Photo courtesy of James Branaman and Elaina Bellis (@elainadbellis) for Frank and Eileen
There are certain daily practices that are good for a calm and positive mood: Exercise regularly. Meditate. Eat nourishing foods. Turn off unnecessary push notifications. Done consistently, those all help manage our baseline levels of anxiety so that daily stressors don’t push us past our limits so easily. But in moments of sudden overwhelm—perhaps work is piling up quickly, or you’ve found yourself in close quarters with a few too many strangers—it can help to have some stress-reducing techniques in your (literal or figurative) pocket.
Take a slow breath
Mindful breathing can be an easy practice to brush off. It might seem too simple or to be promising too much. But it’s a bit of mind-body psychology that works: You practice slow, steady breaths that mimic a calm and restful state in your body and your mind follows. Most of us can benefit from a digital helper like The Breathing App. Consider physical mindfulness tools, too. Komusō Design’s The Shift is a small silver tube modeled after the flutes of Japanese Komuso monks. Take a deep breath in, lift the tube to your lips, and breathe out through it. It limits how much air you can release at once, slowing down your exhales. The effect is like that of mindful breathing techniques, where longer exhales translate to greater feelings of tranquility and ease. Go for five rounds of breath (or as long as you’d like).
Press an acupressure point
You can find the Hegu acupressure point, which is known for its soothing effects, in the fleshy area between your thumb and forefinger. Feel around until you find an especially tender spot—that’s Hegu. When we’re feeling overwhelmed, squeezing that pressure point with the fingers of the opposite hand usually helps bring us back down to earth. (It’s believed to help with minor, occasional headaches, too.) When we want sustained pressure, a pair of acupressure rings helps. You just slip the rings onto the Hegu point of either hand and let them sit for twenty minutes.
Massage your shoulders
They say stress gets stuck in the body. Intuitively, we know this—we get stressed out and our bodies get tight. We can work to reduce stressful feelings by working backward, massaging the body to mellow the mind. Thought Sanctuary is known for its essential oil rollerballs, which are handy tools for aromatherapy, but it’s the vagus nerve oil, gently worked into the back and sides of the neck, that can really turn a painful moment around. Rub one pump of oil into your palms—the silky jojoba oil feels good on skin—and sweep your hands down your neck and shoulders. If any particular spot feels especially sensitive, spend some extra time there. When you’re done massaging the blend into your neck, cup your hands over your mouth and nose for a long, deep breath. (The delicate mix of lime, clove, bergamot, copaiba, juniper berry, chamomile, lavender, and frankincense plant essences comes together beautifully.)
Vagus Nerve Oil
Leave it to the cards
This card deck was developed by Deepika Chopra, who’s known as the optimism doctor for her science-backed approach to cultivating a sunny outlook. Each of the fifty-two mindfulness tips comes straight out of positive psychology research, which digs into the data behind concepts like gratitude, curiosity, and awe and helps people pursue longer, happier lives. We keep the deck on our bedside table for a quick hit of joy as we’re getting out of bed, but they’re just as great on the go. Break out the cards and shuffle through until you find one that offers what you need right now (a few deep breaths, a break from your Twitter feed, three things you’re grateful for…).
Things Are Looking Up
Optimism on Deck