How to Reduce Stress and Anxiety in 10-Minutes or Less
For those of us with hectic lives, peace and serenity are elusive states. We scroll through our newsfeed and are constantly bombarded with people in a relaxed state, with not a care in the world. In reality, though, we all experience stress and anxiety, and for most of us, it’s a daily occurrence.
It’s not always possible for us to take the rest of the day off to bring ourselves back to our desired calm, but there are some quick, 10-minute exercises that we can do in order to reduce stress and help our mind and body find peace.
What Happens to Our Bodies When We’re Stressed?
Stress can affect us in many different ways and can be brought on by a number of factors. Whether it’s work, your financial situation, or your children running around the house screaming, feelings of anxiety and stress can often be so debilitating that it’s difficult to continue your day-to-day activities.
When we experience a stressful event, our amygdala (which is the area of the brain that contributes to emotional processing) sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus acts as a control center for the brain, communicating with the rest of the body through the nervous system. This is what gives us the fight-or-flight response.
The fight-or-flight response is responsible for the outward physical reaction associated with stress (including increased heart rate, heightened senses, deeper intake of oxygen, and a rush of adrenaline). In this process, a hormone is released called cortisol, which helps to restore the energy that the body used up with the fight-or-flight response. Once the stress is gone, our cortisol levels drop, which is why we often feel tired after a stressful event has occurred
Often times, the stress that we feel can be overwhelming, but there are some exercises that have proven very effective in calming us down when our body hits that anxious state, and they can be done in 10-minutes or less.
11 Ways to Reduce Stress and Anxiety in Under 10 Minutes
1. Mindful Breathing
Every living thing inherently knows how to breathe; we do it without thinking. But, mindful breathing is the practice of focusing on our breath in order to settle our nerves and connect to our body. Mindful breathing has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety in both the short-term and the long. A recent study showed that both mindful breathing and cognitive reappraisal tactics (which is the reinterpretation of an emotional stimulus) were effective in reducing anxiety, but that mindful breathing was even more successful at increasing positive thoughts than cognitive reappraisal.
To learn how to apply mindful breathing tactics to your life, particularly when you’re in a stressful state, take note of the techniques in this video:
When you’re in an anxious state it may feel as though you cannot breathe, but if you push past that barrier and work towards mindful breathing your anxiety will be reduced and you’ll be one step closer to peace.
2. Hold An Ice Cube In Your Hand
San Diego-based psychotherapist Edie Stark, LCSW, MSc, says in an article by Bustle that holding onto an ice cube can be a quick and helpful way to fight acute anxiety. “By holding the ice cube, your system will want to focus on the coldness in your hand rather than whatever may be causing the panic. The discomfort from the cold will also act as an intentional distraction.”
Meditation goes hand in hand with breathing. Meditation allows you to focus your attention inwards, into your own body and mind, instead of stressing about the outside factors that are causing your anxiety. Researchers at Harvard University were shocked with the results that they found when they used an MRI to test the brains of subjects practicing daily meditation.
The researchers found that subjects practicing 27-minutes of meditation every day increased the amount of gray matter density in their hippocampus, which is the part of the brain linked to self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. Participants also reported reductions in stress, which correlated with decreased gray matter density in their amygdala, known to play an important role in stress and anxiety.
If you’ve never tried meditation before, and are unsure about how to start, there are many online tools and apps that you can use that will guide you through the process. It’s best to begin with a guided meditation, such as the one below, until you feel comfortable enough to meditate on your own.
4. Adult Coloring Books