Take Five

March 27, 2020
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Take Five

Five easy ways to reduce daily stress

No matter how calm you try to stay, life is going to throw some stressful moments at you.  It can really affect your focus on retirement planning or other financial goals.  One day you might be stressing on the cost of braces or the cable bill.  Other days you're stressing about how you need to start an emergency fund because your dishwasher or washing machine just conked out for good.  Or that college saving fund that just never seems to happen.

How can you even think about increasing your contribution to your retirement plan?  And if you do, that's really stressful.  Here are some tips to help keep you focused on what matters most.

Just Breathe

The key here is using all of your lungs, not just the top part.  Try taking a slow deep breath, expanding your chest and belly, while counting to four.  Then, as you exhale, count back to one.  Do that three or four times and you'll start feeling better.

Smile

Smiling can be a quick, impactful strategy because several of the muscles in the face are connected to the vagus nerve, which facilitates relaxation.  If you can't get yourself to actually smile in the moment, try to imagine doing it.  Or play back a funny scene in your mind from your favorite comedy movie.  It will probably lead to an actual smile!

Get Moving

When stressed, your body acts as if there's a dangerous situation and adopts a fight-or-flight response.  Doing something physical can make it a lot easier to calm down.  Consider taking a fast walk around the block or do some jumping jacks or run in place for a minute -- any quick burst activity that will metabolize your stress response.  There's a great chance that just doing a quick activity or exercise will calm you down.

Follow a sleep routine

Our bodies are like a fine-tuned Swiss watch, functioning to the rhythms, patterns and cycles of our daily lives.  One of the most critical timing patterns is our sleep schedule.  The consistency of when we go to sleep and when we awake can affect how well we snooze.  For deep, restful sleep, it's best to wind down with a relaxing activity, such as reading or listening to relaxing music before bed.  Most importantly, end and start your day at the same time -- even on weekends if you can!

Download a stress app -- and use it!

While using your smartphone too much may also be a source of stress, you can use it to your advantage to download an app that might help.  Apps like Relax Melodies feature anxiety-relieving music, and Breathe2Relax guides breathing exercises.  The Acupressure: Heal Yourself app helps reduce stress levels by teaching you where to find your body's acupressure points, and Worry Box -- Anxiety Self-Help acts as a journal to help you deal with your stressors.