Healthy Mind

5-Minute Stress Busters

Life can be hectic sometimes. From heavy workloads and office deadlines to school runs and busy household schedules, we’re juggling so many balls it’s no wonder we can often feel the pressure. But what happens when it all gets on top of you? “While it is natural to feel anxiety occasionally, it can impact negatively on your life if you feel it constantly or especially strongly,” says Dr Aaron Balick, clinical psychotherapist and author of The Little Book of Calm. “The good news is that you don’t need to be powerless in the face of your anxiety. You can learn to control it, and some of the ways to do that are actually quite simple.” Here are a few of our favourites…

  • Have a cuppa!
    All those old wives’ tales were right – a soothing brew really does work wonders! Researchers at the University College of London found that people who drank black tea were able to de-stress more quickly than those who drank a fake tea substitute.

  • Try the 4-7-8 method
    This is a brilliant technique derived from yogic breathing to melt tension away. Just place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your teeth, breathe in through your nose for a count of four, hold it for eight then blow air out forcefully through your mouth for a count of eight. Repeat this two or three times whenever you feel stressed or anxious.

  • Rub your ears
    According to the ancient Chinese art of acupressure, pressing gently on certain points of your body can unblock energy and bring about healing on many levels. Giving yourself a gentle ear massage activates some of the best pressure points for instant relaxation. Just softly rub your ears with your thumb and forefinger, pull down gently on the lobes and massage the inner surface of the ear for two to three minutes.

  • Blow up a balloon
    This great tension-busting trick makes you breathe deeply and slowly into your diaphragm – a bit like a breathing meditation. When you’re stressed, you tend to take short, shallow breaths, which starves your body of oxygen. Using deep breaths to blow up a balloon activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces your heart rate and relaxes your muscles.

  • Work up a sweat
    Exercise is a fantastic way to destress as it helps to release those fabulous feel-good hormones. And while you might not feel like hitting the gym after a long day at work it actually helps you to increase your long-term energy levels, making you feel like you can accomplish anything! If you can’t spare the time for a full workout try running on the spot for just five minutes.

  • Laugh out loud
    Research shows that children laugh an average of 140 times a day while us miserable adults only manage a paltry 12 to 14 times. “There’s a lot to be said about laughing,” says psychotherapist Robert Friedman. “You release an endorphin every time you laugh, and those are 200 times stronger than morphine.”

  • Sniff a lemon
    Aromatherapy is renowned for its ability to combat stress and now Japanese researchers have found that linalool, a substance found in lemons, may turn down the classic ‘flight-or-fight’ stress response. Can’t find any lemons? Essential oils of lavender, rose, jasmine, clary sage and bergamot are also great soothing scents.

  • Practise mindfulness
    Paying attention to the present is a great way to calm anxiety, says Dr Balick. “Try this mindfulness technique, which is like a walking meditation. You can do it almost anywhere, indoors or out – just make sure it’s quiet and you won’t be interrupted.”
    Like with a sitting meditation, set yourself a time (five to 10 minutes to start should do) during which you walk mindfully for just 10 to 15 paces. Stop. Breathe. And when you’re ready, walk back, and stop to breathe again on the other side. While you’re walking mindfully notice your natural breathing, the weight of your feet on the ground and the way your body moves. If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your walk or your breath.

  • Clever colours
    Surrounding yourself with soothing greens or blues is a great way to soothe frazzled nerves, as different colours produce different emotional and physical effects. A US study found that red environments increase stress responses, while green and blue environments keep you calm.

  • Strike a pose
    Yoga is a fantastic way to chill your bones as it lowers blood pressure and reduces tension held in the body. Try this simple exercise known as the child’s pose. Kneel on the floor on all fours then sit your bottom back on to your heels and stretch your arms forward, lowering your head to the floor. Let your entire body release, feel the tension flooding out of you and hold for a couple of minutes, or for as long as you like!

Health & Wellbeing