Too much stress, not enough time? Check out these simple and easy stress relievers that you can do whenever and wherever.
Finding ways to relieve stress is absolutely crucial in today’s chaotic world.
We are expected to be busy, work-a-holic machines, but we often need to take a step back and remind ourselves that we are living, thinking, and feeling human beings.
There is more to life than work and being “productive.” If you don’t know how to relax or unwind, then you’ll always feel as if you are caught in the whirlwinds of life.
Stress is defined as a physical, mental, or emotional response to a challenging or demanding situation.
Stress is a normal aspect to everyday life, including problems with work, school, family, or relationships. None of us can avoid stress completely, but we can learn how to respond to it in a healthy way.
When stress levels go unchecked, they can lead to a variety of physical and mental health problems, including:
- Muscle pains and aches
- Anxiety disorders
- Heart disease
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Eating problems
- Substance abuse
- Weakened immune system
- Worsening of chronic health problems
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, chronic stress has been linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.
Another survey conducted by the Mental Health Foundation in the United Kingdom found that 74% of adults felt so stressed at some point over the past year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope; 32% of adults said they had experienced suicidal feelings as a result of stress
Since everyone experiences stress and it is an unavoidable facet of life, we all need to find our own methods to cope with it and manage it more effectively.
Here is a list of 50+ potential stress relievers to try out.
What works best for some people, may not necessarily work best for others. A lot of it depends on your personality, what hobbies you find enjoyable, and what kind of work you’re taking a break from (physical vs. mental).
Which stress relievers work best for you? Is there anything else you can think of that I’ve missed?
50+ Stress Relievers That Take 5 Minutes
- Take ten deep breaths – Simply taking a step back for a few slow, deep breaths can be enough to not get too overwhelmed by a situation or act too impulsively. Create a buffer between your thoughts and your actions.
- Do push-ups, crunches, or pull-ups – Channel your extra energy with some quick exercise, even if it’s just doing a fast round of push-ups or jumping jacks. Throughout my day, I practice a type of scattered workout where I’m frequently doing small exercises between different tasks.
- Play with a pet – Research finds that having dogs, cats, birds, and other pets can improve mental health. Spend quality time by bringing them on a walk, or playing with them, or just laying down with them.
- Take a peaceful walk outside – Stand up, go outside, and take a calm walk around the block or your local park. The power of walking can be a deceptively easy way to unwind. You’ll thank yourself after.
- Read a chapter in a book – Reading fiction can be a great temporary escape from your daily concerns. Studies also show it improves many aspects of cognition, including empathy, problem-solving, verbal ability, and social skills.
- Call a friend – Take the time to check in on people, especially family and old friends. We often underestimate how much they will appreciate it and we underestimate how good we will feel doing it.
- Listen to a favorite song – Music is one of the most common ways people regulate their mood, stress, and emotions on a daily basis. Create a trusted playlist designed for relaxation that you can always go back to.
- Watch nature videos – Research shows that nature documentaries can have a relaxing effect on viewers, including boosting positive emotions like joy, awe, and surprise. Today anyone can go on YouTube and have access to endless nature feeds, birds singing, and cute animal videos that will give you an instant mood boost.
- Play an instrument – It’s fun to play an instrument even if you aren’t very good at it. Enjoy the experience of creating sound and being present in the moment. Often times playing music can put you into a pleasurable state of flow.
- Meditate – A simple and easy breathing meditation such as the 100 Breaths Meditation can be one of the best ways to relax your mind in a systematic way. It’s a great exercise to have in your back-pocket whenever you are feeling extremely stressed or overwhelmed. I use it frequently.
- Eat a healthy snack – Our body and mind need fuel to function, so sometimes the best way to recharge your energy and willpower is to take a short break and eat a small healthy snack such as a salad, fruits, nuts, or a nutrition bar.
- Spark a conversation – In today’s world, we often underestimate the importance of social connection, especially among strangers and acquaintances. Studies show that even small 10 second relationships such as small talk with a neighbor, grocery clerk, or someone on the bus can deliver an unexpected boost in mood and positive emotions.
- Make yourself a cup of tea – Taking a short break with a cup of tea (black, green, herbal, etc.) is a great way to nourish your body, open up your senses, and give you a quiet moment to yourself.
- Sit in the sun and get some fresh air – We spend too much time indoors, so sometimes all we really need is to step outside more, let the sun hit our face, listen to the birds sing, and get some fresh air.
- Doodle – Drawing (or doodling) is a great way we can think and express ourselves in a different way. Psychologists have discovered the drawing effect which shows how doodling our thoughts can also improve creativity, problem-solving, and memory.
- Take a photograph – Photography is another great way to step back, observe your world, be in the moment, and be creative. Many people have easy access to nice cameras these days (through mobile phones), so almost anyone is capable of nice pictures as long as they have the eye for it. Research shows that exercises such as mindful photography can be a smart way to build more gratitude and appreciation in life.
- Dance – Play some of your favorite dance music and groove around the room. You can plan a quick dance party with friends and coworkers, or just dance by yourself like no one’s watching. What song always gets your body moving?
- Drum on your desk – Who needs a musical instrument? If you’re really out of options, just turn your desk into a drum-set, improvise, and be creative. Boredom just means a lack of imagination.
- Count your blessings – Grab a paper and pen, then write down all the things you are grateful for in your life. It could be “big things” like family, health, or career, or “small things” like a nice meal, a fun conversation with a friend, or your favorite sports team winning. Save the list somewhere and go back to it when you need an extra boost.
- Make plans for later in the day – Take a moment to call up a friend. Invite them to lunch or dinner, or meet up at the pub after work, or just to watch a new episode of a TV show. Our days become easier when we have something to look forward to, so add a little healthy anticipation in your life.
- Visualize a calm blue energy – Imagine in your mind’s eye a calm, cool blue energy that slowly grows and surrounds. Imagine yourself breathing in this blue energy as it naturally relaxes your body and mind. This is the essence of my blue energy hypnosis exercise.
- Do a small favor for someone – It feels good to be good. It often doesn’t take much to do a small favor for someone, or surprise them with a small gift, or just let them know you’re here if they need anything. A giving mindset can be a powerful shift in perspective, because it takes the focus off of yourself and proves that you add value to other people’s lives.
- Send a text to a loved one – One easy thing to do is send a message to a friend, family member, or loved one simply telling them that you are thinking about them and you appreciate them in your life. Instant mood boost.
- Teach yourself grounding techniques – Grounding is the ability to bring yourself back into the present moment when you find yourself stressed or overwhelmed. There are many proven grounding techniques, such as going through your 5 senses and observing one thing from each (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell).
- Look through art galleries – Research shows that viewing beautiful art and cultural exhibits can boost mood and well-being, even when we view them through online galleries or digital museums.
- Reflect on past wins – When you’re feeling down in the present, reflecting on positive memories and past accomplishments can be an excellent mood-booster. By reminding yourself of the success you’ve had in the past, you more strongly believe in your success for the future.
- Practice a progressive muscle relaxation – Train your body how to become less tense through a progressive muscle relaxation exercise, where you focus on stretching and relaxing each muscle and joint until your body is completely at ease.
- Find things that make you laugh out loud – Laughter is a great way to release stress and forget about our worries. When you’re feeling down, consider talking to a funny friend, or watching clips of a favorite comedian, or listening to a humorous song, or watching a YouTube video that never fails to make you burst out laughing. The harder the chuckle, the better it is for relaxation.
- Clean one thing – Our mind is influenced by our environment more than we realize. If you have a messy desk and office, it’s likely going to spillover into a more scattered brain as well. A simple tidying marathon (or just cleaning up ONE thing at a time) will give you a clearer mind, make you feel better, and give you an immediate sense of accomplishment.
- Recite positive affirmations that resonate – Find positive affirmations, quotes, or mantras that feel good to tell yourself during difficult times. A couple of my favorites include, “This too shall pass,” or “What stands in the way becomes the way.” Here’s a list of 100+ self-affirmations that you can feel free to take from.
- Gaze at the stars – If you’re trying to unwind at night, consider going outside for some fresh air and star-gazing. Moments spent staring up at the stars and moon can create strong positive feelings of awe, gratitude, and amazement, which can have a very healing effect on us.
- Get a back massage – Another way to relax both your body and mind is to receive a nice massage. Research shows the importance of human touch when it comes to mental health and well-being. A comfortable massage can make you feel safe, relaxed, and secure. Touch is a basic human need that we all crave, so it’s important we get it fulfilled when possible.
- Turn off ALL unnecessary notifications – One huge source of stress in today’s world is constant alerts and notifications from our phones, computers, or tablets. Every alert distracts and sucks up our energy. One of the smartest things I ever did to eliminate distraction in my life was to turn off all notifications on my phone that weren’t completely necessary. From now on, every time you get a notification, ask yourself, “Do I need to know this right away or is this just distracting my focus?”
- Take a relaxing shower – If possible, a nice warm shower can also be an excellent way to relax and destress. Learn about a shower meditation and imagine that the water is literally washing away your stress, anxiety, and negativity.
- Practice creative writing – Writing is also a proven way to reduce stress and anxiety. You can simply start a journal to jot down your thoughts and feelings, or practice creative writing like poems, lyrics, jokes, or short stories. Here’s a list of creative writing prompts designed to spark self-growth and self-reflection.
- Play a quick round of a video game – Video games are another common way people relax after a long day at work or school. They can be considered a form of healthy escapism because they allow us to temporarily detach from our daily problems and concerns. Studies also show that just 5 minutes of video games is enough to reduce work-related stress and fatigue. This works well for video games that you can play in short bursts (puzzle, racing, competitive, sports, etc.)
- Do mindful stretching or Yoga – Stretching, yoga, and other mind-body exercises are a helpful way to step out of your busy mind and focus on the sensations in your body. A simple mindful stretching routine can help you become less tense and wound up. It gives you a chance to step into the present moment and remind yourself that all you need is your mind and body to generate good feelings.
- Do a quick puzzle, Sudoku, or crossword – Puzzles and crosswords can temporarily take your mind off of work and onto a different, more enjoyable task. It’s common for people to make it a daily habit to do the famous NY Times crossword or the newest Sudoku puzzle. Once you complete it, you also get a nice feeling of accomplishment.
- Go to the bathroom – The bathroom is sometimes the only place people can go to get temporary solitude, especially at work. While it may seem silly or trivial, stepping away to go to the bathroom can be an opportunity to take a break from work, people, and digital screens, as well as a place for everyday reflection. Some of us do our best thinking on the toilet.
- Zoom out and see the complete picture – Often the daily events that cause us stress in life aren’t as big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. Make sure you know how to “zoom out” and see the complete picture before you overreact to something tiny or insignificant. Try to catch yourself before you fall into exaggerated thinking.
- Remind yourself of your core values – What do you really live for? It seems like an easy question to answer, but most of us never take the time to really think about it. Do an inventory of your core values. Are you acting on these values or are you just saying you believe in them?
- Sit somewhere with good scenery – Fascinating psychology research shows the power of nice views on our mental health and well-being, including green views (nature), blue views (bodies of water), sky views (sun, stars), and high views (from the top of a mountain or skyscraper). Learn to take a step back and appreciate beauty.
- Recite a prayer or meaningful poem – If you’re a religious or spiritual person, the power of prayer can be a helpful force when overcoming stressful or difficult situations. Consider adding a symbolic ritual to your daily routine. If you’re not religious, you can also recite meaningful poetry or song lyrics that resonate with you.
- Write a checklist for the day – Do you have a lot to get done but don’t know where to start? Write a daily checklist and identify the 3 top items you need to complete for the day. Often just writing down what you need to do can help clear your head and get you on the right track.
- Give yourself permission to daydream – Daydreaming is common but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Psychology studies have found that daydreaming can be associated with better thinking, problem-solving, and creativity. You can give yourself permission to daydream every now and then. Set a timer on your phone for 5 minutes, close your eyes, and let your mind wander wherever it wants to go.
- Take a brief drive in your car – Going for a drive, especially at night while listening to music, can be a fun way to relax and unwind after a long day.
- Dim the lights – Our brains can be sensitive to little changes in our environment, and that includes lighting. One study found that dimmer lights can decrease the intensity of emotions, anxiety, and stress.
- Throw negative thoughts in the trash – Get a paper and pen. Write down 3-5 negative thoughts that have been buzzing in your head lately. Then take the piece of paper, tear it up, and throw it in the trash. You can also choose to burn away your negative thoughts for extra effect.
- Reframe potential bad news before you get it – Are you worried about an upcoming outcome in your life? One smart tactic is to reframe bad news before you get it. If the bad news actually happens, then you’re mentally prepared. If it doesn’t happen, all the better!
- Appreciate everyday nature – You don’t need to go camping to experience the benefits of nature. Nature is all around you. In fact, studies show that paying more attention to everyday nature – such as local birds, trees, and wildlife – can improve mental health and well-being. Look out your window right now, what nature do you see?
- Focus on what’s in your control – Stress is often caused by things that are outside of our control, so one of the best ways to combat stress is to focus more on what’s in our control. Where do you still have a choice? What’s still in your power? The answers to these questions can help you break free from the cycle of stress and negativity. Take the locus of control quiz to measure your current feelings of power.
Now choose one stress reliever and do it!
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