Sure, taking a vacation does wonders for your stress levels, but sometimes you need to relax STAT. If you’re on a time crunch and need to calm down quickly, try one of the 13 strategies below to relax in less than 20 minutes–from lighting scented candles to a quick meditation session.
1. Take a Break
When your flight-or-fight response is activated by a stressful situation, sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away before you make a rash decision. Ask if you can take a break and return to the discussion after you’ve both had time to cool down. Try some of the other techniques on this list to calm down in the meantime.
2. Do Some Aromatherapy
Make your home smell like a spa by lighting some candles or plugging in an electronic diffuser. If you’re at the office and can’t have an open flame, you can set up a reed diffuser instead of lighting a scented candle. Just make sure to check with your colleagues to confirm that the smells won’t bother them if you work in an open office.
3. Try Some Deep Breathing Exercises
Lie down if you can or sit up straight in your office chair if you can’t. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, counting to a minimum of five each time. Let your stomach and chest fully expand. If your hands aren’t moving, that means you’re not breathing deep enough.
4. Do a Meditation Exercise
A quick meditation session can help redirect your thoughts and help you focus on the positives in life. There are many themed meditations you can try, including body scan and loving-kindness. The key is to clear your mind as much as possible and to let go of any distracting or worrisome thoughts without judging yourself.
If you’re new to meditation, there are plenty of apps and online resources that can guide you through it.
5. Go for a Walk
Both physical movement and being out in nature helps lower our stress levels, so taking a walk outside will really supercharge your relaxation. If the weather is bad, or you’re far away from nature, even a couple of laps around your office floor will help.
Make sure to change into comfortable shoes so you don’t accidentally turn an ankle in your heels. That definitely won’t help you relax.
6. Write down Your Worries
Sometimes it helps to get your frustrations out of your head and onto the page. Set a timer and take five to 10 minutes to write down all your worries. Use a stream-of-consciousness style and don’t worry too much about making it organized. Then, put away the paper and do something else, such as meditation, to stop you from ruminating on them.
7. Find Somewhere Quiet
Being in a noisy area can increase your stress, even if you think you’re used to the sound by now. Find yourself a quiet area, such as a conference room or bedroom, where you can enjoy the silence and remove yourself from the chaos for a while. Ear plugs or good headphones with active noise-canceling technology will also do in a pinch.
8. Put on Some Good Music
If you can’t get away from ambient noise, listening to calming music can cover up distracting sounds and help you decompress. Turn on some soothing instrumentals and feel your blood pressure drop. You can also play music during meditation sessions if you have trouble concentrating in complete silence.
Our muscles tend to contract when we’re stressed, making our bodies tense. Try a mix of static and dynamic stretching to shake things out. If you’re still tense after that, warm up a heat wrap and place it over your neck and shoulders for 10 minutes. The extra weight will force your muscles to go slack, smoothing out that tension.
For extra benefits, tilt your head towards the ceiling so gravity can help your face muscles relax.
10. Give Yourself a Massage
If the heat wrap isn’t enough, you can give yourself a massage to help work out muscle tension. Rolling a clean tennis ball underneath your feet is a great option, as is stretching out your hands by flexing your fingers and clenching your fist. Many people also clench their jaws when they’re stressed, so try shaking it out instead of grinding your teeth together.
11. Check in with a Friend
If you’ve been putting off connecting with friends because you’re too busy, now is the perfect time to talk with them. Social time boosts mental and physical health while reducing stress. Call or message a friend, or pop down to their desk to chat with them in person.
Whether you need to vent about your day or want them to distract you for a few minutes, you’re sure to walk away feeling better than you did.
12. Cuddle with a Pet
Friends aren’t the only beings you should reach out to in times of stress. Pets can cheer you up, ease your stress and even give you the perfect excuse to go for a walk. Hang out with your furry friend, or borrow one from someone else if you don’t own a pet yourself. Throw a ball, chase them around the house, snuggle on the couch or give them a good belly rub.
13. Laugh out Loud
Laughter is one of the best natural stress relievers around, making you feel better physically and mentally. It increases the endorphins released by your brain, helps you breathe more deeply and helps your muscles relax. Harness the effects of humor by putting on one of your favorite comedians or cue up a funny video and prepare to feel better.
Being on a time crunch is stressful in itself, and it can heighten negative feelings if you’re already under pressure. Try one or more of these 13 strategies to destress when you feel like you don’t have time.