Between screaming kids, nagging bosses, bounced rent checks, and social media pings, it’s amazing that any of us even get to the bathroom. With a million things all vying for our attention at once, it’s no wonder that most of us have a hard time detaching from the stresses of everyday life. In fact, even finding ways to de-stress may make us more uptight. I mean, doesn’t it sometimes feel like a chore to plan dinner parties and vacations? Doesn’t it seem ironic to be rushing to yoga class? Aren’t those things supposed to be fun?
If you feel like you’re always in search of that glorious moment when you can sit back, relax, and take a deep breath, raise your hand. Oh yeah? Us, too.
So we started looking for ways to put the brakes on all that. It turns out that in lieu of all the searching and seeking for the next best vacation or trying to clear an afternoon for an expensive trip to the spa, you can just take it down a notch a little bit each day – no alcohol or video games required.
We’re talking about real relaxation here, not just distractions. So we polled our friends and trolled the Internet to round up these 24 ways real people unwind, let loose, mellow out, kick their shoes off, and let their hair down. How do you relax? Let us know in the comments!
1. Don’t put your phone down (yet)
This may sound counterintuitive, because, let’s face it, lots of us probably feel like slaves to our phones. And some apps – Instagram and Twitter, say – may actually increase our anxiety. While we highly recommend tuning out entirely for certain periods of the day, some apps are actually designed to help you relax. Headspace, for example, offers guided meditation as well as on-the-go “SOS” sessions for impromptu meltdowns, as well as pop-up reminders that encourage you to check-in with yourself, be present, and assess your emotional state throughout the day. It’s simple, but those few seconds can really help you chill out.
2. Walk this way
Lace up your sneakers or hiking books and go for a long walk at the beach or any quiet place. Turn your phone off, disconnect from the virtual world, and connect to nature. Listen to the calm, have a conversation with the weather. Open your senses – nature is free, and usually smells good, too.
3. When it doubt, sweat it out
There’s nothing quite like the endorphin rush that follows an amazing work out. Increasing your heart rate alleviates stress naturally, while sweating releases toxins. The length of time is up to you – whether it’s a Barre class, a quick sprint, or a half marathon – sweating it out can really help you blow off some steam.
4. Strike a pose
In yoga, grounding poses are designed to put the body at ease. Asanas such as child’s or corpse pose are quiet and still, giving your body time to rest and restore. You don’t have to go to yoga class, just lay on the floor, take a break from movement, and give your body time to relax in a stagnant way. We guarantee it will help ease your mind and lift your spirits.
5. Get snuggly
The powerful force of human touch is an undeniable wonder of nature that helps our brains release oxytocin, a feel-good hormone. (It’s the same one mothers and newborns release when they bond.) If you’re feeling uneasy or stressed out, human contact is an amazing way to ease your worries. Give hugs, hold hands, snuggle up. Any friend or family member (who isn’t the source of the stress) will do.
6. Spend time with a four-legged furball
Some clichés are just true: Dogs are a human’s best friend. Cuddling with furry (or feathery) friends can be therapeutic – their non-judgmental and unconditional love can be just what the doctor ordered. Take your pooch for a walk or curl up on the couch with your cat; they’ll appreciate the attention as much as you. No pet of your own? Visit with a friend’s for the afternoon, or consider volunteering at a local animal shelter, where the extra TLC is always appreciated.
7. Listen up
There’s a reason why fancy spas all play sounds-of-nature soundtracks – they help facilitate relaxation in a big way. But you don’t have spend a bundle getting primped to reap the benefits of tuning in to the music of dripping water, chirping birds, or rustling grass. Just go outside, open your ears, and find solace in the cadence that Mother Nature provides.
8. Be still
The act of stillness seems so simple that it is often overlooked as a relaxation technique. But think about it: When was the last time you literally just sat still. Not to eat, not to work, not to multitask, and not to flip through Buzzfeed on your phone. Try to truly be free from activity. If you’re asking yourself if that’s even possible, know that stillness can be physical or mental. It can be as simple as taking a deep breath, sitting quietly alone, or going through a formal mediation. No matter how you find it, being still encourages mindfulness, presence, and a sense of peace.
9. Help yourself
The concept of self-soothing – that is, the process of comforting oneself – may, strangely, be unfamiliar to a lot of us. Babies suck their thumbs, kids sleep with security blankets, but what can adults do (besides drink wine)? This may sound a little woo-woo, but it works: Rub your stomach, arms, or legs – that’s right, give yourself a massage. There’s a reason why those foam roller things are so popular, you know – the act of self-soothing literally generates warmth within the body, and, as we mentioned above, physical touch (even your own) can be comforting and healing.
10. Get creative
Have you noticed the huge trend in adult coloring books? Coloring, painting, or any form of expressive art can be meditative and cathartic and help you to de-stress. Next time you’re feeling blah, put your mind to rest and your hands to work. Not totally confident in your artistic abilities? Start with something simple, like crochet or scrapbooking. Think of it as DIY therapy.
11. Sing your heart out
Belting out your favorite tune – even if it’s in that tiled sanctuary called the shower – is an awesome way to release emotion. Time to practice your scales!
12. Shake your booty
You don’t have to be a classically trained ballerina, ballroom, or step dancer to express yourself through movement. Shaking your booty is such a sweet release – and doesn’t require a word to be said. So go ahead, dance like a kid, feel free, and laugh at yourself.
13. Get in the kitchen
Comfort food doesn’t have to be unhealthy. In moderation, any treat – whether it’s chocolate soufflé or hot turkey soup – can bring a smile to your face. Baking and cooking are legit ways to cope with stress. Bonus: Your house will smell amazing.
14. Indulge (a little) with friends
Community and connection are part of any human’s basic needs, and getting together with friends to let it all hang out is a great way to relax. It’s always a treat to share a meal and a well crafted cocktail – just don’t go overboard.
15. Take a cruise
Sometimes, the journey is the destination. The freedom of knowing that you don’t have to be anywhere or do anything is relaxing enough. Hop on your bike or get in the car and cruise down a beautiful country road or any scenic route, and just enjoy the ride.
16. Listen to music
Who hasn’t let the Led out, swooned to Al Green, or cried along with Adele? Music is universal; get your feel good on and let it take you to another place. Bonus points if you sing along (see no. 11 above)!
17. Clean up and clear out
Sometimes being still just isn’t possible. During those time, keeping busy may be just the thing you need. Many people find that cleaning – with all its literal and symbolic significance – is a way to calm their worried minds. So go ahead and scrub that floor, clear your desk, or wipe down the kitchen countertops if it makes you feel rejuvenated.
18. Wash up
So many rituals and myths in our cultures revolve around water. Why? Cleansing our bodies can can clear out the head space as well as the skin. Draw a warm bath, take a hot shower, go for a dip, or just wash your face – all can be ways to soak in the moment and start anew.
19. Turn your world upside-down
When all else fails, invert! Yogis have been turning their bodies upside-down for thousands of years as a means to relax. There are loads of benefits associated with bringing the head below the heart, which works to calm the nervous system, improve blood flow, and increase energy levels. Headstands and handstands are obvious choices, but it doesn’t have to be that flash. Simply sitting in a chair with your head between your knees will also get the job done.
20. Write about it
As writers, we’re partial to this one, but the feeling of putting a nice inky pen to smooth paper is just so … relaxing. Invest in a journal that sparks joy for you along with a pen that feels good in your hand. Your writing doesn’t have to be formal, proper, or even organized. Doodle if you want to. Letting your thoughts flow is a beautiful way to release tension. Who knows, maybe you have a secret talent for crafting verse in iambic pentameter?
21. Step away from the tablet
It’s so obvious, but how many of us disconnect as frequently as we should? A weekend off-grid is great, but designating time every day to be offline, off your phone, and away from the laptop is of major importance. Look at your friend’s face during dinner, put your phone in your closet before bed, engage with your kids while making dinner – it’s an amazing world out there IRL; you just might like it.
22. Laugh it up
Feeling pent up? Laughter is the best medicine, as they say. Rent a comedy, call your silliest friend, share a funny story, follow the @thefatjewish, make fun of yourself. Just stop being so serious for a minute. Let your guard down, and yuck it up.
23. Let it go
It’s impossible to say that phrase without singing that damn song, amiright? But seriously, ask yourself, What is it that I need to let go of? It may be something obvious but difficult, like the anger you feel toward your mom, or something vague but simple, like cleaning out that closet full of sweaters you feel guilty about for buying but never wearing. Be kind to yourself by letting go of emotional (and sometimes physical) baggage that’s draining your energy. Look deep, then forgive, forget, and move on.
24. Just breathe
When all else fails, take it back to this most basic function. Don’t forget, we all put our pants on one leg at a time.