5 Ways to De-Stress in 5 Minutes

Americans are constantly ranked among the most stressed out people in the world.

And although there’s nothing wrong with a little stress, since it can give us the strength and urgency to carry on, big stress can be paralytic. 

The disconnect between the constant, gnawing needling of the multitasking, compartmentalizing, organizing voice in the back of our heads and the little bit of stress that the human brain is designed to handle…

Is that evolutionarily, stress was meant to help you survive. 

The stress we experience today, on the other hand, is killing us.

Grinding our teeth because we might be four minutes late to work due to traffic is not with our stress neurocircuitry was meant to signal.

Chewing our nails because our bank account overdrafted is a misuse of the stress function.

Forcing ulcers to grow in our stomachs while we keep our heads down and noses to the grindstone at jobs we hate poisons the body and doesn’t help us make decisions.

When you consider how many micro-triggers are part of the Western ecosystem, it’s absolutely no wonder that Americans are riddled with weakened immune system, increased diabetes, low productivity, fatigue, high blood pressure, insomnia, obesity, heart disease, and more. 

Not only that, but chronic stress has also been linked to disintegration of the hippocampus and a malfunctioning prefrontal cortex, which messes with your depression susceptibility and your cognitive function.

We’re going to break accessible possibilities into five ways to de-stress in only five minutes, while you’re on the go and when you don’t have time. 

Mindful Breathing

One of the first things stress and anxiety affect is the breath — when you’re panicked, worried, or otherwise keyed up, the breath changes. It becomes shorter, shallower, clipped.

In those moments, remember to breathe mindfully.

Try this: Touch the place where the back of your top teeth meets the roof of your mouth with your tongue.

Breathe out through your mouth so that your breath makes a whistling noise.

Touch your lips together and breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds. 

Hold for 6 seconds.

Exhale for 8.

Repeat.

Listen to Relaxing Music

There’s no right music — some people swear by ambient sounds, others by classical music, and others still prefer ASMR recordings (Autonomous sensory meridian response).

Soothing music has been shown to lower heart rate, blood pressure, pulse, and even stress hormones like cortisol.

If it calms you down, then it’s the right track.

If you can’t think of anything that calms you down, try exploring those avenues when you’re not panicking and that will help you be prepared for those stress attacks.

Stretch

If you’re in the car, fine. At your desk? Fine. Making dinner and your family’s boiling your blood? Fine.

Step away if you can, and if you can’t, who cares? Reach your arms up as high as they’ll go. Reach them out to the sides as far as they’ll go. Rotate your wrists. Turn your ankles. Bend at the waist and dangle your arms to get them as close to your toes as you can.

Increasing the rate of circulation in your body improves brain function and oxygen distribution, powering up your body’s cells. 

Do a Body Scan

You can do this anywhere and from the comfort of your own brain space.

Start with your toes. Wiggle them all. Now wiggle each one individually.

Good.

Move up to your ankles, then your calves, knees, thighs, and so on. Whenever you feel tension, stiffness, or pain, pause and breathe through it.

By the time you get to your head, your whole body will have been given this treatment, and you may even have forgotten you were stressed out in the first place.

Sing

If you’re somewhere you can make noise, sing as loud as you can. If you’re somewhere people may hear you, walk away a bit and sing softly, or hum. 

When you sing, your brain releases endorphins, the exercise-happy chemical, and oxytocin, the cuddle-happy chemical. 

Not only that, but it activates the vagus nerve, the part of your body that connects not only to your gut and your brain, but to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is where that fight-or-flight response is coming from in the first place.

Those five are simply five you can do anywhere.

But there’s nothing wrong with brewing a cup of tea if you can, herbal or black. 

Heaving a sigh has been known to work wonders.

A couple of pivotal yoga poses have been proven to quickly reduce stress (more on that in a later issue).

But anywhere you go, you should be able to sing, scan, stretch, listen to music, or deep breathe, and calm down in five minutes.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.