It’s no secret that many of us are overworked, overstressed and could use a little more relaxation in our daily lives. (Did you know that 44% of Americans feel more stressed than they did five years ago? Or that 3 out of 4 doctor’s visits are for stress-related illnesses?) While the best ways to relax probably include hour-long massages or vacations, finding that kind of time or money can be difficult. Luckily, you can turn around a stressed-out day in as little as five minutes with these simple ways to relax.
1) Have a cup of tea
Whether herbal or green, the simple act of preparing a cup of tea can remind you to pause for a moment and relax. The properties in chamomile tea act as a natural nerve tonic and green tea has been clinically proven to reduce stress.
2) Chew gum
A stick of gum can be a surprising stress reliever. In just a few minutes, cortisol levels drop, lowering your anxiety. It’s also a great way to nix stress-related food cravings.
3) Cuddle up to your furry friend
4) Give yourself a hand massage
Grab some coconut oil or lightly scented lotion and take time to release the tension in your hands. To release stress from the shoulders, neck and scalp, focus on kneading the area under the base of the thumb.
Taking time to write down your worries, fears or dreams can help declutter your subconscious mind, allowing you to be fully in the present.
6) Stretch at your desk
Take a five-minute stretch break to loosen muscles and rid your body of tension. Try these easy office yoga poses to instantly decompress.
7) Count backward
When you feel stress creeping up, try counting backwards from 10, focusing on your breath at each number. Simply distracting your brain with a simple task like this is a great way to interrupt the cycle of stressing about future events.
8) Enjoy some chocolate
In particular, dark chocolate regulates cortisol (the stress hormone) and can stabilize your metabolism so you don’t experience hunger-related mood swings or stress.
9) Sit in child’s pose
Some days, a yoga class is out of the question. But we’re betting you have the time to sit comfortably in child’s pose, taking deep breaths in and out for a few moments. The simple act of staying in this restorative pose can steady your breath and calm your mind.
You may think meditation requires 15 minutes of total silence—but even meditating for five minutes can be a great way to relax. Simply focus on your breath and try letting your thoughts come and go without becoming attached to them.
Related: The Beginner’s Guide To Meditation
11) Sit under a “happy lamp”
Not getting enough Vitamin D can make us depressed, crabby or even fatigued. Energy lamps or “happy lamps” provide natural spectrum light which can improve your mood and concentration.
12) Use the 4-7-8 breathing technique
Deep breathing is one of the best ways to relax. But did you know there’s a specific breathing technique that helps ease nervous tension? It’s called the 4-7-8 breath, and it can help you relax in as little as three repetitions. Take a four second inhale through your nose, hold it for seven seconds, and exhale out of your mouth for eight seconds.
13) Use a heating pad
What better way to relax than cozying up to a heating pad? They make so many different kinds—some are even filled with potpourri or scented with a calming essence like lavender—that can fit around your neck, shoulders or stomach
14) Take a coloring break
Adult coloring books are all the rage these days, and for good reason—they help you de-stress and let your mind wander, something we rarely let ourselves do after the age of 5. The truth is, of all the ways to relax, unstructured creative time can be the most effective. You’re not striving to achieve any sort of “result;” you’re just playing.
15) Use essential oils
Whether you add them to your shower, mix them with lotion or simply take a whiff when stress starts to build, using essential oils is a great way to relax. Scents like lavender, rose or ylang ylang are particularly calming.
16) Do a face mask
Even if you don’t have time for a full-blown spa treatment, using a simple clay face mask for five minutes will refresh your face and boost your mood. Bonus points for cucumbers on your eyes!
17) Get out the foam roller
When your muscles are sore, it can cause your body to tense up all over. Break out the foam roller for some light myofascial release—a fancy term for self-massage—that will help your muscles recover and your whole body unwind.
18) Light a candle
Light a scented candle and bask in its glow. A nice calming scent like lavender will also provide aromatherapy benefits.
19) Listen to your favorite song
Make a playlist of a few go-to songs that instantly calm you, whether they be pop songs or slow piano music. Listening to music that you like is a super easy way to relax and unwind.
20) Repeat a mantra
Keep a go-to mantra in your back pocket for times when you feel overwhelmed, such as “peace begins with me” or “all is well.”
21) Cozy up to some citrus fruit
Studies have shown that smelling citrus fruits—like oranges, lemons, or grapefruits—can help reduce stress and promote a sense of calm. Add a few to your water and hydrate at the same time!
22) Close your eyes
Because we’re constantly inundated with screens, closing those lids for a few minutes is not only stress-relieving, but a good way to limit eye strain and keep your peepers healthy.
23) Call a friend
As social creatures, we need connection to be happy. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, call a good friend—chances are, they’ll help you find something to laugh about and focus on the bigger picture.
24) Walk around the block
We’re proponents of exercise because of what it does for your body and mind. But if you don’t have time to hit the gym or get sweaty, a simple five-minute stroll in the fresh air can be a wonderful way to relax.
25) Pamper yourself
A fresh coat of paint on your nails, a fun hairstyle or any other simple add-on to your beauty routine can boost your mood in an instant. It may sound superficial, but taking a little extra time with your routine can improve your mood.
26) Look at photos of your loved ones
It’s been proven that looking at pictures of loved ones in times of stress causes the brain to relax. Keep photos of your family or friends near your desk or in your phone to look at whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed.
It sounds ridiculous, but it actually works: studies show that a forced smile can genuinely reduce stress. So if you’re feeling overworked and craving some relaxation, try smiling before anything else. You might just find your shoulders dropping, your arms stretching and your mind a little calmer.
If you like these ideas, #PutAPinOnIt and pin some of our favorite ones for later!