Stress can stem from many sources, whether it’s at work, at home, while travelling, looking after family or dealing with relationship problems, we all know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed and need a time out.
According to Life Works latest Mental Health Index, 48 per cent of employed adults say work is their primary source of stress, and it impacts them in a variety of ways: 30 per cent are unable to relax, 29 per cent have difficulty sleeping, while 24 per cent have experienced emotional changes.
While it’s important to recognise chronic stress and take steps to address those triggers, sometimes what you really need are speedy ways to calm your racing heart and mind in the moment, so you can then get on with the rest of your day.
We asked wellbeing experts for their top tips on how to alleviate stress in just 10 minutes…
1. Mindful breathing
Taking a few minutes for a mindful breathing exercise can be really helpful, says qualified coach Moyra Mackie, aka The Journal Coach (thejournalcoach.co.uk).
“Find somewhere by yourself,” she suggests. “It can be indoors or outdoors and it doesn’t have to even be quiet. Sit down, close your eyes, put one hand on your heart and the other on your belly and just breathe, feeling your belly expand on your in breath and contract on your out breath.”
This might be enough to ‘reset’. But if not, try a quick blast of journaling: “If your head still seems full, grab a notebook and pen, set your phone’s timer for three minutes and get those feelings out on paper,” says Mackie. “Lean in and let go!”
2. Soothing words
“When we’re stressed, we can easily get carried away in negative self-talk,” says Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic (thechelseapsychologyclinic.com).
To counteract your inner critic, try giving yourself a mental pep talk with words of encouragement, she suggests: “Examples might be, ‘I’ve got this’, ‘I’m here and I’m OK’, or ‘I’m strong – I can cope’.
“You can also try offering yourself compassion through soothing touch,” adds Touroni. “Try giving yourself a hug, gently stroking your arm, or putting your hand on your heart while giving yourself words of comfort.”
3. Deep breathing
A step further than mindful breathing, try closing your eyes and slowing down your breath, says Jamie Clements, host of the Unwind for Total Relaxation series on the MindLabs app (wearemindlabs.com). (Check with your doctor first if you have underlying health conditions.)
“Reducing your breaths per minute with a strong focus on using the diaphragm is one of the simplest ways to stimulate the vagus nerve – this nerve holds all the keys when it comes to feeling relaxed,” he explains.
Nick Mitchell, CEO and founder of Ultimate Performance (ultimateperformance.com), suggests the box breathing technique: “It’s as simple as breathing in for four seconds, holding your breath for four seconds, and then exhaling for four seconds. Repeat those three steps for four minutes or so and you will start to feel everything go – the tension and the stress you’re carrying.”
4. Focus on the present
If you find your mind wanders during breathing exercises, another way to practice mindfulness is by focusing on your five senses. “Sit down quietly and take some slow deep breaths,” says Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy (doctorfox.co.uk). “Now pay attention to each of your senses – sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste.”
Create a mental list of all the things you can sense around you: “This will sharpen your awareness and bring you into the present moment. Keep breathing slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth,” Lee adds. “You will feel calmer and more tranquil.”
5. Have a hug
We often want to vent to our partner or a friend about a stressful situation, but a reassuring hug could be more beneficial.
“Social support can help us to feel safer and therefore calm us down when we’re stressed,” says Dr Lynne Green, chief clinical officer at Kooth (kooth.com). “Even just a reassuring touch on the shoulder from someone we care about causes our brains to release oxytocin, also known as ‘the love hormone’, which helps to soothe the stress response, particularly helping to relax the heartbeat.”
6. Go for a walk
Even a quick loop round the block or to your local park is a good idea when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
“A regular 10-minute walk is hugely beneficial for your mental wellbeing, as being outside can increase your mood, sleep quality, and reduce anxiety,” says Yves Benchimol, co-founder of WeWard (en.weward.fr). “It is something that can also be a social activity if you go with friends, or it can be a way to have quality alone time and switch off.”
7. Energy visualisation
Popular with younger generations, crystal healing is an alternative technique believed by fans to have healing qualities. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, try this visualisation technique to ‘charge’ a crystal or token with energy.
“Sit or lie comfortably in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted, and visualise a brightly coloured ball of light in your hands,” says Flavia Kate Peters, leading elemental and ancient magic expert and author of Reclaim Your Dark Goddess: The Alchemy Of Transformation (out August 18).
“Place or push the light into a talisman such as a token, piece of jewellery or clear crystal while focusing on your intentions. Imagine the light absorbing into the charm until you see in your mind’s eye the charm radiating and pulsating with its newly charged magickal intention.”
8. Have an adult tantrum
“Ever notice how much better you feel after a really good cry?” asks Zoe Clews, hypnotherapist, mental health specialist and founder of Zoe Clews & Associates (zeclews-hypnotherapy.co.uk). “It’s because it releases a stress hormone.”
She suggests taking inspiration from toddlers – who aren’t shy about expressing their anger: “One of my favourite techniques is having an ‘adult tantrum’, lying on the floor and pounding your fists or just shaking your body – save it for the privacy of your own home and not the office!
“It really does help discharge all the built up toxic stress,” says Clews. “We feel stressed when we feel ‘full’, so by releasing it from the body in a safe and private way, you will experience pretty instant relief.”