Whether it’s the daily grind or just the occasional hectic day that gets to you, finding ways to relax is an essential part of protecting your well-being and promoting good health. Of course, we don’t always have a few hours to light candles, put on relaxing music, and soak in the tub, or to work on mind relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation, if you’re even into that sort of thing. There are many times when you only have a few minutes to collect yourself before the big meeting or to create some calm between engagements. For those moments, here are the top three ways to relax in less than five minutes.
1. Make Your Escape
If you are cooped up in the office all day or constantly running from event to event, finding a still space outside can be just the break your mind needs to reboot. A different environment allows you the fresh opportunity to reorganize and prioritize your thoughts from scratch. A change of scenery lets you step aside from the headlong pace and emotional context of the day’s events to evaluate circumstances with a new perspective. Take this moment to assess from the outside—consider how someone else might see your situation, either as a dispassionate observer or as someone with potentially different priorities to your own, like your boss or client. Alternatively, think what your best friend would say in this instance; would they let you careen around like a lunatic and beat yourself about the head with negative self-talk, or would they make you sit down, shut up, and take a breath? Give that a go.
A quiet park or other natural area is ideal for access to oxygen and Vitamin D alone—but these are sometimes hard to find. If you’re stuck in the office, try the stairwell landing for an oasis of cool quiet or the copy-room for the surprisingly soothing rhythms of printers and photocopiers. In the city, let yourself melt into a crowd and be anonymous for a moment; the mindless activity of window shopping may allow your unconscious to arrive at conclusions that were out of reach before. At home, even your driveway or balcony can provide a breather. Inclement weather shouldn’t stop you—it can be equally pleasant watching snow fall or lightning crackle through the air, from a safe distance. Let a good, stiff breeze attack the clutter in your head and cool you down. Remember, it’s only for five minutes and the more contrasting the environment is, the more refreshing it will be, for your brain and body.
2. Tune Out
A pair of earbuds and a smartphone are all you need to create a five-minute getaway. Find somewhere to sit where you will not be interrupted, close your eyes, and turn up the volume. For some, soothing instrumentals are just the thing but don’t forget that these five minutes are all about you. There’s nobody around to judge your selection, so if Swedish death metal is what helps you release your frustrations and find your inner calm, so be it.
Shuffle through your playlist or try a new online radio station. Wander music videos on YouTube and click the first thing that catches your eye for no reason. Or if you’re not feeling musical—or are afraid your coworkers might object if you burst out in song and bust a move right at your desk—watch a trailer for an upcoming movie you’re excited about or find a late night comedy sketch and laugh it all off. If a more zen approach is your jam, go for something more traditional, be it pan-pipes, whale song, or cute kitten and puppy clips.
3. Shake it Up
If you’ve been hunched over a computer at a desk all day, a change of pace means stimulation. Move around and get your heart pumping. Whether you’re in business attire or not, this is not about burning calories, it’s to shake off sluggish entropy and reset your nerves. Some simple stretches or a couple walking laps around the office or around the block will be enough to help you feel relaxed, regrouped, and ready to continue with your day.
Work on your other senses too. If you’ve been knocking back coffees since arrival, try a cup of tea—it’s still got a good kick of caffeine, but there are other chemicals in tea to delight the brain, including theobromine (the magic stuff in chocolate that makes it ‘the food of the gods’) and theanine (an amino acid that penetrates the blood-brain barrier, boosting cognitive function and soothing stress). Consume any new flavor or texture, even if it’s just a hard candy or a stick of gum to chomp on and try to blow a bubble big enough to pop across your face from cheek to cheek.
Or slip away and just hold your wrists under a stream of cold water at the bathroom sink for a while. The temperature can help you calm down, the sensation and sound are restful, and the visual effect of light and refraction over your skin may be just the distraction you need. Go ahead, play with the water while no one’s looking: watch it run through your fingers, pour it from palm to palm, or just see how much you can catch then let it splash down the drain—everyone secretly does this once in a while.
Focus on Yourself by Focusing on Something Else
No matter which method you choose or what environment you are in, finding your five minutes is all about reconnecting with yourself by letting go. If guilt or life’s pressures intrude, remind yourself that you have earned this peace and that you deserve a relaxed mind and body to be your best all day long. Even if the technique does not seem traditional, if it brings you a measure of calm, then you have accomplished the task at hand, and are better equipped to face the next.