You’ve got 320 emails in that inbox, you’re already late for the next meeting and you haven’t even had a cup of coffee! Our lives are consumed by overloaded calendars, and sometimes, it feels like we can never catch a break. The to-do lists keep growing, and stress levels are at an all time high. That’s why when we’re feeling frazzled, it’s important to take a step back. Yes, this requires moving away from the screen! The good news is that you don’t need to set aside a lot of time to relax and de-stress—just a few minutes throughout the day will do the trick. Below, our contributor Arin Agase of Heart of Chic has rounded up 20 ways to relieve stress in 20 minutes or less, all of which were designed to create a sense of calm during the tough times ahead.
Give yourself a hand massage: A hand massage creates instant relaxation that calms a pounding heart. These are especially helpful for people who spend a lot of time in front of a keyboard. Hands carry a lot of tension, so relieving these stress points will do your body good. Apply lotion, start kneading the base of the muscle (near the thumb) and it will ease tension in the shoulders, neck and scalp.
Drip cold water on your wrist: We’re willing to bet that you didn’t know this trick! Try dripping cold water on your wrists and behind your earlobes. These are sensitive areas and cooling them will send a feeling of relaxation throughout your body.
Get outside: Oh, Mr. Sun! If it’s a sunny day, get outside for some vitamin D. Bright light is an effective treatment for people who suffer from anxiety and depression. This is an easy way to lift your spirits—and escape the office for a few minutes!
Listen to music: Yup, music can be an easy fix to that bad mood and it’s a great stress reliever. If you’re able to play music throughout the day, I highly encourage it. I personally enjoy listening to meditation music while I write—it’s so calming!
Eat dark chocolate: Easily, my favorite relaxation technique. Just a square of dark chocolate can calm your nerves. It also regulates your levels of cortisol and your metabolism. Remember: About 1.4 ounces, or one square, does the trick. Don’t overdo it—everything in moderation.
Chew gum: My teachers in high school used to encourage the idea of chewing gum during tests. Just a few minutes of chewing can actually reduce anxiety and lower cortisol levels.
Watch something funny: A good laugh is a great relaxation technique. It increases your oxygen intake, stimulates your heart and boosts endorphins. YouTube’s #PopularOnYouTube section usually highlights the funniest videos of the day—making it the perfect source for your laughter fix!
Yoga: There are many yoga techniques that are known for relieving stress. Bonus: Try doing a few of these in the sunshine. The best part is that they just take a few minutes.
Write it down: When you’re feeling stressed or anxious, try jotting down a few things you’re grateful for. It’s a great relaxation technique, but it also trains your brain to feel optimism in times of chaos. When we’re stressed, our brains immediately focus on everything that is going wrong, which makes it impossible to unwind. There are plenty of things to be grateful for—we just have to dig a little deeper to find them in times of stress.
Play: Just because we’re adults, we do not have to stop playing. Grab a co-worker and throw a frisbee around midday, or hop on a swing set in the park. These are great examples of instant stress relievers. Just let loose and have some fun—Glitter Guide says so!
Take a walk through the grass: Taking your shoes off and walking barefoot in the grass is a quick way to relieve anxiety. Your feet are extra sensitive and contain reflexology points, so walking through grass will create an instant sensation in other areas of the body, too. It also brings back a sense of nostalgia—remember running around barefoot when you were a kid? Those were the good old days!
Take a catnap: This may not be an option for everyone, but taking a short nap can feel like a mini vacation. Remember: Anything over 30 minutes will take you into a deep sleep, making you groggy and less focused when you wake. Try taking a 20-minute nap instead. This is the perfect amount of time to boost productivity and to sharpen the brain for those afternoon meetings.
Take a breath: When we’re stressed, our breaths get shorter, and shortness of breath sends panic signals to the brain. Try to lengthen your breathing by taking a deep inhale in for five seconds, holding it for three seconds, and releasing it for another five seconds. Try doing this multiple times (in a quiet place, if possible). Slow, deep breaths will bring you back to the present.
Make a list: It’s hard to unwind when our thoughts keep returning to endless to-do lists. Try to get a clear strategy for the day. What do you need to tackle first? Prioritize and block out your day. Don’t forget to create some time for you throughout your day as well.
Drink green tea: Green tea is a great source of L-theanine, an amino acid that can actually relieve anger. It’s also calming to sip and smell, and boosts energy levels.
Count backward: Kindergarten, is that you? When worries are at an all-time high, try slowly counting to 10, and then back again. This trick will help bring you back to the present moment.
Close your eyes: Take a quick break from the day and rest your eyes—this is another great one to do outdoors! It’s a simple and easy trick to regain focus and calm.
Visualize your happy place: Make yourself comfortable (outside, in your office—wherever!) and try to paint a peaceful scene, such as crashing waves on the beach, your favorite vacation house or the sound of your baby’s giggles. This exercise is a great way to get back to center. The power of guided imagery is a grand one! Try it out for yourself, and let us know where your happy place is.
Turn off your technology: Turn your cell phone off for 30 minutes each day. Cell phones stress us out, and raise our blood pressure—we just don’t realize it! It’s extremely important to spend some time away from technology throughout the day. Come on—we know that you can do it.
Be alone: Just a few minutes of alone time each day can help you collect your thoughts and clear your head. Take a five-minute walk around a park (no cell phone allowed), and let your mind roam.