10 Ways to Manage Stress and Boost Happiness in Under 5 Minutes

Stop stress in its tracks in just 5 minutes a day with these easy stress management techniques.

Woman practicing stress relief outside. Observing with your eyes closed is an easy stress management technique that increases mindfulness and stop stress in its tracks.
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Now this is what successful stress management looks like:

 

I had a heart patient in cardiac rehabilitation years ago - stressed out, always rushed, unhappy. Her stress clearly played a role in her heart disease and high blood pressure. We discussed a number of stress management techniques to try. 

 

She didn’t show up to cardiac rehab for a couple weeks and when she returned, I didn’t recognize her. She was like someone new - relaxed, smiling, calm, happy. She told me she started meditating. Just a few minutes a day dedicated to this powerful stress relief technique and she looked and felt like a new person. 

 

Women carry a lot on their plates. They, like you, are natural born caregivers and excel at putting others before themselves. I’ve worked with many women over the years that found it especially challenging to prioritize themselves and their health.

 

There are things in our life that cause us stress that we have little to no control over, whether it be family or financial issues, work stress, traffic. We must remember, though, that we have control over how we perceive situations and how we respond to them emotionally. 

 

I encourage you to make a commitment: Dedicate minutes a day to care for yourself, your mind, and your health. Just 5 minutes a day can stop stress in its tracks.

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How Does Stress Affect the Body?

 

When we experience stress, our body experiences a fight-or-flight response, an automatic activation of our sympathetic nervous system that initiates a number of physical changes to prepare us for a perceived harmful or dangerous situation. 

 

Way back when our ancestors experienced stress, often in the form of a life-threatening situation like being chased by a lion, they would go into fight or flight mode. 

 

Their bodies would release stress hormones and chemicals such as cortisol, their vision would sharpen, and their heart rate and blood pressure would rise to help rush blood to their limbs in case they needed to fight or run. This physical response could be life-saving.

 

The problem with this fight-or-flight response in today's world is that most of us live busy lives filled with lots of demands, most of which are not life-threatening. During a stressful day at work your body might undergo this fight or flight response multiple times a day. 


This response is not only inappropriate for most stresses we face today, but many of us experience these symptoms of stress day in and day out.

How Does Stress Affect Me?

 

Stress can wreak havoc on your body and your mind. Let’s break it down.

 

The connection between your body and your mind is very strong. Stress may begin in your brain, but it shows up in full force in your body.

 

When you experience the fight or flight response, it puts an increased demand on your heart, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, which can simply wear it out. This is why stress can cause you to feel exhausted.

 

Repeated and chronic activation of this response can cause:

 

All of the above play important roles in the development and progression of both heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

 

And finally, when we're stressed out we don't take care of ourselves like we normally do. After a long day we might feel like we deserve that piece of chocolate cake, or that cigarette, or we might decide to skip the gym because we are exhausted.

 

So managing stress is essential if we want to enhance our physical health, our emotional well-being, and our happiness.


 

What is Stress Management?

 

Stress management is a wide range of strategies that aim to help improve the way you deal with stress and adversity. The result is a happier, healthier, more productive version of yourself. 

 

The effectiveness of stress management techniques varies from person to person. The key here is to try a number of stress management activities to find one or more that work well for you.

 

How can stress management help? Check out these benefits:

 

When we learn how to deal with stress and anxiety in healthier ways, we increase our resiliency whenever stress arises. 


 

How Can I Reduce My Stress?

 

Before you start using the following stress management tips, it helps to understand how stress affects you. That way, you can apply certain stress management techniques that are most helpful in the moment.

 

Begin with these steps:

 

  1. Identify Your Stressors 

     ​        * What causes you stress? That answer is very individualized and is different for everyone.

 

    2. Identify How You Respond Physically and Emotionally 

             * Do your muscles tense up? Grind your teeth? Get an upset stomach? Do you stress-eat?

             * What are your emotions? Do you get angry? Do you think the worst? Do you go down a rabbit hole of all the                    other things in your life that are not going well? 

 

Write down your answers. This can help you recognize them when they arise. The more in tune you are with your stressors and your response to stress, the better you will be able to manage your stress.

 

Once you have this covered, try out the following practices to manage stress.


 

Top 10 Stress Management Techniques

 

Here are a number of easy stress management techniques that can be done in under 5 minutes a day. Which stress management technique is most effective? The one(s) that you will do most often!

 

  1. Meditation 

Traveller Meditating. Meditation, mindfulness, and breathing techniques can stop stress in its tracks in under 5 minutes. Easy stress management techniques can bring about quick stress relief. Try these simple ways to manage stress that easily plug into your day.

Meditation is a practice that trains your brain to pay attention, increase awareness, and achieve emotional calm and mentally clarity. Profound physical and mental health benefits can be achieved in just a few minutes a day. 

 

Meditation is highly effective in not only reducing stress and anxiety, it can also help improve sleep, memory, compassion and self-awareness. One study found that just 12 minutes a day increased telomere length, which is thought to increase lifespan. 

 

While there are many ways to meditate, one straightforward way to start is with mindfulness meditation.

 

𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗼 𝗦𝘁𝗮𝗿𝘁:

  1. Sit or lay in a comfortable position.

  2. Close your eyes.

  3. Focus on one thing, such as your breath, a positive phrase, or a candle flame (with your eyes open).

  4. Let your thoughts pass (see below).

  5. Open your eyes and take in your surroundings.

 

Remember that thoughts will show up! That's why meditation is "practiced.” Expect them. When you notice a thought pop up, simply acknowledge it and return your focus to your breath, phrase, etc. This may happen over and over. With practice, your focus will improve.

Meditation is more beneficial when it is practiced regularly. Strive for 15 minutes, 10 minutes, or even 5 minutes, on most days of the week. Any amount of time dedicated to meditation is better than none at all.


 

   2. Breath Focus

 

Breath focus is a form of focused relaxation that can bring about a sense of calm. It combines deep breathing with a focus word or phrase. 

 

Here is one way to practice breath focus:

  1. Find a quiet space. Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. 

  2. Begin to breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth.

  3. With every inhale, focus on the phrase “peace and calm.” Imagine that the air brings peace and calm into your body.

  4. With every exhale, focus on the phrase “tension and anxiety.” Imagine the air you breathe out is removing all tension and anxiety that exists within you.


 

   3. Observe with Your Eyes Closed

 

Ever close your eyes and let your other senses take over?

 

Your eyes are a big source of distraction. Observing with your eyes closed is a great mindfulness practice that allows you to tap into your other senses and heighten your awareness in other ways. The practice of being more present is an effective way to prevent stress.

To observe with your eyes closed, simply choose a spot inside or outside to close your eyes. 

Ask yourself:

  • What do I hear?

  • What do I feel?

  • What do I smell?

  • What do I taste?


 

   4. 60-Second Vacation

 

In the midst of a super stressful and hectic day? Take 60 (seconds, that is) and stop stress in its tracks.

 

Find a comfortable space removed from any noise or distractions. Sit down and close your eyes. Breathe deeply for 1 full minute. When you’re done, go about your day. That’s it!


 

   5. Practice gratitude

 
Middle-aged woman writing in journal. Keeping a gratitude journal is an easy stress management technique that can increase happiness and help manage stress.

Practicing gratitude means to recognize and appreciate the good things in your life, both big and small. Practicing gratitude has been shown to increase overall happiness, and can become more natural and automatic with time.

It may be helpful to keep a gratitude journal and to find a time of day that is most suitable to sit quietly with your thoughts, like right before bed. 

Make practicing gratitude a habit by attempting to do one of the following every day:

  • Write down 3 things that went well today

  • Write down 3 things that went well today and who/what made them possible

  • Write down 3 beautiful things you noticed today

  • Write down 3 things you are thankful for

  • Write down 3 things that made you happy or made you laugh

  • Thank someone for their help or their kindness


 

   6. Spend 5 Minutes in Nature

It wasn't until I became a mom that I began to notice the beauty of the world around me and to listen to its harmony. And now, my clients have to hear all about it. 

 

Nature is an antidote for stress and has shown to boost immune system function and mood while reducing blood pressure, stress, and feelings of isolation.

 

Studies show that the biggest shift in our mood occurs within the first 5 minutes of being outside. It doesn’t take much! So get some sun (safely, of course), breathe in the fresh air, and surround yourself with some greenery. Of course take in the visual beauty, but being outside is also a great time to observe with your eyes closed.


 

   7. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

 

With progressive muscle relaxation you tense one muscle group at a time followed by relaxing those muscles. Tensing your muscles before relaxing them allows you to more effectively relax your muscles and let go of any physical tension. 

 

Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. Take a few slow breaths. Contract and tense one muscle group at a time for 5 to 10 seconds, followed by quickly releasing the tension. Stay relaxed for 10-30 seconds in between each muscle group and embrace the changes in sensation in the newly relaxed muscles. 

 

Work your way through the following muscle groups:

 

  • Forehead and around the eyes

  • Jaw

  • Neck and shoulders

  • Upper arms

  • Forearms and wrists

  • Hands

  • Chest and upper back

  • Stomach and lower back

  • Buttocks

  • Upper legs

  • Lower legs

  • Feet

 

 

   8. Guided Imagery

Woman relaxing. Practicing guideded imagery is an easy stress management technique that increases calm, reduces stress, and increases happiness.

Guided imagery is another form of focused relaxation in which you use your imagination to transport yourself to a quiet, peaceful place. Find a comfortable place to sit or lay and close your eyes.

 

Imagine a place you have never been before, such as a tropical rainforest or a remote island. You can also recall a peaceful place from your past, such as a quiet beach or a peaceful waterfall. 

 

Add detail:

  • What does it look like?

  • What does it feel like?

  • What does it smell like?

  • What can you hear?

 

 

   9. Box Breathing

 

The box breathing method is a great way to redirect your mind away from negative thoughts or worries. It is a common breathing technique used by Navy Seals for stress relief. 

 

To practice box breathing:

  1. Find a comfortable position, close your eyes, and begin with a few normal breaths.

  2. Slowly breathe in through your nose for four seconds.

  3. Hold your breath for four seconds.

  4. Slowly breathe out through your mouth for four seconds.

  5. Hold your breath for another count of four.

  6. Repeat steps 2 through 5 a few times or for a few minutes.


 

   10. Get Moving!

Woman Walking Outdoors

Yep, just 5 minutes of exercise or physical activity can get your heart pumping and blood circulating faster. This can help reduce the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline that build up in your body under times of stress. 

 

If you are dealing with a heated exchange or stressful situation, remove yourself if possible and go for a quick brisk walk. Even marching in place or other purposeful movement can help. You will be better able to return calm and level-headed so you can handle the situation more appropriately. 


 

The Takeaway

 

  • Stress is defined as any change or adverse situation that causes physical or emotional strain.

  • Chronic stress can have a negative impact on your health, which is why it is so important to learn how to deal with stress appropriately.

  • Oftentimes, stress relief cannot be achieved through avoidance. We have limited control over what occurs around us. What you do have control over is how you perceive and respond to stressful situations and events. 

  • The first step is to recognize and understand your unique causes of stress as well as symptoms of stress.

  • Next, develop your stress management skills by practicing various stress-busting techniques. Many of them can be done in 5 minutes or less. Take the reins today and stop stress in its tracks, for good. 

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Want to strengthen your stress management skills with accountability and structure? Use my Stress-Free 3 Method, a central part of the Heart & Diabetic Health: Restored program. 

Exercise is a powerful stress reliever. Here are some helpful tips to get moving as well as beginner exercises that you can do anywhere, at any time.

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© 2021 by Colleen Montgomery.