Stress has a way of creeping up on us in an instant.
Whether it’s the pressure of an impending deadline, the panic of losing an important item, or worrying about certain future events, stress arises quickly and dissipates slowly.
We all know ways to soothe our anxious thoughts – go for an 8k run, make some herbal tea, or take 30 minutes to meditate. But sometimes, when panic rises, we don’t have time to do any of these methods.
Sometimes all we have is a few minutes to calm down before we have to face a work presentation, a college exam, or get back to our errands.
It helps to have a few 5-minute techniques for de-stressing and relaxing, so you can combat anxiety as quickly as it arises.
Here are the 14 best stress relievers that will have you feeling serene and calm before you know it.
This tip is no joke. You might feel a little psychotic at first when you force a fake laugh or smile, but the ridiculousness of this exercise will have you really laughing in no time.
Having a giggle stimulates circulation and relieves tension; it also stimulates the brain and encourages it to calm your stress hormones, releasing positive endorphins instead.
Breathing acts like a pacemaker for our brains, so if you find your mind is going crazy with stress and worry, it might be time to slow down your breathing and focus your thoughts.
Taking as little as 30 seconds to inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth will regulate your brain activity.
A problem shared is a problem halved.
Sometimes, when you’re jam-packed, desperate to find out how to relax, it can be helpful to share your concerns with someone close to you. Bouncing shared feelings off each other proves to be beneficial for your emotional state.
Be careful, it can take more than 5 minutes once you are started. It can also be helpful to quickly write down a list of things that bother you if you don’t want to tell anyone.
4. Use aromatherapy.
Have you ever wondered where the expression “Stop and smell the roses” comes from? Well, it turns out that nature has a powerful role in reducing stress, and it’s not just roses.
Many people swear by the benefits of aromatherapy and use scents of lavender, geranium, or orange to soothe their minds. Place a bouquet, diffuser or carry essential oils for quick stress relief.
5. Chew gum.
Turns out your favorite nervous habit might actually work!
A 2008 study from Swinburne University in Melbourne found that chewing reduced cortisol, the stress hormone in saliva, by 16% during mild stress and almost 12% during moderate stress. .
A lot of the time, stress builds up – not because we can’t handle things, but because we refuse to let it all out. When you feel an anxious tightening in your chest, sometimes all you need is a good scream to let it out.
Primal scream therapy has been a successful form of psychotherapy for anxiety and trauma since the 70s. Pick up a pillow or go to a secluded place and scream as loud as you can to feel catharsis.
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7. Stretch your body.
Even if you don’t have time for a full yoga flow, taking a moment to stretch your tight muscles will help invite feelings of calm.
Stretching improves blood flow and circulation, which helps stabilize the nervous system. Try striking a quick cat-cow pose or touching your toes to relax throughout the day.
8. Play with a pet.
It’s no surprise to animal lovers that our furry friends can cure our stress — and science agrees.
Spending a few minutes petting your cat, playing with your dog, or feeding your hamster can relax you and elicit feelings of joy. If you don’t have a pet, go to a dog park and pet a few puppies.
9. Count in your head.
Did your parents ever tell you to count imaginary sheep if you have trouble sleeping? Mine did and I still use this technique today to calm my racing thoughts.
Having something neutral to focus on takes your focus away from the things that are causing you stress. Counting to 10 and beyond is a popular anger management technique because it calms the mind.
10. Brush dry.
Dry brushing has incredible benefits for lymphatic drainage and cellulite reduction, but also calms anxious nerves. Stroking your skin with a dry brush stimulates nerve endings and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which triggers a more relaxed state.
11. Drink herbal tea.
Some teas increase levels of GABA, an amino acid that promotes calm.
Chamomile, green tea, and lemon balm tea are popular pain relievers. Black tea can also improve alertness and regulate stress hormones.
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12. Jog in place.
Even if you don’t have time for a full workout or your daily run, taking a moment to get your heart pumping and your blood flowing has amazing relaxation benefits.
Aerobic exercise causes the brain to reduce levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) and increases production of endorphins, the brain’s natural mood elevators. Try burpees, jumping jacks, or jogging in place for quick relaxation.
Singing triggers the brain to release oxycontin, which plays an important role in allowing us to experience pleasure. It also stimulates the vagus nerve which controls our relaxation response.
Even if you’re deaf, we all have an inner Beyoncé, so use those hits!
14. Massage your body.
Isolating a part of the body that carries some tension is a great way to improve your overall mental state.
This study looked at nurses whose job stress levels decreased after a month of twice-weekly massage. Even if you don’t have a masseuse on hand, rubbing out knots and soreness will relax body and mind.
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Alice Kelly is a Yourtango writer and editor with a passion for lifestyle, entertainment and current affairs.