31 Days

Day 6

Prioritize Relaxation


Most of us spend a lot of time attempting to optimize our lives. And why not? We're all busier than ever these days. There are projects, emails and deadlines at work. In our downtime, we're trying to stay in touch with friends and hit the gym while fielding calls or texts from parents with a problem on their computer.

So we try to make the most of what little time we have, squeezing in tasks to feel accomplished and "on top of things," but we're often left feeling burned out and exhausted. Sometimes, what we really need—what our bodies and minds actually desire—is to just chill out and relax. Thankfully, it's not all that difficult to do. You simply have to prioritize your own tranquility. Here are four quick ways to bring the chill into your life.

Get Low

You'll likely want to do this in a bathroom or in the privacy of your office, but you can utilize yoga's physiological benefits by getting your head below your heart. Sitting in a chair, put your head between your knees and breathe. Or stand and bend at the waist, hanging your head and arms toward your toes. By positioning your head below your heart, you reduce stress hormones and restore the balance of your autonomic nervous system. This actually lessens your body's involuntary reaction to the fight-or-flight response.

Embrace the Outdoors

Dr. Eeva Karjalainen, of the Finnish Forest Research Institute, told Medical Daily how our blood pressure and heart rate lowers simply by being in nature; so does the production of stress hormones such as cortisol. If you can't actually get out into the natural world, additional research has shown that sounds from nature—waves crashing on the beach, leaves rustling or rain falling in the forest—have a restorative effect on our minds by physically altering the connections in our brains. Download the NatureSpace app for a range of 3D sounds to soothe you.

Hu chocolate
Hu chocolate

Pop Some Dark Chocolate

Looking to give yourself a little break and touch of sweetness on an otherwise rough afternoon? Break off a square of dark chocolate and savor it slowly. Dark chocolate is lower in sugar, but higher in antioxidants than the standard milk chocolate variety. And it's been scientifically proven to boost your brain function and reduce stress. One of our favorite brands is Hu, which offers a variety of better-than-average bars, with flavors like hazelnut butter, sea salt and crunchy mint.

Massage Your Hands

Picture yourself on a padded massage table. It almost melts the stress away ... almost. If you can't leave work or don't have the option of booking yourself a massage, you can still encourage your body to relax. Give yourself a simple five-minute hand massage that's been shown to help relieve anxiety. Modern wellness app Urban offers up a handy five-step reflexology technique to help relax you and relieve the tension from typing at your keyboard or scrolling through your phone all day.

Quick Fix

Sometimes breaking the rules can be a liberating indulgence. Call in sick and binge-watch an entire show. Or order a pizza and have a few glasses of wine. Not every day, but when the time calls for it (and won't leave you feeling guilty).