When you’re feeling tired and stressed, what better than a lovely week-end by the sea to calm your nerves.
But not many can afford to go away every week-end.
Fortunately for you, we have tried 40 ways to relax and ease stress in only five minutes or less.
From sipping tea to advanced relaxation techniques: here is everything you need to know about de-stressing.
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Food and Drink to Help Fight Stress
1. Have some chocolate
One little square of chocolate can help calm your nerves.
Dark chocolate regulates cortisol levels in your body (a hormone linked to stress) and stabilizes the metabolism.
2. Eat some honey
A spoonful of honey can make stress levels go down.
In addition to being a natural skin hydrating agent and an antibiotic, honey also contains substances that reduce inflammation in the brain, helping fight depression and anxiety.
3. Take a bite of mango
Take a tropical holiday without leaving your office chair.
Make use of a five-minute break to peel, cut and eat a nice, juicy mango.
Mango contains linalool, which helps reduce stress levels. Don’t worry about the sugary sweetness trickling down your chin - the reduction in stress levels is worth it.
4. Chew gum
Whether menthol, fruity or bubble-gum flavoured, chewing gum is an astonishingly fast and easy way to combat stress. Only a few minutes of chewing can reduce anxiety and lower cortisol levels.
5. Munch on crunchy things
The act of chewing in itself can help you relax!
This is confirmed by a study done by Dr. Harry Levi Hollingworth in 1939: chewing calms you down and helps you relax at work.
Meditation as a Means of Relaxing and Letting Go of Stress
No need to retire to an isolated mountaintop - five minutes of peace suffice to reap the benefits of meditation.
Find a comfortable space somewhere calm and concentrate on your breathing.
A helpful app for meditation is HeadSpace.
6. Pillow your head on something soft
There are days when you really, really need a nice, long nap.
But snoring away in the middle of the office is not always possible.
But if you have a small pillow or cushion with you, you are halfway on the path to relaxation.
Try out this visualisation technique: put your head on the pillow and imagine that the cushion is a sponge soaking in all your troubles.
7. Don’t forget to breathe
What easier way is there to relax?
Breathe to chase the stress away!
Deep, slow breathing can help lower your heartbeat and blood pressure.
Try pranayama, a yoga breathing technique that works by breathing through one nostril at a time to help reduce tension. This technique is said to work similarly to acupuncture and helps balance mind and body.
8. Try progressive relaxation
Anxious? Tense, relax and repeat.
Progressive relaxation involves tensing the muscles in one part of the body at a time, then releasing them before moving on to the next set of muscles.
This method (used by some well-known actors) is a marvelous way to help you get to sleep.
9. Counting - yes, counting
No, it’s not a maths test, but a way of calming down and relaxing.
If you are haunted by worries and stress, try to slowly count up to 10.
Repeat as necessary.
10. Use creative visualisation
Your doorbell rings. It’s Ryan Gosling (or Elizabeth Banks) and he/she wants to know how soon you two can get married.
“Right away!” you cry out, and then… Sorry, time’s up.
This sort of little daydream, called a “creative visualisation”, involves thinking of something that makes you happy.
It’s a shot of instant good humour that chases stress away!
11. Close your eyes
One of the easiest ways to find your calm and re-focus your concentration. It may seem silly, but it is, in fact, a good way to de-stress and relax.
Physical Relief for Tension and Stress
12. Massage your hands
Hand massages are particularly useful for those who spend a lot of time typing at a computer.
Generally speaking, hands accumulate a lot of our tensions and stress.
Apply some massage lotion and start kneading the base of the muscle underneath the thumb to relax your shoulders, neck and scalp.
13. Try acupressure
Acupressure is a tactile therapy that works by balancing the circulation of fluids and energies in the body.
It is rooted in the fundamental theories of traditional Chinese medicine.
Use the thumb and index finger of one hand to massage the zone between the thumb and index finger of the other.
For an additional calming effect, use lavender oil.
14. Use a golf ball to massage your feet
Leave your clubs at home - you only need the ball.
This will give you a small moment of relaxation and will help soothe accumulated tensions in the muscles and joints.
15. Squeeze a stress ball
On those days when you want to strangle a colleague or that one motorist on your way to work, squeeze the life out of a stress ball instead.
It’s an easy, portable and non-violent way to soothe aggravation.
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16. Pour a drop of cold water on your wrists
When stress attacks, go to the restroom and dab some cold water on your wrists and behind your ears.
Some of the main arteries of the body run just underneath the skin there, and cooling down those zones can help relax the body.
17. Brush your hair
Even if you have already given your hair its hundred strokes for the day, repetitive movements such as running a brush through your hair, doing the dishes or knitting can help the body relax.
Changing Your Environment to Fight Stress
18. Take some alone time
Not everyone needs (or has) a cabin in the woods, but five minutes of alone time will help you gather your thoughts and clear out your mind.
Simply isolate yourself in a quiet room.
19. Create a Zen Zone
Hiding in a bathroom stall to be alone may not sound calming, but maybe you can find or make a place entirely free from stress where you can go to relax. Install a comfortable chair if you can or simply light a stick of incense and disappear for a few minutes until the tension dissipates.
20. Find some sun
Daylight can be an effective treatment for people suffering from depression and can also help healthy people de-stress.
The visible light spectrum of sunlight plays a role in the production of a hormone called melatonin, which helps to regulate our biological rhythm and influences our mood.
21. Look out the window
No, don’t start spying on your neighbours.
But looking at a spot of nature - a public park or just the trees across the street - can be a lot more relaxing than staring at a screen.
22. Get organised
Take a few minutes to re-organise your office (or cubicle, or desk, or whatever your workplace is), leaving out only what you need for your current task.
Start by bringing order to your environment before you can order your thoughts.
23. Practise yoga
Yogis will all tell you: “A yoga session leaves me feeling really good and relaxed!”
Not only does it stretch your body, but it also helps create peace of mind.
Standing up for a quick stretch can soothe tense muscles and help you relax during a stressful work day.
Why not try out a shoulder or breast stretch right in your office chair?
25. Jog in place
Jogging in place is good for a short-term endorphin rush.
This is one exercise you can do anywhere - don’t worry, looking ridiculous never hurt anybody!
26. Take a brisk walk
Outdoors + physical activity = a sure-fire recipe for relaxation!
It’s main advantage: it costs nothing.
Fun and Creativity
27. Write your emotions down in a journal
“Dear Diary: I was stressed today.”
Putting your emotions down in black on white can make them seem less intimidating.
28. Listen to your favourite song
Listening to music can be a quick solution for bad humour.
Classical music is particularly relaxing before going to bed - several scientific studies confirm this.
Studies done on the psychological effects of music show that music affects our parasympathetic nervous system, our organism’s natural protector. It keeps its twin, our sympathetic nervous system, from overreacting.
Once the music’s playing, get your rhythm on! People feel less anxious after several months of modern dance classes - but if that’s not your style, five minutes of salsa probably work just as well.
30. Do crossword puzzles
An 8-letter word for: anxious, hassled, tense.
When you are thinking and concentrating on something, you forget everything else.
Really, stop and smell them. Certain smells can help change our mood and its difficult to feel angry or upset with a nose full of roses.
A study has revealed that flowers have an immediate impact on mood and lower depression. For example, people eat more slowly when flowers are on the table.
It only takes a minute to put a few drops of lavander, tea-tree or another essential oil onto the palm of your hand and inhale it. It’s a soft medicine (inherited from the Egyptians) that has come back into fashion.
33. Citrus fruits
Citrus scents can help you relax by raising the levels of norepinephrine, a hormone linked to stress.
Wake up and smell your latte. Merely the smell of coffee can help reduce stress hormone levels.
Do try not to burn your nose.
Open Up to Others and Have Fun
35. Spend some time with a pet
Pets can help stimulate self-esteem and curb feelings of social rejection.
While laughing may seem a devious way to conquer stress, science is on our side.
Laughing is infectious and makes you happy!
Laughing also encourages blood circulation.
37. Talk to a friend
If something is really bothering you, it can help if you share your feelings with a friend.
In fact, talkative people tend to be happier. So don’t hesitate to get it off your chest!
38. Start planning your holidays
Crashing waves, hot sand, a soft breeze caressing your hair…
Holidays always have a positive effect on our mood. So where are you going?
The Importance of De-Stressing
Relaxing is important for your mental health and well-being. Everyone needs some time in their daily life to relax and have fun.
People who are capable of relaxing are more susceptible to bouncing back after difficult periods.
They tend to be happier, or at least express positive ideas.
Beyond the question of well-being, these techniques also help you sleep better, reduce stress at work and learn to let go!
The idea is to re-centre yourself with relaxation exercises and quick relaxation tips. Taking a yoga class is an excellent way to de-stress.
To empty your head:
- Take a nice, hot bath
- Clean your house or your living space. It’s very difficult to relax in a disorderly house.
- Read a book or an article that makes you think. Read about a leader you find inspiring.
- Stop what you are doing. Take a few deep breaths.
- Don’t think about work.
- Be confident! Don’t give up. Keep up with your relaxation techniques.
- Listen to music that isn’t too loud or even better, classical music.
- Download some e-books on relaxation.
- Start online yoga classes.