Top 10 Science-Backed Ways to Relax in 5 Minutes

How to Quickly Reduce Your Anxiety

Do you feel like you don’t have time to chill out? Most people don’t realize you don’t need an hour to relax. Yes, relaxing for 1 hour is better than relaxing for 5 minutes but relaxing for 5 minutes is much better than not relaxing anytime during the day. If you feel stressed and want to relax but your time is limited, try doing three 5-minute relaxation sessions during your day. It could be the same technique three different times or three different techniques. But, what is stress? Stress is any type of physical, emotional, or psychological reaction to an external situation. Why should we be concerned about stress?


Because stress causes:

  • Depression

  • Chronic anxiety

  • Difficulty sleeping (or sleeping too much)

  • Irritability

  • Difficulty concentrating, focusing, or learning.

  • Stress eating

  • Increased intake of drugs or alcohol.

  • Headaches

  • Dizziness

  • High blood pressure

  • Lower sex drive

Since everyone is unique, some of these techniques may not work as well for you as it works for others. However, you only need 2-3 strategies that work well for you. Remember, the best investment you can ever make is in yourself, so take care of yourself. Your future self will thank you. Also, remember that relaxation is not just important for adults; teach your kids these techniques.


So, what top 10 techniques you can use to relax if you only have 5 minutes.

#1. Chew some gum
#2. Give yourself a hand massage
#3. Listen to your favorite songs
#4. Do visualization micro-meditation
#5. Do Deep breathing micro-meditation
#6. Give yourself a scalp massage
#7. Laugh for 5 minutes
#8. Play with your pet or a friend’s pet
#9 Do Progressive Muscle Relaxation
#10. Take a 5-minute walk in nature

#1. Chew some gum

Several studies show that chewing gum reduces anxiety (1, 2). A possible mechanism for this is chewing gum exercises several muscles in your face, which lowers cortisol levels. Higher cortisol levels are associated with increased levels of stress and anxiety. Chewing gum does not just reduce anxiety; it also improves your mood.


#2. Give yourself a hand massage

In a study on patients that were undergoing eye surgery, hand massage reduced anxiety (3). Just 5 minutes is enough to reduce anxiety (3).

Hand Massage Procedure:

a) If you have a skin cream you like, add it to your hand.

b) Start by massaging each joint on your hand with your thumb and finger next to your

thumb. This should take about 1 minute.

c) Then massage the space between each finger. Estimated time 30 seconds

d) Squeeze your fist for 5 seconds, then release. Repeat 2-3 times. Estimated time 12-18

seconds.

e) Massage your palms. Estimated time 1.5 minutes.

f) Massage the rest of your fingers and areas on your hand not previously massaged.

Estimated time 1.5 minutes.

g) Flex your wrists for 10 seconds. Estimated time 10 seconds

Total time: about 5 minutes.


This exercise may also have the added benefit of relieving some of the stress built in your hand during your workday.


#3. Listen to your favorite songs

It is established that listening to music can reduce stress (4). Have a go-to 5-minute playlist (2-3 songs) that you really enjoy listening to. Don’t listen to these songs regularly. Save them for when you feel anxious. When you feel like you need to reduce stress or anxiety, just crank the music up, sit back and enjoy. If you like singing along, go for it.


#4. Do visualization micro-meditation


You can get your Zen on by using a 5-minute visualization technique. This will allow you to find your “happy place.” A single session of meditation enhances relaxation and reduces anxiety (5,6).


5-Minute Visualization Micro-Meditation Procedure:

a) Find a safe and quiet area.

b) Close your eyes and imagine the place you feel most relaxed. Think about the specific smells, tastes, sounds, and anything else you enjoy about this place. For some people, this place is a certain beach. Do you like the feel of the sand, the sound of the waves, or the feel of the wind? Just imagine it, and enjoy. If your happy place is your favorite chair with your cat or dog on your lap, imagine that. The more you can visualize your most calming place, the more relaxed you will get. Estimated time: 5 minutes

#5. Do Deep breathing micro-meditation

Deep breathing works because your mind and body are connected, and relaxing your mind relaxes your body (7). You may not realize that even a 1-minute meditation (micro meditation) can be beneficial.


5-Minute Deep Breathing Micro-Meditation Procedure:

a) Find a safe and quiet area.

b) Lay down or sit down in a comfortable position.

c) Put your hands on your belly.

d) Breathe in deeply for 5 seconds

e) Hold it for 2-3 seconds

f) Breathe out slowly for 7 seconds. You will feel your belly expanding and decreasing as

you inhale and exhale.

g) Repeat this procedure 10 times.

Total Estimated time: 2-3 minutes.


Variation 1 of the procedure:


Get a mantra or mantras and, while doing the deep breathing exercises above, repeat your mantra silently. Possible mantra’s:

  • I give myself permission to relax

  • I deserve to relax

Variation 2 of the procedure:


While doing deep breathing exercises, relax in a bubble bath.

#6. Give yourself a scalp massage

Many people pull their hair. It turns out that gently pulling your hair and massaging your scalp reduces stress in many people (8).


Scalp Massage Procedure:


Don’t do it in public, as people may think you are “missing some screws.”

a) Wash your hands.

b) Gently pull your hair such that your scalp lifts slightly. Estimated time: 30 seconds.

c) Start massaging the front part of your scalp with your fingertips. Develop a pattern you

like. A circular motion works well. Estimated time: 1 minute.

d) Massage the sides of your scalp. Estimated time: 1 minute.

e) Massage the back of your scalp. Estimated time: 1 minute.

f) Massage across your entire scalp. Estimated time: 1 minute.

Total Estimated time: about 5 minutes.


A scalp massage also improves the quality of life of breast cancer patients (9).


#7. Laugh for 5 minutes

Watch a funny video for 5 minutes. Have a few videos that you have never seen before but are like videos that made you previously laugh. This simple technique is incredibly effective since it takes your mind off what caused your stress, and it helps you realize life can be fun. You may have heard, “laughter is the best medicine.” This may be because laughter reduces cortisol levels (associated with stress) and decreases anxiety levels (10).


#8. Play with your pet or a friend’s pet


Several studies have shown that pets reduce anxiety and depression. It seems that any pet can help reduce your overall health (11,12). Did you know that pet owners have a lower risk of being depressed when compared to non-pet owners?

When you are feeling stressed or anxious, play with your pet for 3-5 minutes. The beneficial mechanisms that occur when you play with your pet include lowering your blood pressure and changes in serotonin and dopamine levels that reduce stress.


#9 Do Progressive Muscle Relaxation

After you exercise, do you feel more relaxed? After exercising, most people find that their body is in a more relaxed state. Progressive muscle relaxation utilizes the same principle and involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups throughout your body. The benefits of progressive muscle relaxation are numerous and range from reducing anxiety to helping someone fall asleep (13).


Progressive Muscle Relaxation Procedure:

You are going to exercise from your toes up to your head in a progressive pattern.

a) Sit in a relaxed position

b) Tense your toes for 15 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds

c) Tense your calves for 15 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds

d) Tense your thigh muscles for 15 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds

e) Tense your buttock muscles for 15 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds

f) Tense your abdomen for 15 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds

g) Tense your chest for 15 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds

h) Clench your fists for 15 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds

i) Tense your lower arm for 15 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds

j) Tense your upper arm for 15 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds

k) Tense your face for 15 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds

Total Estimated Time: about 4 minutes


If you do this technique often, it will also allow you to discover pains in parts of your body that you would only have felt at a later time.


#10 Take a 5-minute walk in nature


Walking in an area that you enjoy, such as in a park, can reduce your stress (14). Walking induces the release of endorphins, which decreases stress. When you walk, not only would you be reducing your stress, you would be exercising and improving your overall well-being. The COVID pandemic caused an increase in the sedentary lifestyle, which may have increased anxiety (14). Become more active by increasing how much you walk, even if it is only 5 minutes at a time.


Written by Aldrin V. Gomes, PhD, FCVS, FAHA


References


(1) Allen AP, et al. (2015). Chewing gum: Cognitive performance, mood, well-being, and associated physiology. BioMed Research International. 2015 (654806):1-16.

(2) Smith AP. (2016) Chewing gum and stress reduction. J Clin Transl Res. 2(2):52-54.

(3) Nazari R, et al. (2012). Effects of hand massage on anxiety in patients undergoing ophthalmology surgery using local anesthesia. J Caring Sci. 1(3):129-134.

(4) Linnemann A, et al. (2015). Music listening as a means of stress reduction in daily life. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 60:82-90.

(5) Xu Wen, X, Saoji, AV, Metri, K, Mohanty, S, Vijayakumar V. (2021) Immediate effect of a meditation technique on blood glucose, state anxiety and relaxation in patients with type 2 diabetes: a pilot randomized crossover study. J Complement Integr Med. jcim-2020-0359

(6) Caio Fábio Schlechta Portella, Ricardo Ghelman, Veronica Abdala, Mariana Cabral Schveitzer, Rui Ferreira Afonso (2021) Meditation: Evidence Map of Systematic Reviews. Front Public Health. 9:742715.

(7) Yadav G, Mutha PK. (2016) Deep Breathing Practice Facilitates Retention of Newly Learned Motor Skills. Sci Rep. 14;6:37069.

(8) Lee YT. (2016) Principle Study of Head Meridian Acupoint Massage to Stress Release via Grey Data Model Analysis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016:4943204.

(9) Sharp DM, Walker MB, Chaturvedi A, Upadhyay S, Hamid A, Walker AA, Bateman JS, Braid F, et al. (2010) A randomised, controlled trial of the psychological effects of reflexology in early breast cancer. Eur J Cancer. 46(2):312-22.

(10) Demir Doğan M. (2020) The Effect of Laughter Therapy on Anxiety: A Meta-analysis. Holist Nurs Pract. 34(1):35-39.

(11) Wells, D. L. (2009). The effects of animals on human health and well-being. Journal of Social Issues, 65(3), 523–543.

(12) Müllersdorf, M., Granström, F., Sahlqvist, L., & Tillgren, P. (2010). Aspects of health, physical/leisure activities, work and socio-demographics associated with pet ownership in Sweden. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 38(1), 53–63.

(13) Toussaint L, Nguyen QA, Roettger C, Dixon K, Offenbächer M, Kohls N, Hirsch J, Sirois F. (2021) Effectiveness of Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Deep Breathing, and Guided Imagery in Promoting Psychological and Physiological States of Relaxation. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2021:5924040.

(14) Nagata S, Adachi HM, Hanibuchi T, Amagasa S, Inoue S, Nakaya T. (2021) Relationships among changes in walking and sedentary behaviors, individual attributes, changes in work situation, and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan. Prev Med Rep. 24:101640.



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