There are 364 new emails in your inbox, those new pants are covered in scalding coffee, and the next conference call starts in exactly five minutes. In other words, it’s the perfect time to relax.
Luckily for you, we’ve found 24 ways to to relieve stress in just five minutes or less, to help you keep calm during tough times.
Food and Drink
- Sip green tea. Instead of turning purple with rage, get green with a cup of herbal tea. Green tea is a source of L-Theanine, a chemical that helps relieve anger. Boil the water, pour it out, and take a soothing sip.
- Eat some chocolate. Just a square (about 1.4 ounces) of the sweet stuff can calm your nerves. Dark chocolate regulates levels of the stress hormone cortisol and stabilizes metabolism.
- Slurp some honey. Replace stress with sweetness and try a spoonful of honey. Besides being a natural skin moisturiser and antibiotic, honey also provides compounds that reduce inflammation in the brain, meaning it fights depression and anxiety.
- Chew gum. Minty, fruity, or bubble-gum flavour, a stick of gum is a surprisingly quick and easy way to beat stress. Just a few minutes of chewing can actually reduce anxiety and lower cortisol levels.
- Munch on a crunchy snack. Sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying than munching away on a candy bar when we’re stressed — one study found stressed adults craved crunchy and salty snacks more than usual. But that salty crunch doesn’t have to be so sugary — a handful of trail mix or a bag of celery sticks will work just as well.
Take Refuge in your Inner World
- Meditate. No need to go on a retreat to the mountains—five minutes of peace is all it takes to reap the benefits of meditation. There’s evidence that just two quick bouts of silent meditation per day can relieve stress and depression. Find a comfortable spot in a quiet place, concentrate on your breath, and feel those anxieties start to disappear.
- Lay your head on a cushion or pillow. There are days when all we really need is a nice, long nap. But it’s not always possible to start snoring in the middle of the office. If you’ve got a pillow, you’re already on the road to relaxation. Try this visualization technique: Lay your head down for a few minutes and imagine the pillow is a sponge sucking up all your worries.
- Remember to breathe. Is there any simpler way to relax? Slow, deep breaths can help lower blood pressure and heart rate. For the fancy noses out there, try pranayama breathing, a yogic method that involves breathing through one nostril at a time to relieve anxiety. The technique’s supposed to work the same way as acupuncture, balancing the mind and body (and possibly eliminating the need for a tissue).
- Try progressive relaxation. Anxious? Just squeeze, release, and repeat. Progressive relaxation involves tensing the muscles in one body part at a time to achieve a state of calm. The method (also used by actors) is a great way to help fall asleep.
- Count backward. Nope, it’s not an IQ test, but it is a way to relax. When worries are running rampant, try slowly counting to 10 and then back again to calm down. It’s harder to freak about an upcoming date or job interview when you’re busy remembering what number comes before seven. (Hey, kindergarten was a long time ago).
- Use creative visualisation. The doorbell rings. It’s Ryan Gosling (or Elizabeth Banks), and he/she wants to know if you’ll marry him/her. ’Yes!’ you shout, and then — sorry, time’s up. These little daydreams, also known as ’creative visualization,’ involve thinking of something that makes us feel happy. It’s an instant mood boost on hectic days when we’re feeling tense.
- Close your eyes. James Taylor said it: You can close your eyes, it’s all right. Take a quick break from a busy office or a chaotic household by just lowering your eyelids. It’s an easy way to regain calm and focus.
- Give yourself a hand massage. When there’s no professional masseuse in sight, try DIY-ing a hand massage for instant relaxation that calms a pounding heart . Massages can be especially helpful for people who spend a lot of time typing on a keyboard. Hands in general can carry a lot of tension. Apply some luxurious lotion and start kneading the base of the muscle under the thumb to relieve stress in the shoulders, neck, and scalp.
- Rub your feet over a golf ball. Leave the clubs at home and just bring the ball. You can get an impromptu relaxing foot massage by rubbing your feet back and forth over a golf ball.
- Squeeze a stress ball. On days when you want to strangle a co-worker, your BFF, or the driver in the next lane, squeeze a stress ball instead. It’s an easy, portable, and non-violent way to relieve tension.
- Drip cold water on your wrists. Pass on the perfume and go with water. When stress hits, head for the bathroom and drop some cold water on your wrists and behind your earlobes. There are major arteries right underneath the skin, so cooling these areas can help calm the whole body.
Change your Environment
- Find the Sun. Here comes the sun—and some stress relief. If it’s a sunny day, head outside for an easy way to lift your spirits. Bright light can be an effective treatment for people who suffer from depression, and can even cheer up otherwise healthy folks.
- Look out the window. No spying on the neighbors allowed. When things get hectic, take a five-minute break to do nothing but stare out the window. Looking at nature scenes like trees and public parks can be a lot more relaxing than staring at the TV screen.
- Be alone. Not everyone needs a cabin the woods, but five minutes of alone time can help you collect your thoughts and clear your head.
Entertainment and Creativity
- Write it down. ’Dear Diary: Today I feel STRESSED.’ Just putting our emotions on paper can make them seem less intimidating. Try journaling before a big exam and it just might improve your score.
- Do a crossword puzzle. Number 10 across: Anxious, overwhelmed, or freaking out (seven letters). If you guessed “Stressed,” you’re in good shape to try some crossword puzzles. Brain games that require lots of concentration can help take our mind off whatever’s worrying us.
- Dance. To the music! Research suggests people feel less anxious after a few months of modern dance, but if that’s not your style, five minutes of the funky chicken probably works, too. (At the very least, dancing’s a great form of cardio!)
Socializing and Fun
- Start planning a vacation. Crashing waves, warm sand, a gentle breeze ruffling your hair. Well, at least the image is nice. Take a break from work and start browsing the web for some future vacation spots. Sometimes the whole fun of a trip is in the planning, anyway.
- Cuddle with a pet. A boyfriend or girlfriend is okay, but they’re (usually) not furry enough. After a rough day, snuggle up with a pet for an instant slobbery smile, since pets can boost self-esteem and even ease the sting of social rejection.