Sure, a two-week meditation retreat in a foreign land would be magnificent. An extended vacation in a tropical place would be divine. A full body massage and spa day? Absolutely wonderful.
Who has time for that?
Vacations are too short and far-between. We need relaxation NOW.
Sometimes even finding an hour seems like a stretch during a busy day.
We have got to get the most bang for our buck when it comes to relaxation, and often time is the most difficult currency to spare.
But surely, we can find fifteen minutes, right? It’s only a quarter of an hour; fifteen sixty-second blocks. Here are 25 ways to reduce your stress in 15 minutes or less:
Hold your breath:
Ok so you’re not going to hold your breath for fifteen minutes, this one is incremental. Take a slow, deep intake of breath through your nose until your lungs are full. Hold it for a count of 20-30 seconds and then slowly release your breath.
This will slow your heart rate and automatically induce a relaxation response in your body. Take several normal breaths and then repeat the slow inhalation and hold for a few cycles.
Power walking is a good way to elevate the heart rate and circulation, and in doing so, the endorphins start kicking in, reducing stress and making you feel happy.
Stretch it out:
Reach your arms up over your head and feel the stretch in your entire back. Reach to each side, feeling the pull in your opposite waist and then take a slow bend to stretch the back of your legs and calves.
It may seem strange to start singing when your stress level creeps up, but the act of singing is a major stress reducer on a number of levels. It regulates breathing, increasing oxygen intake and releases endorphins. Even holding one steady tone for as long as you can works.
Stress balls were invented because they work. Other satisfying textures could be Silly Putty, Playdough or the gel wrist support at many desktop computer keyboards.
Close your eyes and envision a relaxing place. Do your best to stay there in that place, picturing the sights, the sounds and the smells. If your mind drifts back to other things, observe it and then refocus on the landscape in your visualization.
Put your problems away:
Write down your list of stressors in one to two-word descriptions; keep it simple. When you have written down all of the things you can think of that are causing stress, fold the paper up and put it away to think about later. Maybe by the time you look back at it, some of the short-term stressors will be over.
There are a million adult coloring books out there. Grab some colored pencils or gel pens and keep a coloring book on standby for when things get stressful. There are even curse word coloring books if you are feeling particularly stressed out.
Listen to stand-up comedy:
YouTube and Pandora have a ton of stand-up comedians that you can listen to in short increments for free.
Take off your shoes, put your feet up. Tip your head back. Close your eyes. Take a short nap. Set a timer so that you don’t oversleep. Short naps are good energy boosters, but a long nap will make you groggy and guilty.
Progressive muscle relaxation:
Focus your attention on each section of your body. Tighten each set of muscles, hold for ten seconds and then slowly release.
Maybe it sounds weird to yawn on purpose, but even having read this sentence, you probably have the urge to do it. Yawning contagious is a strange human phenomenon. Yawning helps relax the body, even if you don’t really feel tired.
Eat raw carrots:
The color and flavor of raw carrots is satisfying enough, but the action of crunching and chewing them expels jaw tension, causing a decrease in stress. Plus, vitamins.
Text a friend:
Sending a quick hello to a friend can be a good way to unplug from work stress for a few minutes and put yourself in another state of mind.
Whether you get on a bicycle and take a ride or grab an exercise bike at the gym, a quick fifteen-minute bike ride can be a good way to reduce stress and make the body happy.
Talk out your frustrations with a friend or trusted colleague. Even a quick fifteen-minute venting session can reduce your stress levels significantly.
Put yourself in time out:
Shut your door. Close your laptop. Silence your phone. Put on noise-cancelling headphones. Sit in silence. Don’t feel guilty.
If you’re feeling really energetic and stressed, do some floor pushups, but for the rest of us, wall push ups are a good stress relieving alternative.
Competition with self:
Start a little mindless competition with yourself for stressful moments. Whether it’s a five-minute word search, a sort-the-computer-desktop-clutter sort of activity or stacking paperclips, find something simple to distract yourself that you can step away from quickly to get back to business.
Start a bucket list:
Allow your mind to wander a bit when stress begins to creep in. Starting a bucket list is a great way to check back in with your long-term goals and interests. What is it you’ve always wanted to do?
Plan your next vacation:
Even if vacation isn’t on the agenda for awhile, start a vacation vision board. Find pictures of places you’d like to go, look into activities in that area and let yourself day dream a little before the vacation actually starts.
Trade your high-test coffee for a cup of tea when the stress is high. Choose a non-caffeinated herbal tea such as chamomile, which promotes relaxation.
Set a timer:
As counter intuitive as it sounds, setting a timer for fifteen minutes and concentrating only on the task at hand for that amount of time can be a decent way to promote focus and reduce stress.
When the timer signals, take another fifteen minutes and try a relaxing activity. Knowing you have a break coming up can be helpful in honing in on a task and the break will feel like a well-earned reward.
Go sit in your car:
Sit in your car for fifteen minutes and do nothing. The best part of doing this is that there is nothing else for you to do. Embrace the boredom! Don’t look at your phone. Don’t listen to the radio. Just sit there in your car in the silence and pay attention to your breathing.
Regardless of how you choose to reduce stress, it doesn’t have to be a big elaborate plan.
Simple stress reduction techniques can take place anytime, anywhere.
Make sure to check in with the stress of your mind and body on a daily basis. You are the only one who can take steps to reduce your stress levels, and it is as important in your daily life as any other form of self-care.