5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Reduce Stress

Yoga Girl

You don’t have to be a yoga girl to quiet your mind during the day — but it doesn’t hurt to take some advice from someone who is.

Meet Rachel Brathen, an Aruba-based yoga instructor who has amassed more than a million followers on Instagram with her inspirational (and enviable) images of pretty poses and Caribbean calm.

Of course, Brathen’s life wasn’t always as zen as it is today.

“People think — especially if they follow others on social media — that everything looks picture-perfect,” Brathen, 26, tells PEOPLE of her path from self-destructive and insecure teenager to practicing yogi. It’s a journey she chronicles (along with step-by-step yoga sequences) in her book Yoga Girl. “I like to share the lows together with the beautiful life that I have today,” she says.

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While meditation and yoga have been key to finding inner peace, the Swedish native says that without focusing on the now, yoga is simply aerobics or stretching: “I love how the whole practice is designed to take you away from the stress of the mind.”

Here are five tips from Brathen to lessen that midday stress — no mat required.

1. Take a quick “breath break.”
“If it’s one minute of deep breathing or if it’s five or 10 minutes of meditation, whatever [kind of break] you can sneak into your day actually makes you more centered and focused and more productive overall,” says Brathen of simply “closing your eyes, centering yourself and focusing on inhales and exhales.”

2. Spruce up your workspace.
“If there’s clutter all around and papers and piles of things, it’s very hard to find that peace of mind,” says Brathen, who suggests replacing a stack of files with a vase of flowers. “Try anything to make your own space yours and your experience a little bit more pleasant than just a computer and stress.”

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3. Go for a “green tea run.”
Swap a coffee break with a green tea break, suggests Brathen, for an energy boost that “keeps you feeling fresher and lighter than that heavy feeling of coffee.” For an even bigger boost, actually walk outside for a cup. “Getting to see the sky and breathe the fresh air makes a huge difference,” she says.

4. Stay hydrated.
Brathen recommends keeping a little bottle of rosewater at your desk to “use as a hydrating mist or refreshing toner.” Whether she’s on the go or logging in office time, she finds that “it’s a nice contrast for the screen that’s in your face. It hydrates your skin, but in a very natural, organic, yogi kind of way.”

Rachel Brathen

5. Stretch out that tension.
“We tend to shrug the shoulders up and we stick our chin out when we are working on the computer, so several poses help to really release and counterbalance that,” says Brathen, who suggests trying the upper-body part of the eagle arms pose — which involves wrapping the arms in front of you and stacking the elbows for a stretch (see above photo). For more ways to say om, kick off your shoes and check out her in-office sequence.

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—Barbara Kimberly Seigel

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