Michael Keogh   Oct 4, 2022   -   min read

7 Ways to Reduce Stress and Anxiety in 5 Minutes or Less

We all experience stress and anxiety from time to time. It's a normal part of life. But sometimes, stress and anxiety can become so overwhelming that they interfere with your ability to live a healthy and happy life.

In fact, 38% of women and 34% of men are chronically time stressed, 15% of Australians are experiencing high or severe psychological distress, and nearly 17% of Australian adults have a diagnosed anxiety disorder.

But stress management techniques are often the last thing on your mind when you need them. That’s why I’m sharing these seven easy to remember, evidence-based steps for reducing your stress and anxiety in just a few minutes.

So whether you're struggling with work deadlines, traffic jams, relationship issues, or just feeling a bit overwhelmed, try these steps next time you need help to relax and de-stress. You may be surprised at how effective they are!

man sitting on chair covering his eyes

1. Identify the source of your stress

First, take a step back and assess the situation. What is causing your stress? Is it a specific event, such as an upcoming deadline or presentation? Or is it something more general, like work-life balance or financial worries? Once you identify the source of your stress, you can start to develop a plan to address it.

If the source of your stress is a specific event, break down the task into smaller steps and focus on one thing at a time. You can also try to delegate or eliminate some of the tasks involved in the event.

If work-life balance is the source of your stress, brainstorm some ways to create more balance in your life. Maybe you can schedule some personal time each day or week, or take up a new hobby that brings you joy.

No matter what the source of your stress is, there are likely steps you can take to reduce its impact.

2. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax your muscles

One of the most effective stress-busters is also one of the simplest: take a few minutes to close your eyes and focus on your breathing.

When you’re stressed, your breathing becomes shallow and rapid, which can make you  feel even more anxious. But by taking slow, deep breaths, you oxygenate your blood and signal your body that it's time to relax. As you breathe out, imagine all of your stress and tension flowing out with your breath.

Amplify the effect of this with progressive muscle relaxation. This is where you tense your muscles as tightly as you can, then release them slowly. Start at your head and neck and work all the way down to your ankles and feet.

You can do these exercises anywhere and anytime, and in a few minutes you can help reduce stress and anxiety levels significantly.

3. Visualise a place that makes you feel happy and relaxed

Imagery is a powerful stress management tool that involves using your imagination to visualise a calm and relaxing place. When you close your eyes and picture yourself in a peaceful setting, your body begins to respond as if you were actually there.

This is because when we imagine something, our brain activity changes in the same way as it would if we were doing that thing in real life. So if we imagine ourselves relaxing on a beach, for example, our body begins to produce the same physical changes that it would if we were actually at the beach – such as slowing down our heart rate and breathing rate.

Be prepared by identifying the image you will visualise before you need it, so you can be sure the place you see brings you the peace and relaxation you need.

4. Think positive thoughts and practise mindfulness

One of the best things you can do to reduce your stress and anxiety is to focus on the positive. Instead of dwelling on negative thoughts, try to think about things that make you happy or things that you’re grateful for.

By consciously making an effort to think more positively,  you can significantly reduce the impact of any stressors in your life. One way to do this is to reframe negative thoughts into positive ones. For example, instead of thinking "I'm never going to be able to finish this project," try thinking "I'm making progress on this project and I will be able to finish it."

The practice of mindfulness (focusing on the present moment) can also be enormously beneficial. It can be done anywhere and needs no training or equipment. Simply when you’re feeling stressed, take a few deep breaths and focus on the here and now.

See how these simple stress-busting techniques make a difference in your wellbeing today!

5. Connect with loved ones or close friends

One of the most effective stress management techniques is to connect with loved ones or close friends. When we feel stressed, our natural instinct is to withdraw from others and try to deal with our problems on our own. However, this can actually make stress and anxiety worse.

When we reach out to others and open up about how we're feeling, we can receive much-needed support and understanding. Talking openly about our stressors can also help to put them into perspective and make them seem more manageable.

So next time you're feeling overwhelmed, don't hesitate to reach out to your loved ones for support. By doing so, you'll be taking an important step towards reducing stress and anxiety in your life.

6. Stretch your body or do some light exercise

Exercise is one of the most effective stress management tools out there, and can help to calm your nerves and reduce stress hormones like cortisol.

Not only does exercise help to reduce tension and release endorphins (the body's natural feel-good chemicals), it also boosts your energy levels and helps you to focus in the long-term by improving your sleep quality and overall health.

Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise (like a brisk walk or a short jog) three times per week can make a big difference in how you handle stress and anxiety. But if this is too much for you right now, even 10 minutes a day will start making a positive impact on your stress levels.

So next time you're feeling overwhelmed by stress, all you need to do is start moving!

7. Drink tea or water to help relax your mind and body

One of the most effective stress-busters is to drink water or tea. Both of these drinks have been shown to have stress-reducing properties, and offer a great way to take a break from your stressors and give yourself a moment of peace.

Water is essential for overall health and proper brain function. When you're dehydrated, your body has to work harder to function properly, which can leave you feeling tense and anxious.

Drinking tea has been linked with lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The warmth of the liquid can also soothe your body, and the act of brewing and sipping tea can be calming and meditative.

Both drinks can help to rehydrate your body and mind, leaving you feeling calmer and more relaxed. So next time you're feeling stressed or anxious, reach for a cup of tea or water and let the stress melt away.

It’s now up to you..

Try out these stress management techniques next time you're feeling overwhelmed by stress or anxiety. It's important to make time for yourself regularly to relax and de-stress. You'll be amazed at how much better you feel both physically and mentally!

But also remember that help is available when the stress becomes too much.

Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional if you're struggling to manage your stress on your own. They can provide guidance and support that can help you get through tough times.

You can also reach out here to me to see how I can help you too.

Want some help using this information to improve your health and life?

About the Author

Michael Keogh is an Exercise Physiologist and Health Coach with 8 years experience in clinical and corporate settings. He is also the co-author of upcoming book “Thrive: How to 10X your Health, Wealth and Happiness”.

He uses exercise as medicine to treat chronic disease and ensure healthy ageing, whilst guiding his clients towards sustainable health behaviours that result in improved performance and greater satisfaction in work and life.

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