Five ways to make better decisions and reduce hidden stress

Let’s face it, sometimes your chaotic life needs an immediate fix. The bad news is that you can’t snap your fingers and put all the pieces where you want them to be. The good news is that you can take some very quick and manageable steps to get YOU where you need you to be!


  • Remember your broccoli. No, this isn’t about eating healthy, although that’s not a bad idea either. It’s about the remembering. Close your eyes, and think back to the last meal you ate. What was it? What did it look like? What did it taste like? Who were you with? What were you feeling while you ate? What were you thinking about? Close your eyes for 60 seconds and do your best to touch the answers to the questions as best you can. Really try to recreate the scene. Why does this work? Because it forces you to have contact with your mind in a purposefully new way. It gives you the opportunity to get in touch with all of your senses, which has a grounding effect.

  • Hold your breath. Yes, that’s right, just as if you’re about to go under water. Research has shown that taking deep breaths lowers our stress response, and brings a sense of calm. Starting with a lack of breath will force your attention to breathing. Yes, it’s a bit of a trick, but sometimes we need to trick ourselves into healthier habits!

  • Grab a some dirt.  The positive effects of being out in nature are well proven and multi-faceted. Aside from the cleansing and clearing benefits of a long hike, even just contacting the soil can be good for your mental health. Recent research is revealing that there are microbes within the soil that decrease depression. If you’re a gardener, you may already know how much the time in the soil can improve your mood, and now you know why!

  • Change a lightbulb, tie your shoe. Make stressful moments into stretchful moments (cue the eye roll here). Reach up high, stretch big. Then bend as close to your toes as you can. Just like sixth grade gym class except without the gym shorts. Why does this help your mind settle? When you’re experiencing stress, your muscles tense. It’s an involuntary physiological reaction that you can combat by stretching instead of tensing. That signals to your nervous system that you are, in fact, safe. Your brain can then reduce the stress hormones released.

  • Find some funny animals. In the type of research study that you can file under “obviously,” it was shown that research participants rated their emotional states as more positive after watching cat videos on the internet. Yes, that’s right, I’m prescribing you LOLcats. Set a timer for five minutes and dive in, find yourself some adorable animal videos and indulge. Take it one step further, and use your boosted mood to try one of the other tips above. Once you’ve gotten yourself feeling a little better, you’re more likely to engage in one of the more traditional activities like deep breathing or taking a walk. Because you deserve it.