5 Stress-Less Strategies

Need a little moment of peace? Here are our favorite simple, effective ways to get it.
5 Ways to Have a Silent Night
During the holidays, we send each other wishes for a peaceful season. But true tranquility can be elusive amid the crowds at the mall and exuberant parties everywhere. There are ways to stay calm and centered, though, even during the busiest times.

1. Take an armchair vacation. You probably can't fly off to the Caribbean and relax on the sand, but you can imagine it. Sit comfortably in a quiet place and close your eyes. Then, imagine yourself in a happy, calm place — a warm beach, a pine forest or a quiet church. "In your mind's eye, be in that place," says Fred L. Miller, author of the book How to Calm Down. "Try to immerse yourself in it." Use all of your senses. For example, if you're visualizing a beach, think of the smell of salt air, the feeling of sun on your face and the rhythmic sound of waves.

2. Go for a solo stroll. Taking a walk outdoors gives you a time-out from shopping, wrapping and visiting. Even a short walk slows your mind and refreshes you. As you walk, be mindful: Pay attention to what you see, feel the air on your face and listen to the sound of your footsteps.

3. Phone a friend. We send out dozens of cards, exchange Facebook wall posts and air-kiss numerous people at parties, but during the holidays, we rarely take the time to have a heartfelt conversation with a friend. Snuggle into a cozy chair and call a friend for a long chat.(You might schedule the call ahead of time so your friend can set time aside for it, too.)

4. Breathe mindfully. When we're busy or stressed, we often hold our breath. Relax your body and your mind anytime with a mini meditation. Sit down, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths through your nose. Breathe in to the count of five, then breathe out to the count of five. As you breathe, imagine inhaling peace and exhaling stress.

5. Embrace silence. Instead of turning on the radio in your car, drive without the sound of music or talk shows. "Silence slows down the sensory input," Miller says.

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