For many of us, stress is such a normal part of our daily lives that we have come to expect it. Yet, this familiar hamster wheel of anxiety isn’t good for us, and leaves us tense, irritable, exhausted, and perpetually drained. We lose patience easily, struggle staying focused, and constantly long for a vacation. We’ve heard how bad stress is for our bodies, yet feel powerless to change it. After all, we are pressed for time as it is. How could we possible incorporate stress management into our already jam-packed schedule?
But here’s the thing: stress management doesn’t happen overnight, and is only achieved through incremental changes. In fact, each little change you make can substantially bust stress today and reduce your overall feelings of stress.
Read on below to find out 3 tops ways to bust stress today in five minutes or less!
Nothing can kill your mood the way that endless sitting can. Studies have shown that those who spend the majority of their days sitting rank higher on levels of psychological distress and depression and report lower overall wellbeing. These levels are partly due to the way that posture affects our mood (emotional cognition is a real thing. Check it out) and partly due to the negative effect that sitting has on our physical health, which then translates to our mood. Sedentary people gain more weight, have poorer cardiovascular health, and are at a greater risk for cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Plus, even if you workout everyday, sitting for hours at a time can still harm your health. But, there’s good news! Getting up and moving every thirty minutes can seriously do wonders to improve your overall health, both mental and physical!
Movement breaks don’t have to be complicated:
- Set a timer so you remember to take a break! Maybe try the Pomodoro technique?
- Walk while you are talking on the phone. You’ll be surprised at how many steps you are able to get in!
- If you can, stand while you do a task. It might feel weird at first, but soon you might even feel more comfortable standing!
- Do simple stretches throughout your day.
Every little bit counts.
Need more ideas on how to sneak movement into other aspects of your busy day? This article has some great ideas!
2. Practice Mindfulness
Our lives are chaotic, stressful, and busy. All of that tension builds up in our bodies, messing with our hormone levels and blood pressure. A key way to manage this, and reduce the amount of mental and emotional stress we feel, is to practice mindfulness. This can be done in a variety of ways, from intentionally slowing down and noticing your surroundings, to meditating, or to regularly practicing a mindful activity like gardening. There are so many different options to try!
Here are some easy suggestions to start with:
- Set a timer for 5 minutes, sit in a relaxed position, close your eyes, and focus on your breath until the timer goes off. Notice any thoughts that enter your mind, but then redirect your attention to the rhythm of your breathing.
- When you have a spare moment, resist the urge to pull out your smartphone to start scrolling. Instead, look around you. Pay attention to your surroundings. Notice the sights, smells, sounds.
- Engage in some mindful exercise, like stretching or a gentle walk.
3. Meetup with Others (in a COVID-19 friendly way, of course)
Social interaction is essential for our wellbeing. It is frequently touted as an important stress buster, and for good reason. Studies have shown that a robust social support system dramatically improves our physical health, emotional health AND makes us more resilient against stress. In fact, the smallest expressions of genuine empathy, care, and concern lower our stress levels. Research has indicated that, even when stressful circumstances are beyond our control, a social support system helps us develop effective coping strategies and experience less symptoms of stress. Take this shocking fact on for size: a social support system impacts life expectancy even more than obesity, smoking, and exercise levels!
Having said all this, it’s clear that the quality of your relationships dramatically impacts your wellbeing and busts stress. At the same time, establishing and maintaining a real, lifegiving social support system takes time, certainly more than 5 minutes.
Still, small steps take big journeys and good things takes time.
There are plenty of ways that you can take small, effectual steps towards having a meaningful support system, even in just five minutes.
Here are some ideas:
- Call or video chat with a friend. Touching base with those you love can do wonders for a stressed out heart or a melancholic mood.
- Plan a coffee date or a walk with a friend. Even if the planned meetup is days away, just knowing that you will be able to spend time with someone can be something to look forward to (and anticipation heightens the joy of the experience)
- Start a group text thread with some of your friends or family members who live far away. Send snapshots of your day or text something funny that happened, and have them do the same. This intentionality can forge connections that can easily fade in long distance relationships and the flow of intimate, everyday details allows you to live life alongside each other even while you are geographically far apart.
Helpful tip: Be aware of how social media can add to your stress while masquerading as beneficial social interaction. Studies have shown that the effect of social media is dependent on how you use it. If you use it passively, just scrolling, you will likely end up caught in the comparison game while feeling detached and disconnected. If you use it actively however, by sending messages, posting your life, or commenting on others’ posts, you will more likely feel connected and experience emotional benefit from that.
These suggestions are just some of the many ways that you can bust stress in five minutes or less. Leave a comment below on how YOU bust stress!