Your inbox just loaded with several emails marked urgent, you’ve a project deadline by EOD, and your mom just called to find out if chicken is gluten-free. It would be an understatement to say your nerves might be a little jangled.
Before you go all Jessie Spano, a few minutes might be all you need to chill and regain your focus.
We’ve rounded up 40 ways to relax and relieve stress, fast.
1. Get your green tea on
This herbal tonic gives you the benefits of L-Theanine, a chemical that can help reduce the body’s stress responses
2. Chillax with some chocolate
When you need a quick break, break off a square of dark chocolate to boost your brain health and reduce stress
3. Help yourself to a little honey
The amber elixir from our buzzy friends may help relieve anxiety, fight off depression, and even protect the brain
Drizzle honey in your tea, coffee, yogurt, or just go straight for the jar with a spoon. The sweet stuff also works for a quick energy boost.
4. Go tropical
Take a five-minute break to peel, slice, and bite into a juicy mango. Weird fact: Mangos contain a compound called linalool, the main ingredient in lavender essential oil. And you know what lavender does — ahhhhh. It may reduce stress and anxiety
5. Chomp some chewing gum
Maybe you’re stuck in annoying traffic, frantically cleaning the house before your in-laws show, or hammering out that final term paper. Chewing gum is an easy way to keep the stress monster at bay while potentially boosting your mood and productivity
6. Crunch and munch
Instead of clenching your jaw, may as well put it to work. Trail mix, an apple, or some celery sticks provide a satisfying crunch to curb your spiral.
No need to go on a week-long silent retreat with zen-looking yogis to snag some serenity. It doesn’t require completely clearing your mind, either. You can meditate in as little as one minute with visualization techniques. Give it a go before that meeting where you know Gretchen’s going to get on your nerves.
8. Get your head below your heart
Put your head between your knees, or stand and hang your head and arms toward your toes. Getting your noggin below your heart has restorative effects on the autonomic nervous system (ANS), lessening your reactivity to the fight-or-flight response
9. Connect with your breath
You’re probably already breathing — unless you’re holding your breath. We tend do that when we’re in a tizzy. Whether you’re holding in your air, taking shallow sips of it, or hyperventilating, you might be adding to the stress response in your body.
The good news is that taking slow, full breaths can calm you. Try a quick breathing exercise to get back to a more relaxed state.
10. Give yourself a squeeze
You know how your cat will go all rigid for a second, tensing all those kitty muscles and then relaxing them? That looks kind of good, right? Well, you can try it too — or a version of it anyway.
Progressive relaxation involves tensing and releasing muscles, body part by body part. You may not have time to do your whole frame in five minutes, but just arms, shoulders, neck, and head will suffice.
11. Say your ABC’s backward
Nope, it’s not an IQ test, but it is a strangely reliable way to chill. Saying the alphabet in reverse temporarily shifts your focus from worrying about your upcoming date or pending performance review. It’s fine to play tricks on yourself once in a while. Counting backward can also do the trick.
12. Visualize what you want or need
Creative visualization is a mindfulness exercise developed by Shakti Gawain in her book Creative Visualization. The technique involves mentally imagining what you want to happen in your life, or how you want to feel. It can slay stress fast.
13. Close your peepers
A little darkness behind your lids can help shut out the external factors causing you trouble. Stressors may look a little different when you open your eyes, ready to face the world again.
14. Massage your hands
Rather than wringing your hands with worry, treat them to a little TLC instead. Just a five-minute hand massage could help relieve anxiety, one study shows
Rub your favorite cream into your palms. Massage each joint and the webbing between each finger. Clench and release your fists. Then flex your wrists. The stretch will help relieve tension from endlessly tapping at your keyboard or scrolling through your phone.
15. Try acupressure
When you’re already stressed, the last thing you might want is more pressure. But acupressure may help alleviate anxiety, according to a recent study
Acupressure is like the non-poke-y version of acupuncture. It aims to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes. Use your fingers to find the two divots where your neck muscles attach to your skull. Press firmly for 15 seconds to relieve neck tension.
16. Roll a tennis ball under your feet
Borrow Fido’s gross toy for just a minute, unless it’s got slobber on it. A lacrosse or golf ball will do the trick too. Gently roll the ball under your arches, stopping to apply more pressure when you find a tender spot.
17. Take your frustration out on a stress ball
It’s OK to be angry at times. Stress can bring on rage, and what’s important is how you deal with that fiery emotion. It might be tempting to throw your laptop out the nearest office window or lay on your horn in traffic, but squeezing a stress ball is a safer — and cheaper — option.
18. Splash cold water on your face
Head to the loo and turn on the cold tap. Cool your hands and face with H2O and dab some on your pulse points. Cold water has an energizing effect. But it can also calm you if you’re body temp is rising after a sticky convo with your partner or a beef with your boss.
19. Massage your scalp
Is your to-do list making you want to pull your hair out? Hair tugging is actually a massage therapy technique that can help reduce head tension and bring on relaxation. Pull your hair gently so that you feel the scalp lift slightly. Follow up with a light massage of the scalp.
20. Find some alone time
A hot soak in the company of bath bombs and candles might sound perfect, but any space that gives you privacy will work. All you need is five minutes of alone time to get you a wee bit closer to calm.
21. Zen out and zone out
If your cubicle is less than calming, take a minute to find a spot that is. Sit beneath a tree, for example. If you can’t escape, add something soothing to your space. Maybe that’s an aromatic cup of herbal tea or a cozy sweater. Or just focus on your potted plant for a spell and breathe.
22. Get some rays
Need a slightly sunnier outlook? Seek out some natural light — no not the beer. Sunlight, whether through a window or outside, can douse your worries
23. Stare out the window
Give yourself permission to do absolutely nothing but gaze. Looking at nature scenes like trees and public parks can be more relaxing than staring at a tech screen. But even if nature is nowhere near, just viewing the outside world for a few minutes might get you out of your own head.
24. Wrangle clutter
If you’re feeling scattered, it could be because clutter has taken over. Sort the files on your computer desktop. If you’re not at work, do a five-minute refresh of whatever space you’re in for a new outlook. Maybe that just means making the bed.
25. Put your feet up
If you’ve been sitting all day, the “legs up the wall” yoga pose will rejuvenate sluggish calves or feet and much more. The restorative effects of the posture can help settle both body and mind.
26. Stretch it out
You don’t need a 90-minute yoga session to reap the benefits of stretching. You can do it when you’ve got to stay put anywhere or when you’re on the go.
27. Get your heart rate up
The hustle and bustle of the day can you leave you feeling burnt out. Getting the blood and endorphins flowing can reinvigorate you to tackle whatever task is at hand.
Bust out some burpees, jumping jacks, or push-ups. Or just jog in place. Even brief bouts of exercise can help beat stress.
28. Go for a stroll
Walk to the coffee shop for your favorite pick-me-up, or take Fluffy out to stretch his legs. A quick cruise around the block combines exercise with a change of scenery for a double whammy against worry.
29. Write it down
Putting your feelings on the page provides an outlet for what’s on your mind. Try journaling about debt, work worries, or even peeves about your partner or roommate. Seeing the words might just give you a new perspective.
30. Listen to your favorite tunes
Surely you have a Spotify playlist to pep you up or soothe your soul. Crank it. Just listening to music has relaxation benefits, one study shows
31. Bust a move
Losing yourself in the beat can help you shake stress off. Plus, dancing gets the blood flowing for a reenergizing rush of oxygen.
32. Do a crossword puzzle
Number 10 across: Anxious, overwhelmed, or freaked out (seven letters). If you guessed “stressed,” you’re in good shape to kill it at a crossword. Brain games that require concentration can take your mind off whatever’s eating you.
33. Smell the flowers
Really, stop and sniff ’em. Keep a fresh jar of your favorite variety near your workspace or in the living room, and take a whiff whenever stress strikes.
34. Try aromatherapy
It takes just a minute to drip some lavender, frankincense, or another essential oil into a diffuser. Or, mix a few drops into your favorite carrier oil (such as jojoba), rub into your hands, and inhale. The soothing scents may help send stress and anxiety packing by stimulating receptors in the nose that connect to the part of the brain that regulates emotions.
35. Sniff citrus
Head for the crisper. The odor of sweet orange can help decrease symptoms of anxiety and improve mood, research shows
36. Brew some beans
Wake up and smell the cortado or head to the break room to get your bean on. Just the odor of coffee can make you feel better — not to mention the caffeine. And the act of making it or standing in the latte line temporarily pulls you away from whatever’s causing you stress.
Don’t have too much of course, or you’ll go from jazzed to jitters.
37. Cuddle with a furry friend
Schedule some immediate hang time with your four-legged bestie. Pets can boost self-esteem and even ease the sting of social rejection.
Cue up some YouTube videos. Nothing busts a bad mood quite as well as the giggles. Even science says laughter is the best medicine. But you can see for yourself. Get a load of these fitness-obsessed felines for a few chuckles.
39. Talk to a pal
Talking out your feelings with a ride-or-die friend can put your mind at ease and let you know someone genuinely cares. If you’re pressed for time, even a quick back-and-forth text session can be a lifeline.
40. Start planning some time off
Crashing waves, warm sand, a gentle breeze ruffling your hair. Well, at least the image is nice. Take a break from work and browse for vacation spots. Part of the fun is planning the trip, anyway. Plus, knowing you’ll get an escape soon can help you power through a tough time.
If that beach vacay — or even a staycay — isn’t on the hook right now or soon, you can still find stress relief in just five minutes whenever you need it.
But living in a perpetual state of stress isn’t sustainable. So be sure to schedule longer respites too when you can. Snag 30 minutes at the gym or a grab brunch with your BFFs, whatever gets you to the right level of chill.