Imagine how much nicer life would be if you could learn how to relax your mind from anxiety. You’d probably be much happier, right?
Problem is, you’re really busy.
Between work, life, and all the little things in between, it’s hard to carve out time to take care of yourself.
There’s good news. Relaxing doesn’t require flying to the tropics for a week or downing a bottle of zinfandel after work. There are many excellent relaxation activities that you can fit into a coffee break.
Here are 50 ways to relax in less than 5 minutes.
- Take deep breaths
Breathing is the #1 best activity for reducing anxiety and increasing calm. It’s a powerful exercise, which is why so many treatments start here. The most common recommendation is to take slow, steady breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Start with 1 minute of relaxation breathing. If that’s not enough to relax your mind and body a little, try another minute before resuming regular breathing.
Find a private place where no one will bother you, like your home or an empty room. Being around others too long can become restricting, so going somewhere to be alone is an easy way to be yourself, chill out, and do whatever relaxes you without getting judged by others.
- Take a stroll somewhere quiet
Take a nice, slow 5-minute walk, preferably someplace pleasant like a park, garden, or beach. Stuck at work? Strolling down the halls or around the building works too. Walking helps regulate your heart rate and improve blood flow, which can reduce your cortisol levels.
- Run really fast
Sprint for 30 seconds, rest for a minute, and then repeat a few times. Exercising causes your heart rate to skyrocket, which may seem counterproductive, but you’ll feel very relaxed afterwards when the adrenaline wears off!
- Count backwards from 100
A very old school method for relaxing! Counting backwards helps you refocus your attention and acts as a distraction to your stress. Like many activities, it helps you “get out of your head” long enough to find a little bit of calm. By the time you get to zero, you’ll feel better.
Sit your butt down someplace quiet and meditate. Meditation really helps you relax, and the more you do it the more effective it is! Never tried meditation before? Search YouTube for guided meditation practice to get started. It’ll take practice, so stick with it!
- Drink water
Humans are mostly water at the cellular level. When we become dehydrated (even just a little) our bodies don’t work the way they should. The brain, the heart, the lungs, even the intestines function less optimally, and that can manifest as stress on the body. Drink some water to rehydrate yourself and remember to do this regularly throughout the day.
Grab a piece of chocolate and enjoy! Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, which causes your brain to release “feel good” hormones in your brain like dopamine and serotonin. Go for dark chocolate over milk or white – it has more of the good stuff. Plus, dark chocolate has other healthy compounds like antioxidants and micronutrients.
- Indulge in a treat
Treating yourself occasionally is a great way to relax. Find a few minutes to grab your treat of choice, go someplace relaxing, and enjoy. Think of this as a miniature vacation in the middle of your day. Just don’t overdo it with unhealthy treats.
- Drink a relaxing tea
Several kinds of tea can reduce anxiety, thanks to certain chemical components. Teas containing chamomile, valerian root, or rhodiola rose a help melt anxieties and increase calm. Opt for those with little to no caffeine. Pair with a cozy blanket and good book for a wonderfully relaxing pre-bed ritual.
- Close your eyes and listen
Switch your mind to focus on sounds instead of sight. Close your eyes and open up your ears. This mindful meditation exercise calms you by changing your primary stimuli to something other than sight, which activates parts of your brain used less frequently. Even better if you’re someplace where you can hear nature sounds – rain, running water, trees, etc.
- Daydream for awhile
Find someplace quiet, close your eyes, and breath deeply. Clear your head and daydream. Think about the latest book you read or movie you saw. Let your mind meander for a while. And, hey, if you start to nod off, so be it! A little nap never hurt anyone.
- Bury yourself under blankets
Pile blankets or a nice comforter on top of you and get cozy – just like you were a kid again! This is actually a positive feeling ingrained in every human being; it reminds our subconscious of being in the womb. This reminds some people of being a child, which carries nice memories.
Head to the masseuse or day spa for a nice relaxing massage. Tension builds up in our muscles (caused by stresses in our heads). Massages help our muscles release tension, which causes our brains to de-stress. If you’re felling tough, try a sports massage! A lot more intense, but even more relaxing.
- Try acupuncture
Many people think acupuncture is nonsense, but studies show that it can be effective in releasing tension and increasing relaxation. How? Those needles poke into your nervous system, where tension lives, and causes them to relax. Works great for some people, so it may be worth a shot.
- Squeeze a stress ball
Keep a stress ball nearby and pulverize it for a few minutes. Pumping your muscles feel good, plus it increases your heart rate, which ends up flooding your brain with blood. You’ll feel relaxed thanks to the jot of nutrients and oxygen, plus it’ll carry away stress-causing hormones like cortisol.
Show off a little skin and get out into the sunshine. When your body is exposed to sunlight, your cells make vitamin D, which keeps you healthy in many ways. Researchers report that most people have some degree of vitamin D deficiency, so get out more often when the sun is bright. About 15 minutes of direct light each day is recommended.
- Play with a dog
Everyone knows that ‘man’s best friend’ are great companions, but they’re also good at helping us relax. Their playfulness brings out our playfulness, and our brain’s feel-good chemicals start flowing. These hormones are responsible for happiness and positive feelings, so grab a ball and head to the park!
- Pet a cat
Cats are pretty chill animals we all could learn something from, but petting them is actually relaxing too. They’re frequently used in senior patient homes. The steady rhythm of petting and their purring sound helps regulate our brainwaves. And the soft fur increases feelings of comfort. Grab some kitty treats and they’ll be your best friends forever.
- Read a book by an expert
People have been studying relaxation methods for years. Those listed here are just the tip of the iceberg – there are many more, some of which prove to be extremely effective! So grab a book written by an expert and learn how to relax your mind from anxiety. Here’s a good one to start with. Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks
Clutter can increase anxiety without you realizing it. Our brains have an innate desire for order and cleanliness(although these feelings are stronger in some more than others). Be sure your desk isn’t stressing you out by keeping it tidy. Try organizing at the end of the day so your next morning starts off stress-free. You may feel less stress right away!
- Clean your room
Like keeping a clean desk, cleaning your room helps you reduce stress while at home. Your brain actually has to constantly work to create order in your life, so keeping organizedin life helps prevents your subconscious from working overtime. If keeping things organized to too much hassle, try reducing the number of things you own. Minimalism is a growing trend that keeps your life simple by removing things to worry about.
Chances are you have at least one favorite song that reminds you of a special time in your life. Singing gets your heart pumping, but also creates a sense of nostalgia. Those feelings, whether sad or happy, are grounding and put things into perspective. So turn it up louder!
After your favorite song, try this one. Neuroscientists have consistently found that calming music like this balance out brainwaves in people’s heads. Give it a shot; you may be surprised how effective it is. Don’t skip the video that comes with it, it’s oddly pleasing too.
When singing isn’t an option, tuning the world out and creating a space for your self can be very relaxing (even if it’s in your own head). Those tunes still bring on nostalgia, and the isolation removes distractions from your bubble, both of which are great relaxation practices.
Grab a jigsaw, crossword, or Sudoku puzzle and work through it. Most relaxation exercises try to get you out of your head, but this one gets you into your left-brain, where logic and reason rule. Not a lot of stress or anxiety exist in that area, so you can calm yourself down by switching over with some good puzzles or brainteasers. Plus, you’ll feel like a champ when you finish it!
Certain aromas are shown to contain chemicals that promote calm. Roses and lemons are two common calming scents, but there are many others, like: lavender, jasmine, lilac, sandalwood, and vanilla. A stroll through the garden in springtime could be just what you need! The rest of the year, try essential oils or relaxation candles.
- Burn relaxation candles
Aromatherapy candles containing essential oils create a soothing environment that can trigger positive memories, but they’ve also been shown to enter the brain and reduce anxiety after being inhaled. These make candles great for relaxation and stress relief. Choose whichever scent you love, but be sure to choose candles that do not contain paraffin as an ingredient.
Flip through a scrapbook of old photos. Remembering old times can stir up pleasant old memories, or even remind you of hard times that you overcame. Don’t spend too much time in the past – let old memories remind you that you need to keep making new memories.
- Call a family member
Talk to someone you love for a few minutes, whether it’s your spouse, mom or dad, sibling, or child. Anyone whom you have positive emotions towards. Talking to them, on the phone or in person, can trigger those positive feelings, reducing your stress. Even 5 minutes goes a long way, especially if they don’t mind you venting your problems on them!
- Talk to your steering wheel
When you can’t talk to your family member or to a professional, talk to yourself. Talk to yourself when you have total privacy, like in the car or at home. It may seem crazy, but this helps you organize your problems so you can work through them. Strange, but effective.
Sometimes stressful problems wear you down without you knowing exactly what they are or how they’re affecting you. Writing them down forces you to work through them in detail, so you can see them objectively. This makes them more manageable, and it becomes easier to come up with solutions.
- Plan something nice or fun
Everyone needs a vacation once in awhile, but there are relaxing benefits just in planning a vacation. You get to think about things you want to see and do. It’s a great distraction from the stresses of everyday life. Just be sure to plan in advance to avoid scrambling to get out the door last minute.
- Do something silly
Taking oneself too seriously for too long can be detrimental to the mind. Deep down, we all have a kid inside that hates wearing suits and ties. Take a few minutes and let your playful, inner child have a turn at the wheel. Record a funny video, make faces in the mirror, sing a silly song!
- Do a cartwheel
Aside from getting the heart rate up, doing something like cartwheels on the lawn is wonderful at connecting you with your childish nature. Your childish nature doesn’t worry too much – it’s pretty relaxed all the time – so channel him or her when you need to escape the adult world for a moment.
- Draw a picture
Drawing is a window into the soul… Actually it’s more like a snapshot of your psyche. Drawing helps you get stressful thoughts out of your head, and they can also help you discover what positive thoughts may have become buried. Grab paper and a pencil and start drawing lines, just see what you end up with.
Sometimes life gets a little serious or boring, and it can become hard to relax. In times like these, reading a good book can help. Reading activates your creative brain, which is very stimulating. You may be tempted to watch TV instead of reading, but reading forces you to picture the story unfold in your head, activating your creativity even more.
- Watch a funny YouTube video
They say laughter is the best medicine, and they may have a point. Laughter releases feel-good chemicals in your brain, which act against stress causing chemicals, like epinephrine. Drown them out with laughter (or endorphins!)
- Do something repetitive
Creative work can help you connect with your subconscious, but repetitive work can also be very relaxing. Repetition works by stabilizing your brainwaves. When you focus on one small task, your brain works on optimizing the motion, which prevents you from thinking about whatever was stressing you out. Try cleaning, ironing, or exercising for a few minutes.
- Make something with your hands
There is something great about working with your hands. Rolling up your sleeves and making something gives you a sense of accomplishment and pride. Not only are you flexing your creative muscle, but also you’re activating your brain in a way that few people do anymore. Try painting, pottery, cooking, sewing, or carpentry.
- Try out a stress app
Some people prefer modern therapies for stress. In this case, check out one of the many stress apps for your smartphone. There are also apps to help you learn to meditate, exercise, or eat healthy.
Exploration pulls us out of our comfort zone and forces us to think and improvise. It’s hard to feel stress when your curiosity is running amuck. And when your brain is active with discovery, you’ll feel a sense of adventure that many find fulfilling. Find someplace you’ve never been, even if it’s just around the corner.
- Tell yourself it’s okay
Why do we feel guilt when we get stressed? It’s a strange habit that no one has a great answer to. Remind yourself that it’s okay to be anxious occasionally. Stress is normal and you can deal with it. Tell yourself, out loud in the mirror if you must. Remember, it’s normal.
Nature contains many things that human need for mental and physical stability – natural sights, smells, and sounds. These are evolutionary triggers, which have physiological benefits. It’s no mystery why people keep plants inside, light floral scented candles, and listen to nature sounds when falling asleep. They’re a part of our psyche, so get outside for the real thing once in awhile.
- Stretch your back and spine out
Try doing some backstretches to get the muscles around your spine loose. When the muscles around the spine get tight (like from sitting too much) they pinch your vertebrae together. That causes poor communication between your brain and body, and pain and stress are usually the results. Stretch those muscles out to keep your back and brain happy.
- Do a few yoga poses
Yoga has multiple benefits wrapped up into one – physical exercise, relaxation breathing, and calming meditation. Indians have been practicing yoga for centuries, and anything that’s hung around that long has got to be doing something right. A Google search produces 48 million results, so learning the basics literally only takes a few minutes.
- Get more B vitamins
People don’t eat enough healthy foods containing vitamin B, which helps keep your body running like a well-oiled machine. Take a vitamin B supplement to increase your daily intake.
- Turn off the screens
Cell phones and TVs trick the brain into thinking its always daytime and that can negatively affect your ciradium rhythm (aka your sleep cycles). But there’s another side effect – more distractions in your life. Disconnecting is a wonderful relaxation exercise. It gives you time to think, or time to not think.
Sleep is one of the best relaxation activities. It reduces stress so you can maintain a steady level of calm. Fall behind, and you’ll start feeling irritable(and tired). Aim for 8-10 hours a night. That’s a lot, but you’ll thank me after just a few nights.
- Schedule an appointment with a therapist
If nothing seems to work, a professional therapist can help you identify what is causing your anxieties and will help you find ways of dealing with them. If you’ve tried some of these natural methods but haven’t found anything that works, consider scheduling an appointment. Remember, they’re there to help you feel better.
A little rest and relaxation for anxiety can go a long way.
You’ll feel better, be more positive, and be more pleasant to those around you. There really aren’t many things that de-stressing won’t help.
Don’t let your busy lifestyle keep you from finding moments throughout the day to find some peace. If you’ve got 5 minutes, you’ve got enough time for a quick relaxation activity. Sneak them into after breakfast, before lunch, during coffee breaks, in the car ride home, or just before turning in for bed.
Choose several that seem interesting and work them into your routine. Do them regularly enough until they become habits.
Sometimes its good to try one you wouldn’t otherwise try.Keep a few others on hand for when you find a little unexpected free time. Get a little unpredictable with yourself.
And be persistent. Anxiety didn’t appear over night and it won’t disappear overnight. But with these exercises and some persistence, you can eliminate much of the stress in your life and become a laid-back individual.
You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.