Stress is a killer, and that’s no joke. In fact, excessive stress has been associated with a host of maladies—depression, panic attacks, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome and more. Usually, it isn’t just one tough incident that contributes to such difficulties. It’s often an accumulation of smaller stressors over the course of a lifetime. But how do you release the pressure and treat yourself to relaxation when you’ve got to keep working, dealing with sometimes-troublesome family and friends, and living in the real world?

Here are some simple, affordable ideas to help ease your stress, increase your quality of life and improve your overall health. I’ve included an estimated budget for each method, none of which has to cost you more than $40.

A few options are even FREE.

Bubble bath on a budget

No personal hot tub with high-powered jets? No problem! Turn your very own bathtub into a place of quiet, warm respite. Find a cruelty-free, grocery store brand of bubbles or bath salts (here’s a list on Amazon, but be sure to check individual product info), a few inexpensive organic candles (ditto), and a relaxing set of tunes on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal or your favorite music streaming service. I actually bought an inexpensive CD/cassette player for when I want to relax without the temptation of checking my phone or laptop. If you’d like to keep it super-simple, just use one candle and add some Epsom salts to your bathwater. I also like an old-school rubber ducky, but that’s me. Make a regular ritual of this, whether it’s once a day or once a week. And when you’re done with the bath, don’t get right back into the swing of things. Go to bed. You’ll likely sleep better.

Cruelty-free bubble bath: $8 and up
Small organic candle: $5 and up
Bag of Epsom salts: $5 and up

Aromatherapy all day

I bought a Doterra diffuser from my chiropractor, but you can find less expensive options. I fill it with cold water, add a few drops of my favorite essential oil, pop the cap on, plug it in and turn it on! My diffuser has settings for various lengths of time as well as soothing lights, but the only important thing is that it works, spraying soothing scented air into my home. I use lavender when I want to relax or get some sleep, peppermint when I want to feel refreshed and renewed, rosemary or tea tree when I’m dealing with congestion, and different blends for other purposes. I even have a “focus” blend for when I work. It’s a simple, affordable way to add a touch of luxury to my apartment.

Essential oil diffuser: $16 and up
Bottle of pure undiluted essential oil, 10 mL: $9 and up

Yoga at home

I was an uncoordinated kid, and I get very anxious and shy exercising around other people in a class or gym setting. That’s one reason I love doing yoga at home. My current favorite is Austin-based YouTube fitness star Adriene Mishler of Yoga with Adriene—as of this writing, she’s got nearly 4.8 million subscribers. The 34-year-old actress, writer, and certified yoga teacher encourages students to “find what feels good” with a blend of self-deprecating humor, silliness, and common sense. She offers 30-day free programs with themed yoga calendars, and while there are options behind a paywall on her website, she has an incredible abundance of free resources. She’s also a really fascinating entrepreneur, in case your business curiosity is piqued.

Yoga videos: free
Yoga mat: $15 and up
Optional yoga strap: $10 and up
Optional yoga blocks (set of 2): $15 and up

Relaxation video and audio

Personally, I’m a big fan of autonomic sensory meridian response (ASMR) videos, which are meant to induce relaxation and a pleasant tingling sensation on the scalp. My favorite ASMRtists are Emma Smith of WhispersRed and Maria of Gentle Whispering, but there are many folks out there making these weird and wonderful videos. If they freak you out or simply aren’t for you, there are plenty of guided meditation and relaxation videos and podcasts available for free.

ASMR videos: free

Start a journal

I try to “freewrite” three pages a day as per Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way program of creative recovery. I don’t manage it every single day, but I get to it most days each week. It really helps me get out a lot of thoughts that might otherwise be squelched down, contributing to headaches or stomachaches. Writing in this manner is a great way to exercise your emotional demons in a safer way than, say, throwing things across the room.

Journal: $5 and up
Pen or pencil: $.75 and up

Hopefully these suggestions will get you started on a great personalized program of relaxation. Experiment with different methods. What works for someone else may not work for you, and vice versa.

Remember, as my mother says, you’ll find your own recipe.

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