How to reduce stress in 5 minutes

Sometimes we don’t realize how stressed we really are until we’re met with the impacted health challenges. From fatigue and poor sleep to headaches and difficulty concentrating – when left unchecked, stress disrupts our normal body function and stops us from living a full life.

While it’s impossible to eliminate stress entirely, you can increase your body’s resilience and influence the way you respond to it – and a great place to start is with these tangible stress relief techniques.

Box breathing

This powerful breathing technique helps to reduce stress, increase mindfulness, support the body’s parasympathetic nervous system – and best of all, it can be completed in less than a minute.

Box breathing is a popular stress relief tool for anyone wanting to reduce stress and regulate their nervous system, performed by athletes and Navy Seals alike. This technique encourages deep, slow inhalation and exhalation to encourage a more predictable rhythmic pattern – and there is sufficient evidence to suggest that intentional deep breathing can help calm the autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system is made up of two divisions – the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system. These two divisions are responsible for regulating specific body functions, from your temperature and blood pressure to the way your body digests food.

The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the way the body responds to stress, while the parasympathetic nervous system is concerned with regulating your normal body functions, like digestion. In an ideal world, we would swing between these two divisions flexibly but spend most of our time in a parasympathetic state. In today’s modern world, this ideal scenario doesn’t apply to most of us – which is why simple interventions like box breathing can do wonders when it comes to reducing stress.

Taking deep, slow inhales and holding in your breath for several counts stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, signaling the ‘rest and digest’ division of your autonomic nervous system.

How to box breathe:

  • Breathe in to the count of four and hold your breath for four counts
  • Breathe out to the count of four and hold your breath for four seconds at the bottom
  • Repeat as many times as you like

Go outside

There’s no denying that fresh air, sunlight and green spaces make us feel good, and research shows that there is a positive correlation between immersing ourselves in nature or ‘greenspace’ and mental health. One study demonstrated that people who exercise outdoors at least once per week halve their risk of poor mental health in comparison to those who don’t, and for every extra outdoor workout session, you can further reduce your risk of poor mental health by 6%.

Another study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that spending time in nature was associated with a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol. To make it even easier, not all findings suggest that you need to be exercising outdoors to reap the stress-relieving benefits of nature. One study observed that those who sat in an urban park area for just five minutes experienced significant increases in positive emotions. Prioritizing small, 5-10 minute breaks outside during your working day can make a huge difference to your stress levels. Other ways to hit your daily nature quota could be to center plans and social activities around the outdoors.

Make a list

Experts suspect that there is some psychological or emotional benefit that accompanies the organization of tasks and goals into lists – and from personal experience, you might be able to relate to the relief that comes with scribbling your to-do's on paper. One study backed this phenomenon by demonstrating that writing down all the things you need to do and committing to the action on paper was much less taxing on mental resources than internalizing tasks. The study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that when it comes to achieving your goals, the action of planning can satisfy the cognitive processes that encourage the goal pursuit.

The study concluded that plans provide a sense of control over the goal making process, and specifying that an action needs to be carried out later eliminates any further thoughts or attention. So this is your reminder to write it all down!

5-minute meditation

As a mind-body practice, meditation works by priming your attention and awareness to help cultivate wellbeing and reduce stress. Mindfulness practices like meditation act on specific parts of the brain, disrupting stress pathways which may have supportive effects on the psychological arousal systems.

Meditation has been shown to support our overall well-being in many ways, from lowering stress hormones like cortisol, to even reducing blood pressure. Some studies suggest that as little as 5 minutes of mindfulness-based meditation per day may significantly reduce stress and enhance quality of life – and the positive effects are cumulative when this practice is repeated overtime.

Where are you sitting on the burnout scale?

Burnout typically unfolds in three phases. By addressing the signs early, you can implement practices to maintain a healthier, more energized state.

Read more

8 Foods That Affect Adrenal Health

One of the best ways to manage your adrenal health is through a healthy, balanced diet. Here are the 8 best foods.

Read more