“For fast-acting relief try slowing down.” – Lily Tomlin

It sounds much too simple and easy, but slowing down really does work like a magic pill to help reduce stress. Think about it. When you’re in a hurry, you’re much more likely to be anxious, trying to cut corners, looking for the quickest way to get the job done, and worried that you might not get everything finished that you have left on your list to do. This ratchets up the pressure you feel to perform, increases blood pressure and elevates heart rate — and produces added stress.

On the other hand, when you deliberately take a moment to catch your breath — literally — what happens? You slow down your heart beat, your blood pressure has a chance to level off to a healthier range and your anxiety and worry begins to dissipate. While it’s not a complete cure for stress, slowing down does have other advantages that can also contribute to quick stress relief.

A slowdown helps you reconnect with the present.

Instead of such a laser-sharp focus on what’s yet to do, slowing down brings you back to the here and now. You start to notice what you’re feeling, seeing, touching, smelling, tasting and hearing. Your work and to-do list will still be there, of course, but it won’t seem as monumental or demanding. The workload and to-do list hasn’t changed, you have. And it all begins by slowing down.

Regular time-outs can establish a healthy pattern.

Sometimes a slowing down means that you consciously take a much-needed time out. Use this as a time for you to regroup, refresh, replenish and revitalize. And it doesn’t have to be anything complicated. In fact, your time-out could be as basic as going for a walk in nature, taking a stroll around the parking lot, walking briskly to lunch and back or it could mean you indulge in a massage, a soaking bath, reading your favorite book or whatever you know makes you feel relaxed. Regularly scheduling these me-time chunks on your calendar will help you establish a healthy pattern — and dramatically cut down on stress.

Relationships can be enriched.

If you’re always in a hurry, you’re likely to miss out on key events with family, loved ones and friends. There are only so many hours in the day and once they’re gone, there’s no getting them back. Somehow, we all seem to forget this from time to time. By employing the strategy of slowing down, however, you can spend that precious time with those you care about, doing things together – or just conversing and being with each other. After all, what’s the good of racking up a big bank account if you’re all alone? Who’s going to be there with you to savor all your material possessions if you’ve alienated those people along the way? Slow down and reap the benefit of enriched relationships — which you can have if you put your mind to it.

You’ll be more productive in the long run.

Far from decreasing your effectiveness, when you make it a point to slow down what you’re doing is helping your ability to be more productive over time. How does this work? When you slow down, your mind can work on solutions to problems you may be experiencing, finding a better way to do something, prioritizing tasks and projects and eliminating or reducing conflict. These can all help you to become more efficient and more adept at completing what you need to do. They also greatly reduce the level of stress that you feel.

Try slow, deep breathing or meditating for added stress relief.

You might not realize it, but there’s a system in your body that, when stimulated or aroused, produces a feeling of calmness in mind and body, along with a feeling of relaxation. This is called the parasympathetic system. The sympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, is what creates the “fight or flight” response when it’s aroused or put on high alert. Achieve quick stress relief by activating the parasympathetic system when you feel stress mounting. Do this easily by engaging in deep breathing or meditating for 10-15 minutes. An added benefit is that in addition to the deep breathing and/or meditating helping you to slow down, you’re restoring much-needed balance to your life.