How to stop stress quickly

Taking care of your long-term mental and physical health is an important part of stress management. However, there isn’t always time to take a nap, hike a fourteener, or read a novel. Thus, here are 25 ways to reduce stress in five minutes or less. From eating chocolate to meditating, there is a quick stress-relieving tactic for everyone. 

1. Breathe
Slow, deep breaths can help lower blood pressure and heart rate. Try pranayama breathing, a yogic method that involves breathing through one nostril at a time to relieve anxiety. The technique is supposed to work the same way as acupuncture, balancing the mind and body.

2. Listen to Music
No matter what the song, sometimes belting out the lyrics to a favorite tune makes everything seem all right. If you’re in a public place, just listening to music can be a quick fix for a bad mood. Classical music can be especially relaxing right before bedtime.

3. Take a Quick Walk
When you’re feeling overwhelmed or having trouble concentrating, go for a quick stroll around the block. You’ll get the benefits of alone time, physical activity, and a few minutes to gather your thoughts.

4. Find the Sun
If it’s a sunny day, head outside for an easy way to lift your spirits. Bright light can be an effective treatment for people who suffer from depression, and can even cheer up otherwise healthy people.

5. Give Yourself a Hand Massage
When there’s no professional masseuse in sight, try DIYing a hand massage for instant relaxation that calms a pounding heart. Hands in general can carry a lot of tension. Apply some lotion and start kneading the base of the muscle under the thumb to relieve stress in the shoulders, neck, and scalp.

6. Count Backward
When worries are running rampant, try slowly counting to 10 and then back again to calm down. It’s harder to freak out about an upcoming exam or job interview when you’re busy remembering what number comes before seven.

7. Stretch
Standing up for a quick stretch can relieve muscle tension and help you relax during a stressful workday. Try a shoulder roll-out or a chest-opening stretch right from the desk chair.

8. Rub Your Feet Over a Golf Ball
You can get an impromptu, relaxing foot massage by rubbing your feet back and forth over a golf ball.

9. Close Your Eyes
Take a quick break from a busy office or a chaotic household by just lowering your eyelids. It’s an easy way to regain calm and focus.

10. Squeeze a Stress Ball
On days when you want to strangle a coworker, your roommate, or the driver in the next lane, squeeze a stress ball instead. It’s an easy, portable, and non-violent way to relieve tension.

11. Try Progressive Relaxation
Anxious? Just squeeze, release, and repeat. Progressive relaxation involves tensing the muscles in one body part at a time to achieve a state of calm. The method (also used by actors) is a great way to help fall asleep.

12. Be Alone
Five minutes of alone time can help you collect your thoughts and clear your head.

13. Get Organized
Clutter could be contributing to your stress. Take a few minutes to reorganize your desk (or table, or wherever you are), leaving just what you need on top.

14. Do Some Yoga
Put your feet up—against the wall, of course. The Vipariti Kirani yoga pose involves lying on the floor and resting the legs up against a wall. Not only does it give the body a good stretch, but it helps create peace of mind, too.

15. Eat Some Chocolate
Just a square (about 1.4 ounces) of the sweet stuff can calm your nerves. Dark chocolate regulates levels of the stress hormone cortisol and stabilizes metabolism.

16. Meditate
Five minutes of peace is all it takes to reap the benefits of meditation. There’s evidence that just two quick bouts of silent meditation per day can relieve stress and depression. Find a comfortable spot in a quiet place, focus on your breath, and feel those anxieties start to disappear.

17. Cuddle With a Pet
After a rough day, snuggle up with a pet. Pets can boost self-esteem and even ease the sting of social rejection.

18. Chew Gum
A stick of gum is a surprisingly quick and easy way to beat stress. No matter the flavor, just a few minutes of chewing can actually reduce anxiety and lower cortisol levels.

19. Sip Green Tea
Green tea is a source of L-Theanine, a chemical that helps relieve anger. Boil the water, pour it out, and take a soothing sip.

20. Laugh
Laughter is one of the sillier ways to beat stress, but there’s science behind it. A fit of hysterics can increase blood flow and boost immunity. Check out a hilarious YouTube video (maybe a piano-playing pug?) for a quick pick-me-up.

21. Drip Cold Water On Your Wrists
When stress hits, head for the bathroom and drop some cold water on your wrists and behind your earlobes. There are major arteries right underneath the skin, so cooling these areas can help calm the whole body.

22. Create a Zen Zone
Make (or find) a space that’s completely free of stress where you can go to relax. Set up a comfortable chair or light some incense and disappear there for a few minutes until the tension dissipates.

23. Write It Down
Putting our emotions on paper can make them seem less intimidating. Try journaling before a big exam to calm your nerves.

24. Slurp Some Honey
Drown that stress in sweetness with a spoonful of honey. Besides being a natural skin moisturizer and antibiotic, honey also provides compounds that reduce inflammation in the brain, meaning it fights depression and anxiety.

25. Talk to a Friend
When something’s really bothering you, it can help to share your feelings with a buddy. In fact, more talkative folks tend to be happier in general. So vent to a coworker, friend, or family member.

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17 ways to get your cortisol levels down

Stress is a sneaky thing. It can curl up inside you and grow like a Chia Pet until all the sprouts have grown out of control. Sometimes stress can manifest into physical symptoms, like temporary hives, one-day headaches, or long-term weight gain.

One simple way to deal is to let your body and mind reset. Take a nap — yep, even 10 minutes of napping can help. If you were sleepy in the first place, the lack of sleep can make it harder to manage stress.

Super quick de-stressing tips

  1. Force a laugh or smile — even anticipating a laugh can boost your mood.
  2. Make sure you’re not slouching, as posture can affect mood.
  3. Mute all your phone notifications.
  4. Give someone a hug.
  5. Play a happy song, or a song that makes you happy.

But when the stress boilover happens during work, at a party, or in public, dropping everything to take a nap is definitely not a good look. And in these situations, stress can also join teams with anxiety, leaving you figuring out how to rein in both emotions.

Fortunately, there are tips and tricks that can help you get your cortisol levels down. If you need quick tips to keep your heart beating at a more manageable rate, read our ways to calm stress in five minutes or less.

If you’re noticing a bigger pattern, you might want to take a longer breather with our 30-minute tips or speak to a professional to get to the root of the problem.

Ways to calm stress in 5 minutes or less

1. Acknowledge your stress

Acknowledging your stress can really help lift the weight off your shoulders and could be the first step to asking for help.

Facing stress is an opportunity to reset your mind and take it as a chance to grow. Researchers say the brain is rewiring and trying to learn from the experience so you can handle it differently next time.

So, think about whether the stress is a buildup or related to a more long-term issue. If it’s unrelated to anything, maybe it’s a sign your mind and body need a break.

If it’s tied to a more long-term problem you can’t immediately solve, try another one of the quick relaxer tips below.

2. Chew gum

Chewing is a great form of stress reduction. If you have gum on hand, particularly scented gum, chew it for at least three minutes. One study of 101 adults found that people who chewed gum during work had a lower stress response.

But don’t chew half-heartedly! It may be useful to take out your pent-up energy on the gum. Another study found that vigorous chewing was required in order to achieve stress relief.

3. Drink stress-reducing tea

There are several supplements that can help reduce stress and anxiety, but many of these supplements may take a few weeks or months of intake before they have an effect.

However, the act of stepping away for a few minutes to make tea can be therapeutic. So why not also make a stress-relieving drink? Studies show that 1 gram of apple cider vinegar may take over 95 minutes to work its magic, while matcha may take up to an hour to work.

Although tea takes at least an hour to take effect, just stepping away can signal to your body to relax. Plus, once you get back to your desk, time may fly faster than you know it.

4. Inhale essential oils or invest in a diffuser

Inhaling essential oils may help calm the mind in times of stress, anxiety, and insomnia. This popular technique, also known as aromatherapy, focuses on using scents to holistically balance your physical, emotional, and psychological health.

Popular essential oils for combating stress include:

  • lavender
  • rose
  • vetiver
  • bergamot
  • Roman chamomile
  • frankincense
  • sandalwood
  • ylang ylang
  • orange blossom

Choose scents based on your personal preferences. For example, if the smell of peppermint reminds you of holidays at home, use peppermint.

To use essential oils for stress, apply three drops onto a cotton pad and breathe it in deeply 10 times. You can also purchase a diffuser for your room or desk so that it constantly releases a calming scent.

5. Stretch at your desk

It’s incredibly important to take breaks during work, even when you feel like there’s a rush to get your task at hand done. For the times when you can’t leave your desk, you can still stretch while sitting for five minutes without intervention.

Stretching can also help with discomfort and work-related pain or injuries. The simplest stretch you can do is the upper body and arm stretch. To do this:

  1. Clasp your hands together and push upward with your palms facing the sky.
  2. Stretch and hold the pose for 10 seconds.
  3. Try twisting your torso left and right for 30 seconds, then repeat.

For a full-body stretch, check out our desk-stretch routine.

Bonus tips for stress

  • Keep a stress ball at your desk. Sometimes all you need to do is physically exert all the pent-up energy.
  • Have a tactile item for comfort. This can be a crystal or a piece of velvet.
  • Buy a massage pad for your chair. This $45 purchase is the most affordable, worth-it purchase for momentary relaxation. Sometimes stress can be a result of back strain or pain. Or your tensed muscles might be increasing your stress. A back massager with heated functionality will help you relax even more.

Ways to calm stress in 10 minutes

6. Go for a walk

Exercise or walking is a great way to manage stress. First, it lets you escape the situation. Second, exercise helps your body release endorphins, the neurotransmitters that make you feel warm and fuzzy.

Think of walking as moving meditation. A few laps around the block can help you forget previous tension and relax so you return to the situation calmer and more collected.

7. Memorize this yoga routine

Yoga isn’t only a popular exercise for all ages, but it’s also gaining traction for decreasing stress, anxiety, and depression. According to research, yoga interrupts stress by producing an effect that’s opposite to your flight-or-fight response.

A simple routine can help lower your cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. One of our favorite 10-minute routines is by Tara Stiles. This routine starts off with a lot of relaxing swaying.

8. Intervene with mindfulness-based, stress-reduction techniques

Sometimes stress can cause your mind to spiral and lead you down an unnecessary rabbit hole of negative thoughts. One way of escaping that spiral is to anchor yourself to the present and focus on immediate results you can achieve.

Methods to try

  • Close your eyes and scan your body. Pay attention to the physical feelings.
  • Sit and meditate by paying attention to your breathing, sounds, sensations, and emotions. Let them pass through you.
  • Change up your movement by taking a walk or standing up.
  • Give full attention to small daily activities, like drinking water, eating, or brushing your teeth.

Online meditation options

Read our review of the best online meditation options to find the right fit for you.

9. Write it out

Writing out what you’re stressed about can help you focus your thoughts on the positive or ways to tackle the negative.

Write away the stress

  • Try the “so what?” exercise by asking yourself that question until it reveals something about yourself.
  • See if there are any exceptions to your concerns.
  • Keep a journal to track your changes and learnings.

Treat this method of writing it out as a way of taking notes without derailing your whole workday. Keep these notes on hand to check for patterns to see if there’s a deeper reason behind your stress.

10. Try 4-7-8 breathing

The 4-7-8 breathing method is a powerful trick that gives your body an extra boost of oxygen. Deep breathing is an effective way to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression.

To do this: Place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth and keep it there the whole time.

One cycle of 4-7-8 breathing

  1. Part your lips slightly and exhale with a whooshing sound through your mouth.
  2. Close your lips and inhale silently through your nose. Count to 4 in your head.
  3. Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  4. Exhale (with a whoosh sound) for 8 seconds.
  5. Practice this mindlessly to let your brain relax.
  6. Complete this cycle for four full breaths.

11. Try the emotional freedom technique (EFT)

Tapping or psychological acupressure is a specific methodic sequence that involves tapping specific meridian points (areas of the body energy flows through, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine) and reciting setup phrases that will help you acknowledge issues and accept yourself.

EFT in 5 steps

  1. Identify what’s causing you stress.
  2. On a scale of 0 to 10, write down how intense the issue is (10 being the highest).
  3. Create a setup phrase that addresses your problem. For example: “Even though I’m stressed about this deadline, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
  4. Tap on the nine meridian points (eyebrow, side of eyes, under eyes, under nose, chin, start of collarbone, and under arm) seven times. Repeat the phrase with each tapping point. Do this sequence two to three times.
  5. Rate your final intensity to see if your stress level has gone down to 0. If not, repeat.

12. Talk in third person

Whether it’s to yourself or with a friend, talking can help tamper down your stress level. Yep, talking to yourself or about yourself in third person is a form of exerting self-control over negative emotions.

According to researchers, “Referring to yourself in the third person leads people to think about themselves more similar to how they think about others.”

Doing this can help you distance yourself from the experience or situation. The best part, though? It requires less effort.

Ways to calm stress in 30 minutes

13. Exercise, but make it daily

We mentioned walking earlier, but that was just a quick break. Routine exercise can help improve the way your body uses oxygen and helps you cope with stressful situations. The benefits of working out build up over time. You may be able to feel the difference as you stick to your routine.

It’s recommended to exercise for at least 30 minutes five days a week.

14. Take a hot bath

The answer to washing away a day of stress may be in your bathroom. Hot water is known to help release endorphins and increase blood flow to the skin. Warm baths can also:

  • improve breathing
  • reduce risk of heart attack
  • lower blood pressure
  • burn calories

For folks living with chronic pain, hot baths can also help keep muscles loose and reduce flare-ups.

15. Clean your room, desk, or dishes

Besides removing clutter and giving you relief from a crowded space, cleaning is an effective mindfulness practice. One study found that students who washed dishes had greater states of mindfulness and positive moods.

If you don’t have time to clean thoroughly, take this opportunity to organize items or tackle one cleaning task at a time. For example, if you have a load of laundry, use each washing and drying load to time your breaks.

16. Talk it out or reach out to friends

Social support is an extremely effective way to relieve stress. Ask a friend or co-worker to be a sounding board as you talk out your issues.

Sometimes the case with stressful situations is that you’re trying to find a problem or a connection when there isn’t one. An outsider’s perspective may help you see that more clearly.

If you do reach out to a friend, be sure to express your thanks and return the favor when they ask!

17. Foam roll out the tension

Sometimes stress becomes physical: It can cause your muscles to knot up. These knots can develop in very specific places that build up over time, which you can’t easily unwind via exercise or self-massage. That’s where foam rolling steps in.

Foam rolling adds pressure to those trigger points, signaling your body to increase blood flow to that area and for your muscle to relax. A full-body routine can help promote relaxation the way getting a massage will. Try eight moves here.

Take a closer look at your stress

Invisible stress is real, and it can build up into chronic stress. Sometimes we don’t notice it because it’s been there the whole time, like a freckle or mole. However, changing freckles or moles are something you want to take the time to check out, right? Stress is the same.

If you notice a change in your patience or find yourself more easily triggered by slight noises or simple mistakes, consider whether you need to take a break and calm your mind, or if there’s something bigger at play. Chronic stress can increase your risk for other mental health concerns, such as depression and anxiety.

If these strategies aren’t giving you tools to cope, try seeking help from a professional.

Mindful Moves: Yoga for Anxiety

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Christal Yuen is an editor at Healthline who writes and edits content revolving around sex, beauty, health, and wellness. She’s constantly looking for ways to help readers forge their own health journey. You can find her on Twitter.

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