Whether it’s car trouble or a cranky child, financial worries or relationship woes, few of us are immune to stress and the toll it can take on our lives.
Our earliest definition of the concept comes from a Hungarian endocrinologist named Hans Selye, who determined that stressors engendered numerous problems. From arthritis and acne to irritability and depression, it isn’t just in your head: stress wreaks havoc on your body, mind, and spirit.
While we might find joy in the overwhelm—or convince ourselves that it’s perfectly fine to sleep a mere five hours per night—it turns out we have only a limited supply of what Selye called “adaptive energy” to manage the stressors that come into our lives.
Whether positive or negative—getting engaged versus getting fired—stress does a number on our nervous systems, which impacts our hormones and renders us more susceptible to colds, mood swings, and mistakes—not to mention less able to bounce back from life’s challenges.
Stress also does a number on your skin—that enormous organ you carry around that shows the world when you’ve frowned at an email, spent a night at your desk, or blew off your skincare routine to get some much-needed shuteye.
And while you may be tempted to seek quick fixes when you’re under the gun—primarily in the form of sugary treats, skipping out on the gym, and going on Starbucks runs—your brain, body, and reflection will thank you if you choose healthier coping mechanisms instead. Here’s how to manage stress naturally—and revitalize your looks while you’re at it:
1. Schedule in Some TLC
Seem self-indulgent? Think again.
When you don’t take time for yourself, you end up robbing yourself of life’s pleasures—those little things that make racing around from morning to midnight totally worth it.
Schedule in at least an hour to yourself per day. Whether those sixty minutes are spent soaking in a bathtub, sweating it out during CrossFit, or reading People while getting a pedicure: what matters is that you slow down, re-engage with yourself, and replenish.
Pro Tip: Girl on the fly? Spritz on some lavender. It’s like Zen in a bottle.
2. Brew a Pot of Tea
We know, we know: you’re more of a triple-shot Flat White kind of woman, but consider the health benefits of herbal tea.
Brimming with antioxidants, sipping a cup of a chamomile or rooibos helps you sleep better, think better, and operate better.
What’s more, the time it takes for that kettle to whistle gives you a few minutes to check in with yourself, explaining why Brits have long lit the stovetop during times of stress.
Pro Tip: Substitute your daily cold brew with a matcha ice blended. This ancient blend contains key amino acids that produce a calming effect and greater mental clarity.
3. Breathe Mindfully
Hustling from dawn to dusk and feeling exhausted from it all?
Chances are you haven’t been breathing properly, whether or not you realize it. The more stressed out you find yourself, the more likely you are to take in only shallow sips of air, which deprives you of nourishing oxygen.
Restorative yoga, meditation, tai chi—all of these practices promote mindful breathing to “polish your brain” and breathe new life—literally—into your cells.
Pro Tip: Can’t slip into your Lululemons and steal away for an hour?
Consider this tip from Dr. Andrew Weil: exhale through your mouth with a loud “whoosh,” count to seven, and then inhale for a count of eight. It acts as a “natural tranquilizer,” and can be done anywhere from your car seat to your desk chair!
4. Have a Turkey Sandwich
Subsisting on Jujubes and Red Bulls?
You won’t feel like a rock star for long: both are a recipe for a major crash, since they’re high in sugar, caffeine, and artificial ingredients.
Boost your energy and get some serious nourishment with a veggie-heavy turkey sandwich instead. This Thanksgiving staple contains high amounts of L-tryptophan, which, with its serotonin-inducing properties, operates like safe, organic Xanax—it soothes edges, relaxes the mind, and packs in protein for energy.
Pro Tip: Can’t get to a deli or don’t eat meat? Snack on some almonds. Their high-magnesium content improves mood and enhances relaxation.
5. Get Moving
If the thought of breaking away from your computer when you’re under deadline seems unfathomable, odds are you’re already reaching your threshold of stress—and doing more harm to yourself than good.
Staring at your screen for hours on end dries out your eyes and puts you at risk of developing an ocular migraine, while sitting from 9 to 5 without breaks decreases blood flow, heightens fatigue, and, over time, may place you in danger of developing cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Fresh air alleviates anxiety and rejuvenates the spirit, while a study out of Stanford University found that spending time in nature reduces ruminating—those damning internal narratives we weave under stress that keep us from concentrating, which in itself generates more stress.
Pro Tip: Gal on the go? If you seriously, seriously can’t sneak out the office door—we’ve all been there—go for a stroll around your floor or work in these stretches to relieve that oh-so-irksome “tech neck.”
Then breathe deep, have a sip of tea, and book a massage—it’s one of the most rewarding natural stress relievers on the market.