Remember those bubble bath commercials that promised to take away all the day's cares and worries? Well, no one's denying that a nice long soak can do wonders for lowering your stress level, but it's not likely you have a whirlpool in your office or a standby babysitter who can drop in for an hour while you get your equilibrium back.
So the next time you get those "stressed out" symptoms -- tightness in your stomach, jaw, neck and back; shallow breathing; squinting eyes; fatigue; clammy hands and pounding heart -- try one of the following instant stress busters.
Stress relief tips
At home or at work
1. Sit still and focus on your breathing. Inhale slowly and deeply for eight seconds, then exhale slowly for eight seconds. Repeat this five or six times. It helps bring more oxygen to the brain.
2. Stretch. With your chin down, slowly roll your head from shoulder to shoulder.
3. Make faces (try immitating Jim Carrey) in a mirror to stretch out tense facial muscles -- and provide a good laugh, too!
4. Be optimistic. Think of ways to turn difficulties into opportunities.
5. Count your blessings. Make a list of everything you're grateful for (and keep it handy for your next bout).
6. Find a stress-free sanctuary. Go to a spot where you can find some peace and privacy, even if it's a bathroom stall.
7. Go for a walk around the block.
8. Visualize. Breathe deeply and think of a place that gives you comfort: a private beach, a garden, a cozy room.
9. Turn off the ringer on your phone.
10. Have a banana. It'll boost your energy and replace potassium, which is depleted quickly during times of distress.
With the kids
11. Cloud-watch. Looking for interesting patterns together will calm you both.
12. Stretch together.
13. Let them brush your hair. While they play, you'll get a scalp massage.
15. Gently massage your child's shoulders or feet, then let her massage yours.
16. Have a stock of activities that you know will keep your child occupied for a few minutes while you sip some tea.
In the middle of a task
17. Minimize negative self-criticism. Delete the chatter in your head and choose constructive ways to look at yourself and the situation.
18. Check in with your body. Is your jaw clenched? Are your shoulders up around your ears? If so, adjust your body position.
19. As a general rule, remember to keep your head up, your shoulders down and your back and jaw relaxed. And don't forget to keep breathing.
20. Focus. Think about what you're doing instead of how you're doing.
Packed for pressure
Keep a stash of de-stressers on hand. Here are some items to include.
21. A picture of a favourite relaxation spot or a book of beloved quotations or treasured poems.
22. An item that's guaranteed to give you a good chuckle: maybe a Slinky or a rubber chicken.
23. Ginger. Add a pinch of powdered ginger to hot water for a soothing drink. Don't exceed three cups a day and if you have intestinal difficulties, speak with your doctor first.
24. Chamomile tea.
25. Calming scents. Essential oils such as lavender, geranium, petitgrain, sandalwood, neroli, ylang-ylang and bergamot soothe and relax. Combinations of these oils can be used in either spray, roll-on or diffuser form.
The buddy system
Strike a deal with a trusted friend or co-worker to be stress-busting pals. Some ideas:
26. "5 x 5" -- take five minutes to talk about the problem and another five minutes to work on a solution.
27. Whine! Bellyache about what's making you feel stressed. Get really dramatic and by the end you may both find yourselves laughing hysterically.
28. Trade shoulder massages.
The preceding tips were compiled with the assisstance of Penny Lawson, wellness professional; Helen Martinic, dietitian; and Dana Sinclair, sports psychologist.