While it would be nice to have an entire day to recharge, it’s not necessary. And if you wait until you have a full day off (from work or parenting or any other countless responsibilities you have), you’ll likely be incredibly exhausted—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to recharge on the spot, whether you’re responding to emails at your desk, sitting on the subway, or dealing with a tantruming toddler (yes, really).
Below, you’ll find an assortment of soothing strategies to try anywhere—from breathing techniques to mindset shifts.
Take a virtual vacation. This is a great way to give your mind a break, said Paula Rizzo, founder of ListProducer.com and author of several books, including her latest Listful Living. Specifically, she suggested making a list of places you’d like to visit. Then open up Google Maps, and set a timer for 15 minutes to learn more about each destination, letting your mind wander to far-off lands.
Pair your deep breathing with words. Breathing practices are powerful in quickly calming your nervous system. “Setting aside time to take conscious breaths relays two messages to your body: ‘I am willing to let go’ and ‘I am willing to receive,’” said Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley, author of the memoir The Gift of Crisis. As you inhale, she suggested saying, “I receive,” and as you exhale, say, “I let go.” Use this breathing technique until “you feel more energy beginning to circulate within the body.”
Address the underlying issue. Sometimes, the reason we need to recharge is because something is bothering us. One way to address the concern is to explore alternate perspectives and explanations. Because we tend to only see one (unhelpful) interpretation.
For example, your friend hasn’t replied to your email in several days, and you assume they don’t care about you or what you sent, said Laurie Hollman, Ph.D, a psychoanalyst and author of several books, including her newest Are You Living with a Narcissist? However, other plausible explanations include: they’ve had a hectic week, didn’t see your email, or didn’t know how to respond. If you’re having trouble coming up with different perspectives, ask a friend to help, Hollman said.
Another strategy is to find an effective solution. In the same example, Hollman said, you call your friend to ask if she’s OK. Doing this honors her needs and your needs, and gives you “the information you actually need to assess the situation. You no longer feel vulnerable or passive or helpless, but quite in control.”
Use water. Nita Sweeney, author of the memoir Depression Hates a Moving Target, suggested splashing water on your face, wrists, and inside your elbows. As you do this, “be sure to feel the sensations of the water on your skin.”
Make a just-enough list. Rizzo learned this concept from stress expert Heidi Hanna. “She describes it as a list that would be ‘just enough’ that you’d feel accomplished for the day, your clients or boss would be happy with you, and you won’t be overwhelmed.” This might mean listing only a few tasks “but their impact is vast,” Rizzo said.
Revise reactive language. The words we use can spike our stress and dampen our joy. In the new book Emotional Detox for Anxiety, author and psychology professor Sherianna Boyle, Med., suggests making these changes:
- I try to I choose
- Maybe to Yes
- I think to I am
- What was, before, last time, in the past to What is, today, now
- I should to I notice
- I don’t understand to I wonder
Stand up. “Long periods of sitting can drain body, mind, and spirit,” said Sweeney. Indeed, research has corroborated the health consequences of sitting. Sweeney suggested simply standing up and stretching your arms in a circular motion until they’re above your head. “Take a deep breath as you stretch, noticing the sensations in your abdomen, lungs, throat, and face.”
Sigh. We typically associate sighs with frustration, exhaustion, or stress. However, Jackson-Buckley cited research from the University of Leuven, which found that a sigh “is at least 2.5 times deeper than a normal breath and offers a sense of relief from emotional and mental loads.” Jackson-Buckley described a sigh as a “healing tool—a natural and instinctive resetting mechanism.”
Practice the 4-8-12 exercise. According to Alyssa Petersel, LMSW, a therapist and founder of MyWellbeing, this breathing technique involves inhaling for 4 seconds, holding for 8 seconds, and exhaling for 12 seconds. She suggested repeating this for 3 to 7 minutes.
Notice the beauty. In The No Worries Workbook, author Molly Burford suggests refocusing your mind on these 10 small, beautiful things: the sounds around you; the scars on your heart that prove you’ve loved deeply (and will again); your family; the body that carries you through each day; a fond memory of a peaceful time; the sky; your friends; the fresh start inherent in each morning; your bed; and this moment.
Recharging on the spot can involve everything from doing a simple breathing practice to delving deeper and finding a solution for a specific concern. Either way, remember that there are many small, simple tools you can try to help you feel refreshed.