Whether you’re headed back to school or just a more intense work schedule (R.I.P. Summer Fridays), the summer-to-fall transition can be a rude awakening. For many, the change in the seasons not only ushers in shorter days and colder temperatures, but also extra responsibilities. It’s easy to feel relaxed when you’re lounging on the beach or sipping a bloody mary on a sunny afternoon, but managing stress on a 12 hour work day is another story.
Because taking care of basic health needs like getting enough sleep and exercising can be overwhelming for busy rat racers, we reached out to Anna Goldstein, a business and life coach based in NYC, and Isaac Alston, founder of Paradigm Life Coaching in Philadelphia, who both have plenty of tips on how to take care of yourself when you’re pressed for time and overloaded with stress.
Take a breather
While you might not have time for a daily 90 minute yoga class, there are small steps you can take to recenter yourself when you start to feel your stress levels rising. Goldstein recommends taking a deep breath through your nose and exhaling through your mouth about three times an hour.
She also suggests apps such as Headspace, which offers brief guided meditations—all you need is five uninterrupted minutes and a pair of headphones. The Five Minute Journal app gives you prompts to express what you’re grateful for—which can inspire a positive outlook for the rest of the day.
During times of high stress, Alston recommends taking a five minute break to engage in what he calls guided imagery, where you picture yourself achieving a goal. “Set your goal, imagine fully the experience, take a breath and dive in,” he says. “Indulge in your own world in that moment, then thank yourself for the experience and promise yourself that you’ll be back.” When you return to the present moment, you’ll feel more positive and energized.
Work out at your desk
Getting to the gym can be a whole thing. When you’re stuck at the office, here are a few ways you can stretch out and burn some calories.
“Sit on a stability ball instead of a regular chair. You’ll need to actively engage your core to remain balanced and keep from falling off,” Goldstein says. And because we all know slumping over a computer is a prescription for back pain, working on your posture is a must. Pulling your naval towards your spine will both engage your core and straighten your back.
For a dual stress release and strengthening exercise, Alston recommends taking a stress ball, or any sturdy object on hand, from a piece of cardboard to a coffee mug, and squeezing it while focusing on “all the confusing and particularly stressful things that are happening in your life.” It will help you let go of pent-up frustrations.
Don’t forget to move your legs. You can always take the stairs instead of the elevator, Goldstein says, or walk a couple quick laps around the building.
Get some rest
We all ideally would like to get eight hours of sleep. With so much to get done and so much on our minds, it can be a real effort to turn off our brains and really commit to rest mode.
“Dim the lights and prepare your body for sleep an hour before bedtime,” Goldstein says. She recommends lighting a candle to create a sense of calm, or filling an aromatherapy diffuser with lavender essential oil, which she says can function as an anti-anxiety measure.
Journaling before bed can also help rid the mind of racing thoughts, she says.