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Yapping dogs. Glaring lights. Smelly socks. Small jolts to your senses can add up to big-time tension. Calming your body can be simple:

Gaze at nature.

Bright (particularly fluorescent) lights can increase tension, while soft lighting or views of nature have a calming effect, says Simon Rego, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. No window? No worries. A screen saver with nature images is almost as helpful.

Listen to music.

Escaping everyday clamor in a quiet place is one way to find sanity. Another is listening to music. Researchers attribute its soothing power to its rhythmic component, which helps steady breathing.

Wear or touch something soft.

An itchy sweater or too-tight shoes can set off your body’s stress response without you even knowing it. Eliminate tactile stress by wearing a soft, silky blouse or cashmere sweater. Bring comfy slippers or soft socks to wear under your desk instead of your pumps or dress loafers. Change into your fuzzy robe or favorite sweats as soon as you get home.

Take a whiff.

“Just one whiff of a scent can bring instant relaxation,” says Alan Hirsch, director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. Tackling an especially stressful project? Spritz your favorite perfume into the wastebasket. The scent will permeate the room.

Have some chocolate.

Research shows that of the major flavors (sweet, sour, salty and bitter), most people prefer sweets when tension peaks, particularly chocolate, Hirsch says. A little goes a long way: “The first bite always tastes the best anyway.”

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