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Instant Stress Busters

3. Chant!

Coin a soothing phrase that you can repeat. You're not competing for a Pulitzer Prize here-something simple like "All will be OK" will work. So will a fragment of a prayer or psalm, like "The Lord is my shepherd." The key is to practice in advance. When you're feeling relaxed, chant your phrase softly to yourself several times. Then do it silently. "Repetitive actions like chants are a way of getting yourself into a meditative state-or near enough to help you relax," says Dr. Sternberg.

4. Personalize!

It may also help to have your own instant de-stressor, something that you know will lift your mood. These strategies come from Good Housekeeping staffers and friends:

- "I do a yoga move-you scrunch up your whole face, eyes closed, then open your eyes and mouth as fast as you can. It looks funny but feels great." -Rosanne
- "I count to ten in all the languages I've ever tried to learn. My brain is so focused that by the time I'm at five, the worst is over." -Sally
- "I clasp my hands behind me and push them up as far as they can go. My stress tends to center in my back, so stretching releases a lot of the tension." -Alice
- "I remember something a dance instructor once told me. She said, ‘Your goal is to be the happiest person on the bank line.' It calms me-and makes me chuckle." -Lisa
- "I take two minutes to look at a gardening magazine. Flowers, even pictures of them, always help me relax." -Beverlie
- "When I'm standing in line, I do little exercises: mostly leg lifts and head rolls. It calms me and makes me feel I'm not wasting my time." -Evelyn
- "I picture my son asleep in his crib. Even though he's now in college, the image of that peaceful face and those tiny curled-up fingers still makes me forget whatever was stressing me out." -Toni

What works at work

BARBARA TODD, ER nurse
The big stressor When she learns that critically injured trauma patients are about to arrive at her Roseville, California, medical center, Todd frequently has less than five minutes to prepare her nursing team for the emergency.

How she relaxes "I pick a song, and it plays in my head all night long," says Todd. Topping her chart: "It's Alright" by Huey Lewis and the News. "‘Hold a little soul, and make life your goal,'" she croons. "It's such an upbeat song, you can't help but feel better."

CINDY MORRIS, superior court judge
The big stressor Everything from theft to violent crime shows up in her Dalton, Georgia, courtroom. But what gets to Judge Morris most are child-custody cases. Two years ago, she began to notice that she was passing entire days in "stress mode"-her shoulders were tense and aching, and she had headaches and back pain.

How she relaxes On the advice of her 84-year-old mother, Morris took a yoga class at the local state college. "It taught me to use my breath to lower my stress," says Morris, who reports that within six weeks, she was "pain free."

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