Our 5 top stress-busting tips

We all find life stressful at times, especially in uncertain, changing times, or we have little to no control over things that might be happening around us. Everyday life has changed a lot in recent weeks, and none of us has had any control over it. As a result, you might be feeling higher than normal levels of stress or anxiety. I know I am.

So here are some proven stress-busting tips you can put to use today. And they each take about one minute to complete. We can all afford one-minute out of even the busiest day. It can make a massive difference.

Take a breath

Well, actually, take five slow deep breaths. It doesn’t matter whether you breathe through your nose or mouth – do whatever feels most natural for you. Just slow your breathing. Breathe in for a count of 5, hold it briefly, then out for a count of 7. Hold that briefly, then repeat four more times.

5-4-3-2-1

No, not the Manfred Mann song (if you’re old enough to remember it), but take time to observe and really notice:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can feel
  • 3 things you can hear
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste (even if it’s only your saliva)

Don’t rush. Spend at least 3–4 seconds focussing on each of the things, noticing its features and qualities. If it’s safe and practical to do so, touch and feel the objects to increase the effectiveness of this grounding exercise. Some people prefer to focus on just one thing from each group. See what works best suits you.

S l o w   d o w n

Whatever you’re doing right now, slow it down a little. Whether you’re walking, talking or whatever, just slow it down a notch. Even if you’re simply sitting, you can slow your breathing down. When we are anxious, we speed up and do everything faster. Slowing it down counters that and tells your body and brain that it’s okay to relax.

Contact points

Observe your body and notice the points of contact between your body and whatever is supporting you. Notice the weight of your back and buttocks against the seat; your feet on the floor; maybe your head on the pillow. Observe how safe and secure it feels.

You can do the same with tight clothing, bands and straps. Waistbands, bra straps and tight socks are good examples. Allow yourself to focus on the sense of security each of these gives.

Pop in a mint

One of the first exercises on most mindfulness courses is the raisin exercise, and this is a variation on that theme. Pop a mint, piece of chocolate or something similar (maybe even a raisin) into your mouth and hold it there. Let it lie on your tongue and observe how it tastes and feels. If you have the urge to eat it, notice and acknowledge the desire, but don’t give in yet. 

Roll it around your mouth and gently play with it. Observe and enjoy the smells, sensations and flavours as you slowly explore the item.

Reap the benefits

While each of these top stress-busting exercises only takes a minute, that minute can bring rewards that last for hours. I use all of them regularly as part of my stress-management toolbox, and I hope they are useful for you.

Of course, these one-minutes stress-busters are only part of a good regime of self-care. Keeping on top of your physical and mental health is possibly more vital in these trying times that it has ever been. Remember to:

  • eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • get enough sleep (most adults need 7-8 hours a night)
  • take plenty of exercise (the NHS suggests 30 minutes moderate exercise 3-times a week)
  • maintain social contact (even if it can’t be in person at present)

Even something as simple as going for a walk can help reduce anxiety and ease depression, and it adds to your exercise minutes.

Find out more

Check out our other posts and pages for further hints, tips and advice. The NHS also produces an excellent self-help guide for stress.

And, of course, you’re welcome to reach out to us at any time. Sometimes, even with the best stress-busting toolkit, a little bit of extra support can make all the difference.