7 Quick Tools for Lowering Stress Levels
We’re all finding ways to cope every time anxiety rises in our chest or the pain of uncertainty sets in. And the best stress- and worry-reducing strategies are often extensions of everyday practices and hobbies. What’s different now is intention. In these strange and disorienting times, what makes us feel like we have our feet on the ground?
Then: Practice, feel a little better, and repeat, repeat, repeat.
Take a Breather
If there’s one time when we’re really doubling down on our meditation practice—and that means actually doing it, not just thinking about doing it—it’s now. Even those of us who are meditation-resistant are taking refuge in the power of smooth inhales and long, soothing exhales. And we’re each going about it in our own favorite way. Some of us love guidance and visualization. That’s when we turn to The Breathing App (which comes from master yoga teacher Eddie Stern) and our own collection of goop-exclusive meditations, sound baths, and breathwork practices with our favorite practitioners. Those of us looking to level things up are gravitating to Core, a meditation trainer that you hold in your hands. As you breathe, the built-in ECG measures your pulse and heart rate variability—two biometric indicators of stress—and Core’s vibrations gently nudge you in the right direction for clarity and calm.
Shake It Off
You don’t need an hour-long workout to sweat out your stress. Fifteen minutes of movement—or in a pinch, even five—makes us feel much better. Our favorite ways include a quick full-body workout from our girl Tracy Anderson, a few sets of squats in between Zoom meetings (which we like to boost with a set of Hip Circles—stretchy exercise bands that give leg movements some extra resistance), and when what we really need is a moment of pure joy: a one-song salsa dance party in our living room. Everyone’s invited, so grab your partner, recruit your kids, pull your dog in from his midday nap, and get wiggling.
Once you’ve got your hands on a great big bag of flour (we’re buying directly from our local bakeries—it beats scouring grocery store after grocery store), perfecting homemade pastries can be a good way to work out whatever stress is coming from outside the kitchen. When we want a baking project, we pick something from Tartine’s cookbook. Nothing beats the stress-busting satisfaction of having made one of those flaky, buttery matcha croissants with your own hands. But if you’re having the kind of day where you just want cake and you want it easy, go for our food editor’s take on boxed cake mix: Just add a few extra ingredients to punch up the flavor, and you’re good to go.
Better Boxed Cake
For those of us who are not great bakers—hi, hello—pulling off a cake can be daunting. Most boxed cake mixes nail the chemistry of cake, but they tend to be a little bland. We amp up the flavor by adding extra salt, vanilla, apple cider vinegar, and coconut milk.
Air It Out
If you’re lucky enough to have access to a wooded area where you’re unlikely to run into anyone, may we suggest forest bathing. Research shows that contact with nature, or even just being around plants, is good for your mood and may have positive effects on immunity. If a whole forest isn’t something you happen to have: A backyard, porch, or anywhere with views of greenery can help, too. And if you’re safest tucked right in your apartment, try a new plant from The Sill plus a diffuser streaming outdoorsy scents.
There’s an acupressure point called Hegu, which lies right in the fleshy junction of the thumb and forefinger, that we give some love whenever we’re feeling antsy. Pressing into one Hegu point with the fingers of your opposite hand feels great, but you can hit both points at once with simple tools: Just slip an acupressure ring onto each hand and take twenty minutes or so to wind down. (Bonus points if you get a second set for the corresponding pressure points on your feet, called Tai Chong, which lie between the knuckles of your big and second toes.)
And never doubt the power of a little self-massage. UMA makes gorgeous-smelling oils that are made for this: Each bottle comes with instructions for a quick massage ritual, starting with the pressure points of the feet, moving up through the hands and wrists, and ending at the temples and behind the ears. Right now, for obvious reasons, we’re choosing Pure Calm—a silky mix of evening primrose, chamomile, and vetiver oils that can unwind just about anything.
All we want to do right now is take a break from reality, even if just for a few minutes. And the best way we know how involves a couch, a book, and a hot cup of something. We’ve found ourselves reaching for the ultimate comfort drink: hot chocolate with a hit of reishi mushroom. If you’ve got a high-quality reishi powder lying around, you can stir a bit into your favorite hot cocoa mix for a comforting, adaptogenic tonic. If not, you can take the easy route: Four Sigmatic’s mushroom hot cacao mix comes from people who really know their way around functional mushrooms, has just a sprinkle of warming cinnamon and cardamom, and is perfect blended into a steamy cup of oat milk. Then grab that book. Hit that couch. Maybe recruit a snuggle buddy. (And be sure to offer them a cup, too.)
Usually, the protocol with any deck of tarot or oracle cards is to shuffle and draw at random. That’s still the best way to do it. But we’ll be honest: At this peculiar moment in time, we’re looking for immediate comfort. So we’ve been digging through the Inner Compass deck for the cards that help us see the good in today and promise better tomorrows. They come with words like “plenty” and “stillness” and “trust.” And they make us feel better.