Garden soothers

Julie Chai

Setting aside 15 to 20 minutes a day to sit quietly and breathe deeply can reduce stress, helping to stabilize your heart rate and blood pressure. A simple setting among plants — indoors or out — is the perfect place to do this.

You can use the following building blocks to create a soothing getaway. After a long day, your corner of nature will be a wonderful place to recharge.

• Quiet. Choose a spot away from the phone, TV, and computer.

• Escape. Set off your area with a screen, canopy, or tall plants in pots or in the ground. If you have room, mark a path to your retreat. It will create a sense of departure and invite you to slow down.

• Comfort. Be sure to include a soft place to sit or lie down, like a hammock, some cushions, or a comfy bench or chair.

• Beauty. Fill your space with sensory delights: grasses that sway in the breeze, a pot of flowers in your favorite color, the sound of water, a fragrant plant. Consider candles, chimes, and feeders to invite birds and other wildlife.

Making time in a busy world

Here are some ways to save precious minutes for doing important things — including just relaxing.

• Work hard...and know when to go home. The reality is that your in-box will never be completely empty, so reclaim some overtime minutes for yourself. You're likely to find that you get more done during regular work hours.

• Don't treat every chore as a high priority. Tend to mail two or three times a week instead of every day. Get a tiered in-box to separate essential and nonessential items.

• Be choosy. Attend events that are meaningful for you, and skip the rest. Keep a calendar in your bag to avoid overscheduling.

• Streamline your morning. Each weekday evening, lay out (and iron, if necessary) what you plan to wear the next day.

• Combine relaxing and socializing. Grab a buddy to prepare a meal or work on a hobby together. You'll benefit from two stress busters at once.