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7 Ways to De-Stress in 5 Minutes or Less

Kick "unhealthy" stress to the curb with these expert tips.

When searching for quick and effective ways to relieve stress, you may be surprised to learn that not all stress is "bad." On the one hand, in many instances, your acute stress response helps you assemble the necessary resources to face a challenge head-on and problem-solve. That challenge could be hitting the breaks to prevent a car accident or wrapping up a major work presentation before its deadline, says Dorsey Standish, MS, a mechanical engineer, neuroscientist, wellness expert, and CEO of Mastermind Meditate. "These types of healthy stress are called 'eustress,' which keeps us from boredom and motivates us to achieve," Standish explains.

On the other hand, you can experience "unhealthy stress," which is chronic and persistent, and can result in fatigue, burnout, and a sense of feeling completely overwhelmed. "Chronic stress breaks down key systems in our bodies and may lead to serious chronic health conditions, mental health issues, and negatively impact longevity," Standish tells us.

So, when it comes to effectively dealing with this type of stress, Standish shares with us some of the best ways to relieve stress in less than five minutes. "A key part of any stress management and mental resilience plan is harnessing the power of positive stress for goal achievement as well as mitigating the impacts of chronic negative stressors," Standish points out.

Read on to learn more, and keep these tips handy if you feel that "unhealthy stress" coming on.

Do some deep breathing.

woman doing breathing exercises to manage stress

Syncing up with your breaths through some deep breathing practices can work wonders when you're feeling stressed. "Even one intentional deep breath can reduce stress levels by calming the 'fight or flight' sympathetic nervous system and stimulating the 'rest and digest' parasympathetic nervous system," Standish explains. "The most effective form of deep breathing is called the nervous system sigh, where you take a double inhale through the nose and exhale fully out the mouth."

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Address what's present.

stress concept

When you feel unhealthy stress starting to build up, it's important to "recognize what's present," Standish says. That includes anxiety and stress. She suggests, "Practice naming 'This is stress,' or even saying hello to it, which engages your rational brain areas to better manage it.

Get some movement.

happy woman listening to music outside, dance cardio, quickie workout

Shaking it out can be incredibly beneficial when you're one big ball of stress. In fact, movement is one of the quickest methods to relieve tension and stress from your body, Standish says. "Take a few minutes to put on an upbeat song and move however you'd like, emphasizing vigorous shaking where possible to signal to the body that you're safe," she suggests.

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Focus on what's not wrong.

woman cuddling with her puppy

It's easy to focus on the negative when you're feeling stressed or something is cramping your vibe, but Standish encourages you to ask yourself, "What's not wrong?" and focus on the positive! She explains, "Our brains are wired for the negative to keep us safe, but that can mean we compound our stress mentally by focusing only on problems. Reduce stress and boost optimism by pausing once per day to ask yourself what's right with the moment and with your life. It could be as simple as an internet connection, running water, and people and pets who love you. A regular gratitude practice is a great way to buffer stress."

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Work a five-minute digital detox into your day.

digital detox concept

Technology is incredibly prevalent in daily life, and many associate devices like phones and laptops with stress and work without even knowing it. So Standish suggests adding a five-minute digital detox to your day.

"Practicing a daily digital detox where you put away all screens and spend time in a tech-free environment will allow you to fully detach from stress and work and restore your ability to pay attention," she says. "Try taking your dog on a walk, playing with your kids, or even just staring out the window and letting your mind wander."

Give the S.T.O.P. technique a try.

mature woman meditating

Rather than battling strong emotions or bad stress, Standish suggests stopping and taking a "mindful pause." The S.T.O.P. technique means stopping what you're currently doing, doing some deep breathing, observing how you feel and what you're thinking, and proceeding with "something that will support you in this moment."

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happy woman looking at laptop laughing

Something as simple as laughing can help you kick bad stress to the curb. "Watch a short humorous clip like a favorite segment from SNL, and let yourself laugh freely, signaling to your nervous system that you're safe," Standish says.

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa
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