Stress can sometimes be a good thing – giving you that final push to make it through the end of your workout or finish a project before the deadline; however, intense or chronic stress can wreak havoc on your physical, emotional, and mental health. The best way to manage stress long-term is to make lifestyle changes like exercising regularly, sleeping enough, and regularly checking in on your physical, mental, and spiritual well being.
All of these are great practices, and can help bolster your resilience against stress; however, if you’re in the middle of a busy workday, halfway through an exam, or struggling to meet a project deadline, checking out to sleep 8 hours, eat a healthy meal, or fit in an hour long sweat sesh is usually anywhere from impractical to impossible. In this way, it’s good to master a couple of quick stress-busting exercises to employ when you need a fast fix for your stress levels. We’ve rounded up several practical stress relievers that take less than 5 minutes – try out several to find the ones that work for you!
Deep diaphragmatic breathing
Deep breathing is a quick and effective way to calm down your central nervous system, thereby lowering your heart rate and your levels of stress hormones. To begin, sit, stand, or lay in a comfortable position; if you prefer, close your eyes. While you’re getting used to diaphragmatic breathing (breathing that deeply engages the diaphragm, a sheet of muscle just under your lungs that creates lung space when it lowers), you may find it helpful to place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. As you breath in slowly over 4 counts, you should feel your stomach rise while your chest and shoulders remain stationary. Breath out over 8 counts while you slowly release the breath. Repeat several times.
Stream of consciousness journal
If you can’t stop worrying or are finding yourself distracted by miscellaneous thoughts, you should try a fast stream of consciousness journaling session. First, set a timer for anywhere from 3-5 minutes. Write for the whole time, jotting down anything that comes into your head, even unconnected thoughts and sentence fragments. Don’t worry about it making sense or making it a cohesive narrative, the purpose is to just get all of your thoughts and worries out of your head and onto the paper. when the timer goes off, set aside the paper and get back to your previous activity, reminding yourself that you can return to those thoughts at another time when you are less stressed or busy.
This activity will help you focus on the present and concentrate on your actions/activities when you are feeling overwhelmed, distracted, or distant. First, sit, stand, or lay in a comfortable position, and take a couple of deep breaths. Next, look around and name 4 things you can see in your immediate environment (ex. a clock, a chair, etc). Then, name 3 things you can physically feel (ex. your legs on your chair, your feet on the floor, etc). Then name 2 things you can hear (ex. the AC unit, someones voice, etc). Finally name 1 thing you can smell (ex. cookies baking, someone’s perfume, etc). Finish by taking a couple more deep breaths.
Personal dance party
If the situation allows, blast your favorite song and dance and sing along. This will brighten your mood and get your blood flowing. If you need to be a bit more discreet, you can just listen to your favorite song through a pair of headphones. This activity is most effective if you really focus on the song and allow yourself the three-minute break from your stressors, returning to them refreshed only after the song is over.
Write 5 things you are grateful for
Take a minute to write down 5 things you are grateful for. Once you have your list, spend a couple of minutes reflecting on these 5 things, the joy they bring to your life, and giving thanks to your version of God/the Universe/Fate/Science/etc. for these things.
Drop and give me 20
One good way to counter stress is to get out of your head and get physical – this is why exercise is such a great stress-reducer. However, you don’t need 30 minutes to hit the gym to reap some of the benefits of physical activity. When your stress levels are peaking, choose and exercise move (squats, push-ups, jumping jacks, etc) and do as many as you can in two or three minutes. Over time you can even challenge yourself to beat your personal best!
What’s your favorite way to calm down when you’re feeling stressed? Sound off in the comments below!