My 9-5 is pretty stressful. I wish it wasn’t, but there’s really no other way to put it. I show up, go to a few meetings, respond to emails, and try to squeeze in a bit of actual work before I head back into meetings for the rest of the day.
And then there’s the travel. Lots of travel and planes and cabs and more meetings. When I get home at night, I realize, usually for the first time during the day, that I haven’t had a minute to stop, think, and relax.
Mostly, I realize in an instant that I’m stressed out.
Eventually, this all started to catch up with me. I couldn’t really enjoy my work because I was so stressed, and I couldn’t fully enjoy being at home with my family for the same reason. I knew I had to do something, but a big, almost insurmountable obstacle stood in my way.
I had no time.
I was lucky if I could pry myself away from the continuous onslaught of meetings and emails to even take a lunch. How was I supposed to de-stress during the day when I didn’t have enough time to think about de-stressing?
The answer, I came to understand, wasn’t complicated or time consuming, because stress relief doesn’t actually have to be either. I discovered that relaxing could be quick and easy, especially with a crammed, busy schedule.
If you find yourself stressed out during the day (as most of us are), I’ve compiled some ideas for instant stress relief. Each is simple, and most importantly, they’re all quick.
9 Quick and Easy Relaxation Techniques
1. Walk mindfully
Unless you work in a toll booth, all of us (I hope all of us) walk during the day. Only if it’s to and from meetings, walking is going to happen.
Mindful walking doesn’t take any extra time. On your way to your next meeting, simply count your steps. Once you’ve mastered counting your steps, draw you attention to your breath. Paying attention to how you walk will actually calm you down and help you achieve a few minutes of peace and relaxation, even if you’re only on the way to another meeting.
2. Listen to music
To many of you, this is going to sound like a no-brainer. It’s hard to walk into an office without seeing nearly everyone plugged into a pair of headphones. But listening to music, if it’s done right, can actually be a big stress reliever.
I find that when I listen to music without words in it—particularly classical music—I’m a lot more relaxed, and sometimes that happens without even noticing it.
One of my all-time favorite stress-relief activities, stretching works every time.
Stretching releases an immediate shot of endorphins to your system that relaxes you. And stretching doesn’t mean bringing your yoga mat to your desk or showcasing less than flattering positions. A simple forward bend or back arch can to the trick. It’s simple. Try it.
4. Look at pictures of loved ones
We often work so long and hard that we lose perspective. And when we lose perspective, we start working like zombie robots.
To counteract this, I keep a picture of my wife and child at my desk. Not only is my wife beautiful and my son heart-meltingly cute, it reminds me why I’m actually working. That realization forces me to come out of my work zone and breathe a little easier.
Keep a visual reminder nearby of your family, friends, pets, or others who set your mind and heart at ease.
Daydreaming has gotten quite the bad rap over the years. People who daydream are considered lazy or unfocused.
But daydreaming is actually a really good thing, and learning how to do it effectively doesn’t just help you de-stress, it can also improve creativity. <--TWEET THIS
The trick is giving yourself permission between tasks to let your brain wander for five minutes.
My mother always told me not to grow up.
Growing young, she said, was the key.
Even though that advice is hard to follow most of the time, I’m glad she gave it to me. A key to remaining stress-free during work is remembering to play a little. Games, jokes, the basketball hoop trashcan—it doesn’t matter how. Personally, I like to prank my co-workers.
This has got to be the easiest, and quickest stress relief activity out there. It’s also one of the most effective. You breathe all the time. Might as well make those breaths count.
The type of breathing I’m referring to here is mindful breathing. Much like mindful walking, taking mindful breaths just takes paying attention to how you breathe. Start slowly, counting each breath until you reach to ten. Then repeat the process, counting down to one. I guarantee this will clear your head and help you achieve a deeper level of relaxation.
8. Create a ritual
Whether it’s your morning cup of coffee or a walk around the block at lunch, finding a daily ritual can pay big dividends in the stress relief department.
Rituals let your brain know that it’s ok to relax and wander.
9. Focus on the details
I keep a miniature zen garden with a tiny rake at my desk. Instead of checking my phone, I’ll meticulously rake the minuscule rocks in my garden over and over again.
I’m sure my coworkers think I’m completely insane, but I think there’s something deeply beneficial to it. Paying attention to tiny details relaxes our minds by pulling us into the present moment, and that decreases stress. You don’t have to have a zen garden either, focusing on all the details at your desk, for example, can do wonders.