It takes much less than five minutes to get stressed out. Spilling coffee on your dress shirt right before a meeting, misplacing your iPhone, 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 we 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.
Mindful breathing is a great tool to settle your mind and neutralize your emotions. Take five to close your eyes and slow down your breath, bringing 100 percent of your focus to your inhale and exhale.
Alternate nostril breathing is one practice I find most helpful for calming my nerves and reversing stress. Get the step-by-step guide to learn this technique.
Listen to Music
Choose a soothing song, close your eyes, and tune into the melody, the instruments, the words and the harmonies. For an extra stressful day, choose music with nature sounds to take the edge off—like rain, birds, rivers and wind.
What’s better than music with nature sounds? Getting out in nature, of course. 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 effect on your stress levels.
Make a to-do list that only includes three things. You may be tempted to add more than three things, but don’t. If you’re feeling stressed and it’s because you have too much to do, take five to write down all that’s swimming in your head, and then prioritize. Removing items off your to-do list that aren’t important so you can focus on what is, is incredibly helpful to reduce the overwhelm. Remember, if your to-do list is overwhelmed, chances are you are, too.
Sometimes you just have to fake it ’til you make it. Research suggests that even a phony smile can help you de-stress. It works the other way around, too—if your facial expression and body position reflect stress or sadness, real misery can also follow. So uncross your arms, stand up tall, and lift both corners of your lips for a quick pick-me-up in the stress department.
Take a Whiff
Our sense of smell is one of the most powerful senses we hold; it acts as a trigger for the brain to produce various emotional, neurological, and chemical responses, depending on the smell.
Lavender, rose, jasmine, and ylang ylang are a few specific aromatherapy scents that can do wonders for your stress levels.
Hang Out with a Furry Friend
Dogs, cats and other furry friends can take the edge off with just a moment of petting or cuddling. (Puppies have an especially helpful stress-reducing quality in my opinion, although I couldn’t find any scientific research to back this up.) Try it for yourself.
Sometimes you just have to get whatever it is that’s bugging you off your chest. 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.
Take a walk around the block. Even five minutes of getting out of your element and moving your body can do wonders for your stress levels.
Make a Cup of Tea
Sure, a hot cup of chamomile tea sounds like a no-brainer to calm stress. But research actually suggests that black tea has the power to significantly soothe stress, too. This goes for in-the-moment stress and crisis mode, but it also has been shown to reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone) over a period of six weeks of drinking black tea consistently.
If black tea isn’t your thing, try passionflower, ashwagandha, lavender, lemon balm, and of course chamomile—or any combination—to help you take the edge off.
This post wouldn’t be complete without telling you to take a time-out to meditate when you’re feeling stressed. Take a seat, close your eyes, choose an anchor for your mind, and drop in.