7 Simple Ways to Steal Stress-Free Moments (that Will Actually Fit Into Your Busy Day)

beautiful woman sitting in the grass

Athletes need physical recovery. Why?

Because if they can recover effectively from the physical stress of a workout, they can jump back into training more quickly, and achieve greater gains over time.

But, guess who else needs effective recovery?

We all do. We need emotional and mental recovery to handle life’s stresses.

The hitch is that most of us either feel like we don’t have enough time for ourselves to recover, or actually don’t have enough recovery time. And we stress ourselves the hell out.

The solution? Simple:

Learn how to steal moments. Take a moment previously meant for something else, and steal it back. Transforming it into exactly what you need.

The Not-So-Pretty Picture that is Chronic Stress

It’s no secret that we face an unprecedented amount of stress day-to-day. Sure, the days of relatively quick stresses (predators, famine) are long gone, but they’ve been replaced by stresses that are repeated, and daily. Chronic stresses like:

  • Traffic
  • Jobs
  • Relationships
  • Finances
  • Environmental stress
  • Unhealthy food
  • Stagnancy or too much exercise
  • Lack of sleep (interestingly, often due to financial stress, job stress, and everything listed above)

The list goes on. Most of us are up against one or more of these every single day, which results in negative mental and physical effects.

To mask the mental effects of this chronic stress — depression, irritability, anger, resentment, fatigue — we go to the distractions of junk food, mindless entertainment, alcohol, and recreational drugs.

Then, to mask the physical effects — fat retention, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, increased inflammation, weakened digestion — we use medications.

All this to simply keep “functioning” in society.

But do this long enough and chances of mental and physical breakdown go up. Little by little, day after day.

It ain’t a pretty picture. And in the very least, it doesn’t make for a happy, vibrant life.

How Proper Stress Recovery Can Change Your Life

What we’re missing is ample recovery time. Real recovery time.

The rest and calm necessary to refuel, restore, and re-set our clocks to prevent the stresses of the world from becoming debilitating and stopping us in our tracks.

In an ideal world, we’d have enough time each day to allow our minds and bodies to fully recover before the next (inevitable) spike of stress. In an ideal world, yes, but certainly not in this one.

The time we spend on modern world obligations and responsibilities far outweighs the time we have for recovery.

So, what can we do? We steal moments.

We take what we can, when we can, and in whatever amount we can, because today’s world isn’t going to hand them to us.

The good news is that we can actually make great gains in recovery by stealing even the smallest of moments, and live healthier and happier when we do.

7 Ways to Steal a Moment and Reduce Stress

Below are seven ways to increase the quality and quantity of your mental and emotional recovery time every single day:

1. Think in moments.

When we learn to think in moments, we become aware of the enormous quantity of distinct nuggets of time that are available throughout our days — moments we can utilize for a tiny injection of recovery time.

If we think recovery time should be in substantial chunks of time — hours, days or weeks — we lose out because we just can’t find that kind of time in our day-to-day lives.

2. Steal the deep breath.

Meditation is an excellent way to reset our clocks, but 20-30 minutes sitting on a pillow is a tall order for many of us. A single, intentional deep breath is, well, a meditation. And it works.

You can grab single deep breaths in between (or even during) meetings, in the car, before taking your first bite of food, and literally hundreds of different times throughout the day.

3. Use (don’t abuse) technology.

We’ve got the phones in our pockets anyways … why not set recurring alarms to “wake up” throughout your day? When the alarm goes off, you become present, and the mind-chatter halts.

A moment later you’re back in the nutty-nut-nut world, but a little better off for having stolen that time for yourself.

4. Take advantage of every walk.

That short walk to your car after work is wasted if you’re still thinking about the job you just left for the day. Instead, use those few minutes to breathe, relax your muscles, and remind yourself of the life you want to live and the person you truly are.

5. Integrate.

No matter how busy we are, chances are we can eek out a 30-second (or less) walk down the hallway, a couple of squats or push-ups at our desks, or a moment to sketch with a pencil and a notebook.

Done multiple times, in small chunks throughout the day, these integrated activities really add up and start making a difference.

6. Nourish the body.

In the modern world we ask a lot of our bodies, but give it very little in the way of nutrients and energy. Then we wonder why our bodies start to fail.

If the Ben and Jerry’s (did you know they now sell vegan ice cream?) gives you pleasure in the moment, then instead of initially denying yourself that pleasure, try simply adding in healthier foods — fresh fruit, cut veggies — wherever and whenever you can. A stalk of celery here, an apple there …

Nourishing ourselves better over time is the most profound way we can minimize the negative effects of chronic stress.

7. Cut out the bad news.

Commuting to and from work is an often overlooked chance to steal moments. We tend to flip on the news and get bombarded with what tends not to be a slurry of “Look at all the wonderful things going on in the world today!”

Not only do we miss a moment to breathe and relax, we carry that bad news with us well beyond the few minutes it took for it to be crammed into our head. I’m not advocating completely shutting yourself off from the world, but am suggesting stealing a moment of recovery before and after flipping on the news.

Take the First Step Towards Stealing Moments

It is amazingly easy to get overwhelmed in the modern world. Fret not.

Make a mental note over the next few days of the moments — trust me, they are there — where you could potentially grab some recovery time. Then, take steps to fill those moments in with acts that will help you recover … and bring you one step closer to living that happier, more vibrant life.

About the Author: Sid Garza-Hillman, the Small Step Advocate, is a certified nutritionist, author of Approaching the Natural: A Health Manifesto, and host of the Approaching the Natural Podcast and YouTube Channel. Find him at the Stanford Inn’s Wellness Center, where he’s the Nutritionist, Wellness Programs Director, and Health Coach. Sid is the co-author of No Meat Athlete’s Health Made Simple program.



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  1. This is good advice but not very in drives to work!

  2. Some very good ideas. I am taking a moment right after this comment and so should you…

  3. Very essential tips for a daily lifestyle. Thanks for sharing, really helpful.

  4. I really like the “cutting out bad news” idea. I started following the Good News Network on Facebook so that I still felt connected, but with more positive stories.

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