10 Ways to Calm Stress in 15 Minutes or Less


Projects, papers and exams are upon us and December can be a really stressful time for most students. Here are 10 ways to manage stress and practice self-care, excerpted from the Healthline.com wellness blog.

1. Chew gum

Chewing is a great form of stress reduction. If you have gum on hand, particularly scented gum, chew it for at least three minutes. One study of 101 adults found that people who chewed gum during work had a lower stress response. But don’t chew half-heartedly! It may be useful to take out your pent-up energy on the gum. Another study found that vigorous chewing was required in order to achieve stress relief.

2. Inhale essential oils or invest in a diffuser

Inhaling essential oils may help calm the mind in times of stress, anxiety, and insomnia. This popular technique, also known as aromatherapy, focuses on using scents to holistically balance your physical, emotional, and psychological health.  Popular essential oils for combating stress include: lavender, rose, vetiver, bergamot, chamomile, sandalwood and orange blossom.

Choose scents based on your personal preferences. For example, if the smell of peppermint reminds you of holidays at home, use peppermint.
To use essential oils for stress, apply three drops onto a cotton pad and breathe it in deeply 10 times. You can also purchase a diffuser for your room or desk so that it constantly releases a calming scent.

3. Stretch at your desk

It’s incredibly important to take breaks during work, even when you feel like there’s a rush to get your task at hand done. For the times when you can’t leave your desk, you can still stretch while sitting for five minutes without intervention.  Stretching can also help with discomfort and work-related pain or injuries. The simplest stretch you can do is the upper body and arm stretch. To do this:

  • Clasp your hands together and push upward with your palms facing the sky.
  • Stretch and hold the pose for 10 seconds.
  • Try twisting your torso left and right for 30 seconds, then repeat.

For a full-body stretch, check out this desk-stretch routine.

4. Go for a walk

Exercise or walking is a great way to manage stress. First, it lets you escape the situation. Second, exercise helps your body release endorphins, the neurotransmitters that make you feel warm and fuzzy.  Think of walking as moving meditation. A few laps around the block can help you forget previous tension and relax so you return to the situation calmer and more collected.

5. Memorize this yoga routine

Yoga isn’t only a popular exercise for all ages, but it’s also gaining traction for decreasing stress, anxiety, and depression. According to research, yoga interrupts stress by producing an effect that’s opposite to your flight-or-fight response.  A simple routine can help lower your cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. One of our favorite 10-minute routines is by Tara Stiles. This routine starts off with a lot of relaxing swaying.

6. Use mindfulness-based, stress-relief techniques

Sometimes stress can cause your mind to spiral and lead you down an unnecessary rabbit hole of negative thoughts. One way of escaping that spiral is to anchor yourself to the present and focus on immediate results you can achieve. Methods to try:

  • Close your eyes and scan your body. Pay attention to the physical feelings.
  • Sit and meditate by paying attention to your breathing, sounds, sensations, and emotions.
  • Change up your movement by taking a walk or standing up.
  • Give full attention to small daily activities, like drinking water, eating, or brushing your teeth.

7. Try 4-7-8 breathing

The 4-7-8 breathing method is a powerful trick that gives your body an extra boost of oxygen. Deep breathing is an effective way to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression.  To do this, place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth and keep it there the whole time. Try one cycle of 4-7-8 breathing:

  • Part your lips slightly and exhale with a whooshing sound through your mouth.
  • Close your lips and inhale silently through your nose. Count to 4 in your head.
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  • Exhale (with a whoosh sound) for 8 seconds.
  • Practice this mindlessly to let your brain relax.
  • Complete this cycle for four full breaths.

8. Talk in the third person

Whether it’s to yourself or with a friend, talking can help tamper down your stress level. Yep, talking to yourself or about yourself in third person is a form of exerting self-control over negative emotions.  According to researchers, “Referring to yourself in the third person leads people to think about themselves more similar to how they think about others.” Doing this can help you distance yourself from the experience or situation. The best part, though? It requires less effort.

9. Take a hot shower

The answer to washing away a day of stress may be in your bathroom. Hot water is known to help release endorphins and increase blood flow to the skin. Warm baths can also:

  • improve breathing
  • reduce risk of heart attack
  • lower blood pressure
  • burn calories

10. Clean your desk or dishes

Besides removing clutter and giving you relief from a crowded space, cleaning is an effective mindfulness practice. One study found that students who washed dishes had greater states of mindfulness and positive moods.  If you don’t have time to clean thoroughly, just clean your desk or workspace and take this opportunity to organize items or tackle one cleaning task at a time. For example, if you have a load of laundry, use each washing and drying load to time your breaks.

Source: Excerpted from Healthline’s 17 Strategies for Coping with Stress in 30 minutes or Less