It can take only an instant to get stressed out. Whether spilling coffee on your dress shirt right before a meeting, misplacing your keys, watching your favorite sports team get defeated, fighting with your kids—stress can show up in a flash when you least expect it, even when your day seemed to be going well just a moment earlier.
So it’s only right that you should know how to de-stress in a flash, too. Next time you feel stress rising inside of you, reach for one of these tools to stop stress in its tracks and bring both of your feet back on the ground.
Hang Out with a Furry Friend
Pets tend to soften the edges of stress. If you have a Fido of your own, this is obviously going to be far easier than if you don’t. Take your dog for a walk or snuggle with your cat. It is especially difficult to feel anger or stress in the direct presence of a puppy—their love, affection, and sense of wonder tends to be contagious and counteracts the stress response, from my experience. If you don’t have a dog, find a friend who does, a coworker who brings theirs to work, or stop by the dog park on the way home from work and pet a stranger’s furry friend.
This is my go-to tool when I’m stressed. Firstly, it can literally take 30 seconds to take a few deep, conscious breaths. Secondly, you can do it without changing your location, body position, and without anyone knowing.
One practice is to simply take a few, deep cleansing breaths—inhaling through your nose slowly, and exhaling through your mouth.
Another practice is alternate nostril breathing—which you can do over the span of just a few minutes or as long as you’d like. It helps reverse the effects of stress and focus the mind. Here are the steps to practice alternate nostril breathing.
Listen to Music
Choose a soothing song, close your eyes, and zone out for the duration. Tune into the melody, the instruments, the words, harmonies … Check out these two playlists for some ideas for soothing tracks.
Take a walk around the block. Even five minutes of getting out of your element and moving your body can do wonders to your stress levels. For a bonus, leave your phone behind.
If you’re feeling stressed and it’s because you have too much to do, make a to-do list that only holds three things. If your to-do list is overwhelmed, chances are you are, too. Take five minutes to write down all that’s swimming in your head, and prioritize the top three things from there. It would even help to remove items off your to-do list that aren’t important so you can focus on what is.
It doesn’t matter whether you sit, stand, walk or run—just being in nature, getting a few breaths of fresh air, and changing the scenery can have a profound affect on your stress levels.
Have a Laugh
There is some scientific evidence that says that having a good giggle, hearty laugh, or silly guffaw can alleviate the stress response and soothe tension in the mind and body, among other short- and long-term health benefits of laughter. So chuckle away the next time you feel stressed … Doctor’s orders.
If you have trouble getting started, begin with a big smile and a fake laugh—it doesn’t matter if it feels forced, once you get into it, you’ll notice a sense of lightness overcome you, and most often, genuine laughter will follow.
Sometimes you just have to get it off your chest. I don’t like to confuse venting with complaining; it is more like conscious complaining—something that has to come off your shoulders and out into the open. Next time you’re stressed over something or someone in particular, call a good friend or loved one for support—choose someone who is good at calming you down and keeping judgment at bay. As soon as you have their ear, tell them you only have five minutes and are just wanting to vent, no advice required. You’re guaranteed to feel a little lighter after the one-way conversation.
Take a Whiff
It only takes a minute to enjoy the relaxing nature of lavender, rose, ylang ylang, geranium, or orange. Rub a few drops of your favorite essential oil between your palms, cup your hands to your nose, and take a few deep breaths, savoring the scent and allowing it to ease your mind and body. Stash the oil in your purse or desk for easy access during stressful moments. You can also get an essential oil diffuser and keep it in the background for those particularly stressful days.
Take a seat, close your eyes, choose an anchor for your mind, and drop in. Try one of these five meditations you can do in less than five minutes.