbreviated workdays, and long breaks away from the daily grind. This year, though, you might be working extra hours and staying closer to home to save some cash. But there are still plenty ways to relax and rejuvenate.
The key is to learn how to “disengage” from daily stress. “When you’re taking fewer days off, it’s especially important to find ways to unwind during the downtime you do have,” says Katherine Muller, Psy. D., director of the cognitive behavior therapy program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
Squashing stress isn’t just good for your sanity—it’s good for your physical health. Stress has been linked to every major illness in the U. S., including heart disease, cancer, and depression.
Going nonstop day in and day out takes a toll on the entire body, says Dov Eden, Ph. D., one of the world’s leading vacation researchers and a professor at Tel Aviv University. But, Eden says, learning to apply a vacation mentality to your daily life can put you back on your game.
These tips will help you reach a state of blissful detachment, no matter where you are or how many days off you can swing.
Unplug Yourself from the Office
Experts say we’ve become so obsessed with always being on that we’ve lost the ability to turn ourselves off. And that can pile on stress.
More than a third of the participants in a recent study, published in the journal Heart, felt frazzled by a sense of obligation to respond immediately to their constant barrage of e-mails. Women also feel more pressure to hit REPLY. But “just because you own a PDA doesn’t mean it has to be on all the time,” Muller says. “Each night, block 30 minutes for e-mail. When the time’s up, turn off the device and put it out of sight.”
Just don’t schedule your catch-up session right before bed. “Hitting the sack with work on your brain makes it tough to transition into sleep mode, so put the kibosh on all business-related correspondence at least an hour before turning in,” she says.
Create a Chill-Out Routine
In the same way a pre-bedtime ritual puts you in the mood for sleep, a pre-downtime routine helps you get in the mood for relaxation.
As soon as you arrive home, shed whatever reminds you of work: stash your bag out of sight and kick off your heels. “Changing your outfit can change your mindset instantly,” Muller says.
Next, do something that offers a change of pace, recommends Susan J. Nathan, Ph. D., a health psychologist in Laguna Hills, California. “If you’re a desk drone, head outside for a run or a swim; if you’re on your feet all day, ease into a warm bath. Soon you’ll feel yourself mentally drifting away from what stresses you out.”
Take It Outside
Mother Nature may be the ultimate antidepressant. Exposure to natural light can increase levels of the mood-lifting chemical serotonin, says NYU psychologist Robert Reiner, Ph. D.
Research also shows that spending time outdoors is hugely important in preventing depression. “The expansive space, colors, and fresh air can all help your brain disengage,” Nathan says.
She recommends trading your gym routine for outdoor exercise or eating lunch al fresco: “Try to notice every detail using all your senses—the shapes in the clouds, the taste of your lemonade, the warm breeze on your back.”
Find a Balance Between Rest and Activity
When the weekend finally arrives, sometimes you’re so determined to have fun that you try to cram in 147 things before Monday.
But a jam-packed weekend can actually leave you more exhausted and stressed. “Even enjoyable activities can wear you out if you shoehorn too many into one weekend,” Muller says.
She recommends carving out a half-hour each day just to chill. Try using the time to read (a study from England’s University of Sussex found that reading can slash stress by 68 percent), listen to music (61 percent), or sip a cup of tea (54 percent).
Don’t flip on the tube unless there’s a show you really want to see. “Even though watching TV seems like a great way to zone out, mindless surfing actually stimulates your nervous system and thwarts your ability to relax,” Nathan says.
Plan Long Weekends
If you can’t afford a full week away from work, put in for a few Mondays or Fridays instead. Experts say that taking mini-vacations can sufficiently recharge your batteries. (And since you’ll be missing only one day of work, you won’t have overflowing voicemail or e-mail to contend with when you return.)
“When we examined how vacation length affects stress levels, we found that taking several short breaks may be more beneficial than taking one long one,” Eden says.
To get the most out of an extended weekend, you still have to seek out a slight change of scenery. “Physical separation can lead to mental separation from stressors,” Nathan says. Check into a nearby B&B for a night, go on an all-day hike, or even just visit a new restaurant across town.
Do not let mosquito stress you
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