Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

12 Ways to Reduce Your Stress in 5 Minutes or Less

person relaxing at desk
Westend61/Getty Images

Whether we’re dealing with an unhappy client, or assigned a last-minute project to complete by the end of the day, or just going through the everyday trials and tribulations of our job, we all experience stress. And there’s no denying it—it stinks.

Luckily, there are easy ways to combat it without sacrificing your whole day (and making yourself even more overwhelmed).

Need some suggestions? I’ve got 12 that’ll do the trick in no time at all.

1. Watch a Video

What’s more relaxing than watching an adorable clip of a puppy (especially, say, if that puppy is dressed like a Disney princess)?

That’s right, nothing. And, science says it’ll also make you more productive when you get back to work.

To help you decompress, we have 15 short videos for you to watch (on the very slight chance that puppy above didn’t work for you).

2. Breathe

So simple, yet so effective.

For example, Muse writer Lily Herman has the perfect two-minute exercise for feeling more peaceful: “Inhale for three counts and exhale for four. This triggers your parasympathetic nervous system, which can help you relax.”

3. Take a Walk

Not only is being outside scientifically good for you and for relieving stress, the exercise does all kinds of good things for your brain.

So, get out of the office and go for a stroll alone, even if you just circle the parking lot. That’s sometimes all you need to clear your head.

4. Do a (Quick) Meditation

You don’t need a yoga mat and a zen space to reap the benefits of meditation (of which there are many).

If you’re not sure how to get started, we recommend you try the S.T.O.P technique. It goes something like this:

  1. Stop what you’re doing
  2. Take a few deep breaths
  3. Observe how you’re feeling mentally, physically, and emotionally
  4. Proceed, but with intention!

5. Plan Something Fun for Later

Take five minutes (or less) and schedule a fun activity to celebrate the end of a stressful day—whether it’s texting a friend and setting up dinner plans for that evening, or deciding what you’ll watch on Netflix. It may not completely rid you of your anxiety, but it reminds you what you’re working toward (a.k.a., getting out of the office and having fun!).

6. Write Down Everything You Have to Do

“Writing gives form to your ideas and gets them out of your head, freeing up bandwidth and preventing you from crashing your browser like a late night downward spiral on Wikipedia. Getting important ideas down alleviates the stress of losing your thoughts to time or an overcrowded mind,” says writer Gregory Ciotti of Help Scout.

So, if you haven’t already, put everything you have to do down on paper. Then, tackle each assignment one at a time, rather than trying to do all of it at once.

7. Write Down Everything That’s Bothering You

Similarly, studies show that writing down your feelings helps you process them faster—and thus rid yourself of the bad ones.

Spend a couple minutes between projects jotting down all the things causing you stress—an annoying co-worker, an unreasonable boss, a broken printer, nothing’s off the table! Once you get them out of your head and on the table (literally), you can move on and focus on what really matters.

Just, um, don’t use any names or leave that paper hanging around.

8. Color!

There’s a reason they’re called stress-relief coloring books.

And you don’t have to create a work of art—simply filling in a few designs can distract you from the worries of your day. It’s not about productivity, says Muse writer Stacey Lastoe on her own coloring book experiment, “but rather that we need to work ‘mindless’ play into our days.”

You can find free coloring book templates here (or go above and beyond by ordering one of these awesome coloring books online.) And don’t worry if you don’t have colored pencils handy, I’m sure you can get your hands on a few highlighters.

9. Put on Your Favorite Song

Besides giving you all the feels, music is a huge stress-reliever. Blast just one of your top tunes (through your headphones, obviously), and you’ll forget all your worries—or, at least reduce them a bit.

Personally, I always turn to The Lumineers when I need a moment of calm.

10. Listen to Soothing Sounds

Give your mind a rest by enjoying the wonderful sounds of a waterfall, or crackling fire, or even rain if that’s your jam.

There are so many options for your ideal ambient noise that you’re bound to find one that relaxes you.

11. Make Tea

A nice warm beverage—especially, says science, a mug of green tea—on a rainy day or in an over-air-conditioned office can reduce your stress more than you’d imagine. Plus, the act of getting out of your desk and heating the water is a mindless way to stop thinking of work.

12. Smile

Yup, seriously, that’s it. Studies have shown that the simple act of putting on a happy face can lower your heart rate, which, by the way, is a clear indication of reduced stress.

No matter how tough it is in the moment, really try smiling and see how it makes you feel. Who knows, you may even put a smile on someone else’s face!

Did any of these work for you? Have any better suggestions? Let me know on Twitter @Alyslice!

A logo with "the muse" in white text.