5 instant soothers for high stress times by Self Magazine, on Thu Feb 19, 2009 9:28am PST Be a better breather. "When you make a conscious effort to breathe deeper, it naturally brings your body back to a more relaxed state," explains Frederic Luskin, Ph.D., author of Stress Free for Good (HarperOne). Place your hand on your stomach and watch it rise as you inhale for a count of 3 or 4; hold your breath for the same count, and then exhale for as long as comfortable and watch your belly fall. Look forward to something. Each morning, think about one little, enjoyable thing you plan to do that day (the crossword puzzle) and one bigger pleasure on the horizon (your trip to the mountains), suggests Allen Elkin, Ph.D., director of the Stress Management and Counseling Center in New York City. This ritual trains your brain to focus away from what can go wrong that day. Make a small change to your routine. "Unpredictable events can cause the most stress," Luskin explains. "If you cultivate even a little bit of surprise in your life, it helps keep your cognitive responses flexible and helps you handle whatever life throws your way." Take a new cardio class or pick a cuisine you've never tried. (Hallå, Scandinavian!) Convert Monday into Funday. The flip side to TGIF is OMGIM: Oh, my God, it's Monday! In fact, more heart attacks occur on Mondays than on any other day. Schedule a weekly lunch with a friend or take a class you love on Mondays so you'll look forward to the start of the week, Dr. Wheeler advises. Come home 15 minutes late. After work, walk home or listen to music at a pretty scenic spot before you burst through your front door. "Don't look at it as a waste of time," Dr. Wheeler says. "It's an important way of decompressing and transitioning back to home life."