Reduce Stress In 5 Minutes Or Less
We can all struggle to reduce our stress levels during the best of times, let alone when things are this uncertain in the world. It can sometimes feel impossible to detach from work, our responsibilities and the troubles going on outside our doors, which easily manifest as troubles in our minds. Here are 8 simple ways to stop and recalibrate in 5 minutes or less.
Being aware of your breathing is one of the best ways to focus your energy and calm the body and mind. Most of us do not breathe properly; we are accustomed to quick, shallow breaths rather than using our full abdomen as we should, which actually heightens stress and anxiety as we are oxygen deprived. Controlled and mindful breathing can lower the heart rate, increase lung capacity over time, and have a positive effect on a deep, cellular level. There are vast breathing exercises you can do for your specific needs, and here are 2 simple ones to get started.
- Get comfortable. While some recommend sitting or laying in a particular position, it’s more important to just be aware of your body and move out of discomfort.
- Breathe in through your nose and slowly count to 5.
- Hold for a beat.
- Exhale through the mouth slowly until you feel all the air has been expelled from your lungs.
- Repeat several times until you feel your heartbeat has slowed.
- Breathe in and focus on the air gently filling your belly, not just the top of your lungs.
- Hold for a few seconds.
- Exhale as before, feeling the air leaving from all the way down in your belly.
- As you breathe in, say to yourself “I am breathing in peace and calm.”
- Hold for a few seconds.
- As you breathe out, say to yourself “I am breathing out stress and letting it go.”
- Feel free to replace your sayings with whatever is useful and relevant to you, and repeat for 5 minutes, or as long as you can.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama means alternate nostril breathing, and is a popular practice for relaxation as it is good for the heart and lowers the heart rate. It is not recommended if you are feeling poorly or are congested due to the nature of the exercise.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
- Sit comfortably.
- With your right hand, close your first and middle finger towards your palm, leaving your third and fourth fingers open.
- Exhale, then use your right thumb to softly close your right nostril.
- Inhale through your left nostril (your right nostril should not be inhaling air at all while this is covered by your thumb).
- Close your left nostril with your right hand ring and pinky fingers, and release your thumb from your right nostril.
- Exhale through your right nostril.
- Inhale through your right nostril, then close with the thumb.
- Releasing your fingers from the left nostril, exhale through your left nostril.
This is one cycle of alternate nostril breathing, which can be practiced for 5 minute exercises.
“You can’t always control what goes on outside, but you can always control what goes on inside.” – Wayne Dyer
Yoga Nidra is an ancient practice that combines yogic and meditative techniques to relax the mind-body and gain awareness. While a full, guided deep relaxation exercise can be done over a longer period of time with excellent results, Yoga Nidra can begin to settle stress and anxiety in minutes. By bringing your focus to the breath and the body, it slows the mind and connects and grounds the body.
Yoga Nidra means “yogic sleep”.
Following on from the Yoga Nidra exercise, guided meditations in general can be a great way to take a 5 minute break from the day to recharge. While there are a plethora of specialist sites and apps dedicated solely to guided meditation, many of these are also available at your fingertips, free on YouTube. Whether you’re looking to energise yourself for a new day, take a time out break, or unwind before bed, guided meditation can help you get there.
Meditation for Sleep
Sometimes rather than staying still, we need to release by moving our bodies. While energetically releasing tension with vigorous exercise is of course useful, stretching can be an equally effective way to reduce your stress and let go.
- Sit up straight, or if you are strong enough, stand up keeping your knees soft.
- Drop your chin down to your chest.
- Place your hands on the back of your head and gently push your head down into the stretch – do not force this.
- Breathe deeply and hold the stretch for 20 seconds.
- Let go and relax your neck.
- Repeat the stretch 2-5 times.
Neck, shoulders and lower back stretch
- Stand with your back against a wall. Your feet should be about 12 inches away from the wall, hip-width apart.
- Breathe in deeply and press your back into the wall.
- Exhale and gently roll forwards, keeping your knees soft, releasing your neck and shoulders from the wall so that only your buttocks are touching the wall.
- Keep your knees soft, and your neck and shoulders relaxed, your arms hanging loosely.
- Breathe slowly and deeply as you circle your arms inwards five times, then outwards five times.
- Bend your knees and slowly roll up, one vertebrae at a time.
While these methods are quick, their effects can be long-lasting and go some way to helping reduce your stress when used in 5 minute slots throughout the day.
If you are struggling with more than how to reduce stress and are concerned about your mental health, please reach out and seek help from your doctor or a mental health professional today.