When she needs relief from the grind of delivering major proposals, Dana Marlowe, 33, of Washington, D.C., makes some noise. "I cruise right into my toddler’s playroom, and I just jam out with his toys -- the xylophone, the baby piano. I almost have 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' down," says Marlowe, a technology accessibility consultant.
This kind of casual music-making can short-circuit the stress response, research shows, and keep it from becoming chronic. Stress starts in the brain and then...
Then do a mental scan of your body to find which areas feel tense or cramped. Quickly loosen up these areas. Let go of as much tension as you can.
Rotate your head in a smooth, circular motion once or twice. (Stop any movements that cause pain.) Roll your shoulders forward and backward several times. Let all of your muscles completely relax. Recall a pleasant thought for a few seconds. Take another deep breath and exhale slowly. You should feel relaxed.
Mind relaxation. Close your eyes. Breathe normally through your nose. As you exhale, silently say to yourself the word "one," a short word such as "peaceful," or a short phrase such as "I feel quiet."
Continue for 10 minutes. If your mind wanders, gently remind yourself to think about your breathing and your chosen word or phrase. Let your breathing become slow and steady.
Deep breathing relaxation. Imagine a spot just below your navel. Breathe into that spot, and fill your belly with air.
Let the air fill you from the belly up, then let it out, like deflating a balloon. With every long, slow breath out, you should feel more relaxed.
Guided imagery. This is a way to let your thoughts move you to a relaxed state of mind. You use your imagination to build up peaceful images in your mind. For instance, you might reflect on all the details that are part of a comfortable place, like a beach or garden.
Biofeedback. This is a method that teaches you how to make changes in your body that let you relax. You'll need to do this with a professional who specializes in this technique.
During a biofeedback session, you'll be connected to electrodes that measure things such as your blood pressure, heart rate, or muscle tension. With help from the therapist, you'll learn how to control some of these things so you can get relaxed.
Behavioral changes. You can manage tough situations and stress by changing some of your thought patterns and habits.