Whether it’s related to an issue at work, a fight with a friend, or problems with family, just about everyone feels stressed sometimes. In fact, 79 percent of Americans are concerned about the level of stress in their daily lives.
And while medical treatments can help, most solutions (think talk therapy or medication) are long-term. So what can you do in the next 5 minutes to get some stress relief?
Here’s our list of the Greatist ways to decrease stress right now.
1. Try progressive relaxation
All the way from fingers to toes, tense and then release each muscle group in the body: lower arm, upper arm, chest, back and abdominals, etc.
Once the body is relaxed, the mind will follow. Research shows this technique helps ease anxiety and calm depression.
2. Strike a pose
The combination of deep breathing techniques and poses makes yoga a potent stress relief tool. One study showed it worked in college students, a particularly tense group.
Yoga comes in different styles, from slow-paced to hardcore. Hatha yoga, with its gentle movements, may be especially good for inducing a state of calm.
3. Get a massage
Getting a good ol’ rub down may do more than alleviate physical pain. A massage may also be beneficial for fighting stress.
Don’t have the time or money for a full hour session? Head to the mall or nail salon for an abbreviated 20-minute version or use a foam roller to give yourself a rub.
Research shows a quick massage can reduce stress and lower blood pressure.
4. Take a nap
After a night spent tossing and turning, a quick power nap could be just the thing to give your dragging brain a boost. Napping has been shown to reduce levels of cortisol and other stress hormones.
Just keep it to 20 minutes, or it could lead to lost sleep the following night.
The “mental silence” that goes along with meditation can produce a state of calm, even during the stormiest of days. But first it requires some mental focus, which isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Find a quiet spot, sit or lie down comfortably, close your eyes, and breathe deeply for a few minutes. To still a turbulent mind, focus on an object or repeat a word or mantra like “ohm” or “chocolate bar” (hey, whatever works). Then, feel the stress melt away with each breath.
6. Breathe deeply
Not into the whole meditation thing? Just do the breathing part. Taking a few deep breaths from the diaphragm has been shown to lower cortisol levels, which can help reduce stress and anxiety.
7. Visualize calm
Close your eyes and picture yourself on a beach. Hear the waves lapping on the shore and watch the palm trees swaying in the breeze. Feel calmer?
Guided imagery or visualization is a sensory experience that involves envisioning a calm or peaceful scene. It may be a good way to reduce stress and ease anxiety, especially when you see yourself out in nature (picture yourself on a mountaintop or by an ocean).
If you can’t get into the scene on your own, use a guided recording, or an app like Headspace. You’ll get your very own guide to talk you through this mental mini vacation.
8. Try self-hypnosis
You’re getting very sleepy…
Self-hypnosis isn’t about a swinging pocket watch or quacking like a duck. It’s an actual stress relief technique that research suggests can help reduce anxiety. Research on self-hypnosis is limited, but promising.
In one study, the technique helped a group of university students calm down before an exam.
9. Go float
Anyone who has floated in the ocean knows how calming it feels to bob along on the current (except for those who are terrified of the water — then, not so good).
Flotation-REST (reduced environmental stimulation therapy) takes this buoyantly calm feeling even further by adding in a dose of sensory deprivation.
In this treatment you’re suspended in a pool, kept afloat by thousands of pounds of Epsom salt. The room is dark and silent, leaving you to immerse yourself in your own thoughts.
We don’t recommend this technique for anyone with claustrophobia or aquaphobia. But those who are OK with floating will benefit from reduced anxiety and stress, less tense muscles, and a state of profound relaxation.
Don’t have access to a sensory deprivation pool? Fill up the tub with warm water and float your cares away.
10. Take a whiff
Something as simple as breathing in a calming aroma can do wonders for our state of mind. Essential oils distilled from plants are believed to directly act on the brain’s emotion-controlling zones, like the hypothalamus.
Lavender in particular seems to have a soothing effect on the mind.
11. Turn on the tunes
A flip through the old music library is one easy way to reduce stress. Music has the ability to dampen levels of the hormone, cortisol, and ease stress in the process.
Which tunes work best? Something calming like light jazz or classical should do the trick. But really, whatever you find relaxing is good musical medicine.
12. Laugh it off
A good belly laugh is good for the soul, and the stress levels. Laughter reduces the physical effects of stress (like fatigue) on the body — but only if it’s genuine.
Forced laughter doesn’t have the same effect. So, put on a movie that makes you roar, and let your worries go.
13. Escape into a book
Is the real world too much to handle? Disappear into a hot bodice ripper, blood-pumping thriller, or maybe a faraway epic fantasy. A great read can take your mind off your worries.
14. Drink tea
Too wired to fall asleep? Pour a cup of green tea. In one study, green tea drinkers slept better and felt less stressed.
Chamomile and mint teas are especially calming. Most herbal tea is naturally free of caffeine, but for other types of tea, watch the caffeine content of your brew. Too much of this jitters-inducing chemical could have the opposite effect and keep you awake.
15. Chew gum
Chomping on a stick of bubblegum may seem like a simplistic way of dealing with stress, but some frequent gum chewers swear it helps keep them calm. Researchers say gum chewing might buffer the effects of stress on the brain.
Plus, a pack of gum is a lot cheaper than therapy.
16. Try CBD
These days, cannabidiol, or CBD, is in everything from gummies to beverages. Research on this popular supplement is pretty slim at this point. But researchers say it acts on the nervous system in a way that makes it a promising therapy for stress and anxiety.
17. Wash the dishes
Anyone who considers washing the dishes a thankless chore should reconsider their position.
That “high” runners get after they’ve sprinted a few laps is a rush of endorphins, the brain’s natural mood boosting chemicals. Exercise offers natural stress relief by raising levels of feel-good chemicals while lowering cortisol and other stress hormones.
To get that high, and the stress relief that comes with it, it doesn’t require the intensity of a run. Any type of cardio (walking, swimming, dancing) should get those brain chemicals pumping.
19. Walk in the woods
For an even bigger boost, take that exercise program outdoors. A quiet, meditative stroll in the woods can do wonders for stress relief. No need to rush; take whatever pace feels most natural.
20. Practice religion
Got faith? Research shows that religion helps to buffer the stressful effect of life events.
There’s also the added benefit of being around others. Connection to like-minds in a spiritual setting may help you find the support you need during a stressful time.
21. Just do it
A tough day at work can put a big damper on your sex drive come evening. But if you can get up the energy to climb under the sheets with the one you love, sex can be a big stress reliever. The catch, one study found, was that you need to be in a healthy relationship for sex to work its magic.
22. Hug it out
No nudity is required to reap the benefits of close contact. Hugging may help reduce blood pressure and stress levels in adults. A good squeeze can also help buffer the negative emotional effects of conflict, one study showed.
23. Try reiki
Speaking of the power of touch, how about this hands-on approach to healing? Reiki is a Japanese technique that uses the laying-on of hands to increase the life force energy within us. When this energy is low, or so the theory goes, we’re more likely to be stressed.
Can reiki really provide stress relief? Early evidence suggests it could be helpful for both stress and anxiety.
24. Hang with a pet
There’s nothing like coming home to a wagging tail after a grueling day at the office. Pets are like furry therapists, and their prescription for unconditional love really can do wonders for our mental state.
Playing with a pet for just 10 minutes lowered cortisol levels in college students, according to one study.
25. Kiss someone
Kissing releases chemicals that lower hormones associated with stress, like cortisol. Forming positive relationships is also a good way to reduce overall stress and anxiety.
26. Do something artistic
Whether your thing is oil painting, playing the trombone, or modern dance, having a creative outlet could do wonders for your state of mind. Art therapy both reduces stress and helps us better manage the stress we’ve got.
27. Write it out
Keeping a journal may be one way to effectively relieve stress-related symptoms, thanks to its meditative and reflective effects. A gratitude journal can really help us put things in perspective. So pick a time every day to write down a few things that make you happy.
Stress is unavoidable these days, but it’s not insurmountable. Keep this tool chest of stress relief tips on hand to pull out when you feel really overwhelmed. Or, better yet, make some of these a daily practice.
Something as simple as breathing deeply or hugging your bestie could help you keep your cool in the most turbulent situations.