Becca Rose
Updated Jan 23, 2015 @ 8:18 am

It’s true that stress can be a motivator. Perhaps when you’re, say, running a marathon, and your legs are giving out and you have to crawl across the pavement to the end (I’ve never run a marathon but hey, I’ve heard stories). Or when you’re frantically trying to finish a project and your fingers are positively flying across the keyboard and you look up and find that the sun has gone down and come back up again without you noticing. Stress can give you that push, but the truth is, lots of things are easier to do when you’re relaxed. Maintaining a certain level of chill is important to ensure peak productivity and happiness in your everyday life.

The problem is that life can be hectic, especially if you’re like me, working multiple jobs and hustling to climb that career ladder. It’s easy to get caught up in the next two or three things you need to get done, the next bill you need to pay, the next everything. Before you know it, life feels like it’s rushing too fast for you to keep up, your stress levels are mounting, and you’re too strung out to breathe deeply. That’s OK for a short time if needed, but if it becomes the normal, it’s really hard to rehab back into a life you actually enjoy from time to time. A life overhaul might seem too overwhelming or unrealistic, but small steps really can help. Plus it’s easier to tell yourself that you will do one little change in routine today than it is to announce “I’m going to stop being stressed!” (like that even works).

Here are five easy, small changes you can make to start you on a quest to become less of a stress basket.

1. Start shuffling. According to a recent study, something as simple as taking a short walk during your lunch break can actually show a marked improvement on your stress levels. You don’t have to take my word for it – it’s science. Though you can actually take my word for it, since I tried it earlier this week when I was a ball of anxiety. A half hour of meandering around my neighborhood helped set my thoughts in order again.

2. Treat yo’self. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Sometimes it’s just treating yourself nicely – taking a long hot shower, styling your hair the way you like it, using moisturizer in the places you forget. Maybe that’s not your thing, but something is. Find the thing you neglect first in the area of self-care when you’re racing with stress. Set aside a few minutes to take extra time with that thing. You’ll feel calmer when you’re done.

3. Take a nap. You might feel like there’s no time to be wasted, but the truth is everyone operates better on an optimal amount of sleep. And while you’re stressed, you’re probably sleeping less anyway. Curl up on the couch, set your alarm for twenty minutes, and do the catnap for a little bit (I’ve even been known to take the catnap’s lesser-known cousin, the car nap, on my lunch break). Trust me – it’ll help.

4. Get your “om” on. Meditation isn’t just for those who use it as a spiritual practice. It’s a good tool to help you tap into an inner sense of calm. I’ll be honest, I used to regard the idea of mediation with a skeptical eye. But then a friend recommended the app Stop Breathe & Think, and I tried out a few of their free mediation programs. It guides you through it and is super easy, and much to my surprise, it actually worked! Practicing a little mindfulness never hurt anyone.

5. Talk it out. Find a bestie, sit down with some strong cups of tea, and spill. This is a tried-and-true stress relieving tactic. Sometimes just talking about all the things that are contributing to your stress levels can help ease the pressure. The bonus is that, if you’ve got an excellent BFF like mine, they’ll probably help you put a few fears to rest and reassure you that, despite your doubts, you got this.

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