10 Ways to De-Stress in 10 Minutes or Less
Stress is no stranger to a woman in midlife, especially during the menopause transition. It’s no wonder. In addition to hormonal fluctuations, other stressors like juggling kids, work, parents, household chores, and finances, all contribute to stress. When women are stressed, hormones called cortisol and epinephrine raise your blood pressure and circulating blood sugar level, and cortisol alone lowers the effectiveness of the immune system. When stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on. The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that follows can disrupt almost all your body's processes, including anxiety, depression, sleep problems, weight gain, and more.
Research shows that short meditation sessions of 3-5 minutes are very effective in relieving stress, common issues in midlife and menopause. Twenty-three percent of women in perimenopause experience anxiety. If you don’t know how to meditate or have trouble staying focused, use an app like Headspace or Calm to guide you through a short beginner session. Both apps offer free trials so you can try both and see which one works best for you.
Also known as “paced respiration,” deep breathing is another science-backed technique to relieve stress and anxiety. It’s also beneficial for relieving menopause symptoms like hot flashes. Try this starter exercise: inhale deeply through your nose filling your lungs with air. Hold the breath for three seconds. Slowly exhale through your mouth. Repeat three to five times. Notice how you feel afterward. Calmer right? For more expert-guidance on paced respiration, sign up for Lisa Health and join our deep breathing challenge!
Exercise is incredibly effective at working through stress and you don’t need to spend much time to get the benefits. A quick 7-minute workout – highiintensity interval training, yoga, or Pilates – is an easy way to de-stress and boost your metabolism and strength. For women, high-intensity interval training is particularly beneficial. In addition to relieving stress, it will also help you prevent or lose the “meno10,” the ten pounds most women put on during the menopause transition. Sworkit, Johnson&Johnson 7-Minute Workout, Seven App, and Wahoo, are all free in the App Store.
Walking is an under-rated stress buster. Getting out of your environment – work or home – and taking a walk helps to clear the clutter from your mind. Pair your walk with some deep breathing or calming music for a stress relief double shot. Want to get more ambitious about walking and make it a habit? Check out the Map My Walk app.
Most of us don’t stretch enough. When stress piles on, our muscles get really tight. Muscle tension and joint pain is also a symptom of menopause. In midlife, this becomes a big issue as we lose the flexibility we once had and struggle with simple everyday activities like getting out of bed with ease. Regular stretching can help ease your pain, especially when combined with an Epsom salt bath and aromatherapy. Check out the free Stretching Sworkit and Flexibility apps to guide you through the proper technique.
There is some evidence that taking a warm bath - not shower - may lower stress, tension-anxiety, anger-hostility, and depression. Some people like to add Epsom salts, believing that the Magnesium helps with muscle aches. However, there is no scientific evidence to support that claim.
Using essential oils for various ailments was a well-established form of medicine for centuries before modern medicine came on the scene. We are delighted that it’s starting to make a comeback. For stress, Lavender, Yuzu Citrus, Bergamot, and Clary Sage is recommended. Make sure you buy quality oils from a source like doTerra and splurge on a pretty diffuser that blends seamlessly with your décor.
If you have never kept a journal, try this exercise and be amazed at your stress and anxiety-busting results. First, find a quiet space and bring along a pen and paper. Do not use your computer or phone. They actually make the exercise less impactful. Next, write down three things you are grateful for. Then write down what is causing your stress. It doesn’t have to be an exhaustive list. Pick the top reasons. Note why these things are stressing you out. For example, if work is stressing you out, be more specific like my boss is putting a lot of pressure on me to meet a big deadline. Finally, write down at least three things you can do to alleviate the stress. In this example, you might write “I am going to meet with my boss and discuss extending the deadline.” Or, “I am going to ask for help with the project.” Identifying your potential courses of action will help you start to defuse the stress. For more expert-backed guidance on journaling, sign up for Lisa Health and join our Put it on the Page challenge!
See or Phone a Friend or Relative
The right kind of human contact can instantly wash your stress away. Squirreling yourself away only adds to stress, depression, and anxiety – things that are all too common during menopause. Reach out to someone who you know is supportive and a good listener and avoid anyone who is toxic or self-centered. Verbalize that you are stressed and need to talk. Don’t hold it in. Let it out!
Some experts claim that repetitive motions -- like the fine motor skills used to knit, make jewelry or cross-stitch -- can soothe anxiety. Pick up your needles or other craft for a few minutes a day and see if it helps reduce your stress.
Looking for more ways to boost your mood and de-stress? Check out Lisa Health, your personalized guide to menopause and midlife featuring science and expert-backed activities, curated resources and products, tips and reminders, and more.