How to de-stress: May is Mental Health Awareness month and we’re kicking off (a bit early) with 12 tips that will help you balance.

1. Find your flow.  Pick one night this week to do something for you whether it’s taking a class at your local YMCA, hosting a pot luck, or finger painting.

2. Flowers.  Order flowers for yourself and have them sent to the office.  Sure, some people may give you side-eye, but who cares?  You’ll have a fresh, beautiful bouquet of fragrant flowers at your desk, and they just so happen to be your favorite kind.  Wins all around.

3. Focus.  Take three deliberate cleansing breaths every so often.  Before you answer the phone, breathe in, then out, and answer the phone with purpose.  If your phone doesn’t ring very often, set a timer on your phone to ring (quietly) every 73 minutes and cleanse then.

4. Fat.  Researchers at Ohio State University found that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, edamame and walnuts can help reduce stress and anxiety.  Taking a daily fish oil supplement could also do the trick.

5. Feel grateful.  Take a few moments each day and mentally list three things you’re grateful for, using them as reminders of why today, stressful as it may be, is just another day.  Yes, having a great hair day counts as something you can be grateful for (at least for me, #curlyhairproblems anyone?)  

6. Flatter someone.  Say something nice to someone about them.  Compliment the color of their shirt or the way they compose an email.  Remarking positively to someone unexpectedly is a sure way to make them feel great and put a smile on their face, hopefully prompting you to turn that frown upside down.

7. Fun.  Everyone has their own way of having fun.  For me, fun is donning the most worn-in pair of sweatpants I own and perfecting my Whiskey-Soaked Banana Bread Pudding recipe.  If baking isn’t your thing, pop a bag of microwaveable popcorn and peruse Netflix for a side-splitter like The Hangover or Casa De Mi Padre. Sweatpants (or any pants) optional.

8. Feel the light.  Serotonin, the chemical responsible for mood elevation in the brain, increases in the presence of the sun.  Low levels of serotonin may lead to stress, anxiety and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).  Taking a vitamin D supplement could similarly boost your mood.

9. Flex your muscles.  Physical activity naturally pumps up feel-good neurotransmitter production in the brain known as endorphins.  The physical exertion of a light jog could also help you forget—even if momentarily—the annoyances of the day.

10. Freshen up.  Get up from your desk and stretch every two hours.  Bend at the waist and let your head and shoulders hang loosely.  Breathe.  Stretching brings oxygenated blood to tense muscles and helps improve your circulation.  If you can, go for a walk around the block or just step outside and take in the warm air.  Summer is approaching which is more than enough reason to remind yourself that everything is gonna be alright.

11. Fiction.  Read any piece of fiction that will help you disengage from the real world, preferably something funny.  If you only have 5 minutes, visit sites like Buzzfeed or The Onion for a quick pick-me-up.  Try trading in the Morning Commute playlist on your iPod for that new best-seller on your Kindle.

12. Find your friends.  Detach from your social media channels.  When you’re stressed the last thing you want to do is look through your newsfeed to see several of your Facebook friends whining about their day, or sharing their unprompted—and highly questionable—political opinion.  Call a “real life” friend and get together to talk about things you’re both actually interested in.

What do you do to de-stress?  Leave your own tips in the comments section below.

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