By Linda Knittel, Senior Editor
I’ve never been a laid-back person. Sure, my resting heart rate is incredibly low, but that’s only because I have been a dedicated runner since high school. My heart may be trained, but I can’t say the same for my mind. I’m someone who worries about deadlines and college funds, making a difference in the world and getting enough green veggies.
Before giving birth to my son, I fantasized about being one of those hippie moms who throws scheduled nap times to the wind.
I deeply admire super-chill people. Before giving birth to my son, I fantasized about being one of those hippie moms who throws scheduled nap times to the wind; who doesn’t blink at sword fights in the dining room or floors covered in Legos. But that’s just not me; I can get easily frazzled. That’s why I’ve incorporated an assortment of calming techniques into my life. They are as much for me as they are for those around me.
The five practices below help keep my body and mind resilient in the face of life’s daily pressures. I hope they can inspire your own chill-out practices.
The 5 Ways I Find Calm
Sip Your Way to Relaxation
I believe in supplements. I feel better when I take them regularly—especially magnesium. I have written about this mineral enough to know it’s needed for hundreds of functions in the body—everything from converting food to energy to keeping my heartbeat steady. Magnesium is also nature’s relaxant, and taking it every night before bed allows my muscles to fully relax and my nervous system to calm down. There is no doubt when I drink a teaspoon of Natural Calm® magnesium powder in water before bed I sleep better and wake more refreshed.
Write It Down
I love lists. I make them for everything: to-dos, groceries, house projects, summertime plans with my kiddo, book ideas—you name it. I used to have piles of them around my house; but now, thanks to the amazing app Wunderlist, the minute I think of something I need or want to do I just add it to its proper digital list. I even spend a few minutes last thing at night prioritizing tasks for the next day—usually picking just three that are must-dos. The simple act of cataloging what’s on my mind, and on my plate, gives me an immediate sense of calm—it frees me up to focus on the now.
Get Your Hush On
Quiet helps me feel calm. I think, write and sleep better in silence. It lowers my heart rate and clears my mind. That said, I share my life with a seven-year-old boy whose favorite activities include acting out Star Wars battle scenes, blasting music and yelling questions at me from the other room. So I’ve had to find ways to minimize noise without minimizing his childhood. To do so, I rely on three things: earplugs for sleeping; mynoise.net, an online noise generator whose tropical rain and crackling fire sounds block out ambient noise when I need to focus; and “quiet time,” a half-hour or so each day when my son and I practice doing our own thing quietly by ourselves. Just reducing the din makes a world of difference in my stress level.
Flip the Reset Button
My life changed the moment I first tried acupuncture. Thanks to a few strategically placed needles, I literally felt the energy moving inside me. Since then, each session is like flipping a reset button. Whether I need to boost my immune system, release tight muscles or simply calm down the fight-or-flight response caused by the barrage of daily life, acupuncture makes me feel better—calmer. Personally, I don’t need to know how it works, but researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center have shown that acupuncture can significantly reduce the stress-hormone response to chronic stress.
Exercise calms the body and mind. Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard this one many times before, but hear me out. Regular exercise doesn’t have to take up half your day or consist of rolling tractor tires up a hill. Recent studies continue to show that twenty-minutes of interval exercise a few times a week might be the perfect amount for most people. A brand-new study even suggests that, over time, as little as one minute of sprint interval training can improve heart and metabolic markers similarly to those of traditional endurance training. Each week I shoot for two twenty-minute runs plus one longer one, and one yoga or barre class. Some days all I have time for is a few sun salutations in my living room, but it usually does the trick. What’s right for you will depend on your body and lifestyle. Make the goal simple: move more and stress less.