We all have different triggers that leads to stress, as well as different reactions to that stress. Some of us get anxious, others shut down, and many get angry. Certainly these three reactions are only a mere drop in the ocean of reactions that people have to stress. There are people who get so worked up over stressful events or feelings that they make themselves physically ill.
The thing is, it doesn’t have to like that. Changing your personal reaction to stress is easy to say, but not as easy to do (as is the case with most things in life).
However, when you feel like you’re going to succumb to stress (or you are already there), here are 14 tricks that you can begin to practice and use to calm yourself down in just five minutes.
“Age-old adages, such as ‘grin and bear it,’ have suggested smiling to be not only an important nonverbal indicator of happiness but also wishfully promote smiling as a panacea for life’s stressful events,” says researcher Tara Kraft.
The research conducted by Kraft did in fact find that simply smiling did reduce stress.
“The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress, you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment,” said Sarah Pressman, one of the researchers. “Not only will it help you ‘grin and bear it’ psychologically, but it might actually help your heart health as well.”
Another simple tactic to get rid of that stress? Breathe.
Deep breathing helps us disengage from distracting thoughts and sensations, which makes the body feel like it does when it’s relaxed.
To practice this technique, find a quiet and comfy area and then breathe normally. Then begin to breathe in slowly through your nose, so that your chest and lower belly rise. Next, let your abdomen expand fully and breathe out slowly. The key to this type of breathing seems to be to let the breath come out longer than it takes your large breath to come in. Take more time in the out breath.
Andrew Scholey, a professor of behavioral and brain sciences at Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia, found that that chewing gum helped relieve anxiety, improve alertness, and reduce stress by 16 percent during mild stress and nearly 12 percent in moderate stress.
This is actually a form of priming, which basically means that you use cues in your environment to help you act in a desired way. For example, this was a guy who changed his password to “Forgive@h3r” to help him get over his anger following his divorce. Other suggestions may be “Ilovemywork” and “Ilikemymotherinlaw.” (You get the idea.)
Meditation and stretching are both tried-and-true tactics to help you relieve stress. Both are incredibly simple to do no matter where you where. Simply close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and concentrate on your current state. Or, simply stretch your limbs for a moment. This suggestion fits in somewhat with the “exercise” category, and so these methods are often ignored — just as exercise is ignored. However, it is much easier and faster to take a stretch in the bathroom stall at work than to hit the gym.
Whenever you’re stressed out, pick up the phone and vent to your bestie. Or, better yet, give your mom a call. According to a study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, those who chatted with mom reduced a key stress hormone and also released oxytocin.
Here’s another simple technique that you can do anywhere whenever you feel overwhelmed. Just make yourself comfortable, close your eyes, and think about your happy place, like the beach. You can even visualize accomplishing a future goal to help your relax.
When you count numbers, you’re giving your mind something neutral to think about, as opposed to all the things that are freaking you out. Some have found counting backward helps the best. Better yet, picture an old-fashioned blackboard, and in your mind, watch the numbers slowly being written in white on that blackboard. 100, 99, 98…
Hugs have been known to release oxytocin, which is a hormone that can lead to relaxation, trust, and compassion. Kissing, on the other hand, helps the brain to release endorphins.
“Kissing relieves stress by creating a sense of connectedness, which releases endorphins, the chemicals that counteract stress and depression,” says Laura Berman, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and ob-gyn at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
This doesn’t mean that you should chow down on a double-bacon cheeseburger and wash it down with a couple of beers. Many people already turn to unhealthy eating and drinking, so it may be a wiser option to determine ahead of time and in a calm moment what you will eat or drink for your next stress-relieving episode. Instead of something destructive, snack on foods like chocolate, sparingly, since snack foods can release beta endorphins.
Also sip on some green tea, which contains the amino acid L-theanine and has been linked to the reduction of stress and anxiety.
It’s no secret that different scents can stimulate different moods. So the next time you’re stressed, rub just a little bit of sandalwood and myrrh on your temples. A little lavender scent of the pillow at night or in the bath is relaxing. If you are at work, you can have a bottle of essential oil in your desk and take a whiff of it when the stress is too much for you. There is all kinds of information online about this subject, but of particular interest is that from Dr. Jean Valnet, a physician and an Army surgeon during WWII and the father of modern phyto-aromatherapy.
It’s been found that petting animals can increase your levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters that have calming properties.
Classical music has been found to lower blood pressure, slow down your pulse, and reduce stress hormones. Besides that, music can increase dopamine. However, think of your last wild air guitar or air drum solo — those concerts were probably not given to your air audience with classical music. Turn up the tunes if you need to. Music relieves stress.
A study from the Washington State University found that when a group of stressed-out people entered a room full of plants, there was a four-point drop in their blood pressure.
Another study from the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that “people feel more compassionate toward others, have less worry and anxiety, and feel less depressed when fresh cut flowers are present in the home.”