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You could follow the hoards of people to the gym in January or attempt the keto diet (until you remember bread is the best), but let’s get real: What you really need in 2019 is a little downtime. So why not resolve to breathe a little deeper and put things in perspective this year? We asked Emily Fletcher, founder of Ziva Meditation in New York City and author of Stress Less, Accomplish More, to give us tips for tackling stress and getting back on track for a balanced year ahead.

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meditation
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Start your day with meditation. We know, mornings are the most hectic. But if you make time for meditation before heading out the door, your mind and body will thank you. Fletcher says the daily practice is “the number-one thing you can do for your mental and physical health.” So if you can find 15 minutes to sit and breathe, you can dial back your stress for the whole day.  

Write it out. Whether it’s a custom bullet journal or simple tear-off list, writing out all the small tasks occupying your brain can help you stay focused on long-term goals. Fletcher refers to this big-picture thinking as “manifesting.” She adds, “Nothing creates stress like the aimless, wasting of energy that happens when you aren’t clear on your goals. While the word ‘manifesting’ may get a bad rap, it’s really all about getting crystal clear on your goals. It is consciously creating a life you love.”

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woman sleeping
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Practice gratitude. We’ve heard that Oprah starts each day with what she calls her most powerful ritual: a moment of gratitude. And while this definitely isn’t our first thought when our alarm goes off (it usually involves internal cursing), Fletcher claims this mind-set is crucial. “Even on the days where you don’t think you have anything to give thanks for, just asking the question can be enough to change the chemistry of your brain.”

Get some sun. If stress is throwing your sleep cycle out of whack, look to the sun to get things back in order. “First thing in the morning, let the sunlight hit your face. It sets your circadian rhythm for the day. Think of your circadian rhythm as the master gear that many of your other body systems run in accordance with,” Fletcher says. Bye, blackout curtains.

essential oils
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Experiment with essential oils. Whether you suffer from headaches or sore muscles, essential oils can be an incredibly healing remedy. Fletcher’s top pick for relaxation? Lavender oil, which she gives to each of her meditation students. She swears by the plant derivative as a natural sleep aid, and recommends rubbing it on the bottom of your feet before bed for your best night’s sleep.

Start saying no. Yes, jade rolling is fabulous for stress, but so is plain old self-advocacy. If your coworkers want to grab drinks when you know you need some sleep, or if you’re too busy to take on another new project at work—say something. Setting boundaries will prevent you from over-committing and will keep your stress in check.

Consider a digital detox. Can’t stop scrolling before bed? According to Fletcher, your phone’s blue light may cause sleeplessness and prevent your body from winding down. Instead, she recommends some self-care before bed. “Switch to airplane mode and spend the hour before bed taking a bath, reading a book, or something else which signals to your brain that bedtime is near,” she advises. “You'll have a far more restful sleep, giving your brain more time to work through all of those built-up stresses.”

hiking
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Enjoy the outdoors. “Besides meditation, one of the best things you can do every day for de-stressing is taking time to get outside in nature,” says Fletcher. So take a stroll to the park after lunch or plan a weekend hiking trip to get your fix. Want to take it a step further? Fletcher is a firm believer in grounding, or getting your bare feet on the earth, which, in addition to relieving stress, “has been shown to reduce inflammation and release free radicals from the body.”

Cut back on coffee. We hate to break it to you, but your caffeine intake is probably contributing to your daily stress levels. Instead of coffee, Fletcher suggests sipping hot lemon water in the morning and plain hot water before meals. Along with its detoxifying benefits, she says hot water has a soothing effect on your system. “It’s warming in the winter and can act as a natural analgesic, bringing blood to your gut helping you to feel less hungry and eat intuitively.”

Make time for friends. Face time (the real kind) isn’t just fun, it’s imperative to your overall well-being. Simply connecting with a friend over coffee can help you focus on the present and remember what’s most important to you. Fletcher explains, “So much energy is exchanged when we look into each other’s eyes, touch each other’s hands and laugh together. It helps us to feel connected, happier and more creative. There will always be more work emails to answer. Go spend time with the people you love the most.”

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