40 Ways to Manage Stress When You Only Have 5 Minutes or Less

By Lauren Presutti

Does it feel like you have too much to do and not enough time to manage stress in your life? You’re not alone. We all have stress in our lives and not knowing how to manage time and stress is a recipe for disaster, particularly for our mental health. Responsibilities relating to our family, friends, work, health, and more can become very demanding and it may feel like you don’t have time for stress-management skills. But if you know how to manage your time, you can find little ways to manage stress. The trick is to know what you can do for yourself in small quantities of time. In order to stay healthy, happy, and productive even when you’re experiencing a lot of stress, it’s important to understand how and where you can incorporate quickly relieving activities throughout your day.

Below are 40 different ways that you can manage stress even when you only have 5 minutes or less. Consider which activities you are already doing in your life and which ones you may want to adopt. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. What works for you might not work for others because we are all different and we each have different needs. Focus on what helps YOU manage stress.

1. Breathe – when you’re feeling overwhelmed, it can be helpful to focus on your breathing for just a couple minutes. You may even want to try counting as you notice each breath in and out.

2. Meditate – you can find tons of quick 5-minutes-or-less meditation or mindfulness videos on YouTube.

3. Step outside – that’s it. Literally just go outside for a minute and feel the sun on your skin. It might help.

4. Say no to something – remember that you are not obligated to do things that don’t serve you well. If you’re driving an upcoming social obligation, just take a moment to respectfully decline in the you may feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.

5. Listen to a song – when you have time, make a playlist of songs that help you when you feel stressed, whether they are slow, calm songs or upbeat, happy songs. Find what works for you! Then when you feel stressed but only have 5 minutes, play one of your songs.

6. Close your eyes – maybe you don’t have time for a nap, but just closing your eyes for a couple minutes could still be helpful.

7. Stretch your body – just a couple quick stretches can make a big difference for how your body is feeling.

8. Drink water – or take a couple minutes to refill your water bottle.

9. Text someone – it can be so helpful to check in with those who you care about. Most people tend to isolate when feeling overwhelmed and stressed, but connecting with others even with a quick text message is much healthier than isolating.

10. Make a list – when it feels like everything around you is chaotic, grab a pen and paper and write down what’s on your mind.

11. Doodle / color – many people feel this needs to be a long activity, but even if you only have 5 minutes, this small outlet of creativity can help calm your nervous system.

12. Look at a picture – especially pictures that bring back good memories!

13. Watch a YouTube video – try watching a movie trailer, a music video, or a quick clip from Saturday Night Live… a video distraction can help you shift the focus away from your stress.

14. Wash your hands or face – this can help you feel like you are cleansing off some stress.

15. Put on lotion – a quick way to pamper yourself.

16. Dance to a song – even just a little bit of body movement can help you feel balanced.

17. Hug someone – probably one of the most soothing ideas on this list.

18. Daydream – allow yourself to reminisce. Remember that time when you….?

19. Pray – or if you are not spiritual with prayer, spend a couple minutes embracing your inner strength and all the things that you have previously overcome.

20. Have a quick snack – you are more likely to feel overwhelmed and anxious when you are hungry.

21. Pet your dog/cat – nothing beats a quick snuggle.

22. Use a stress ball – this can be particularly helpful if you’re experiencing some anger or feelings of irritability.

23. Change your clothes – sometimes changing your outfit can shift your mood.

24. Use a calm app – if you have never tried a mindfulness app on your phone, now is the perfect time to try one.

25. Play a phone game – simple games of all kinds can help give our minds a break during the day.

26. Pick out a movie for later – if you only have a couple minutes, pick out a movie for later so you have something to look forward to.

27. Try a yoga pose – or create a plan to try a new yoga pose later.

28. Look out a window – what do you notice? Try opening the window if the weather is nice.

29. Water plants – providing nourishment (even to our plants!) can give us the feeling of doing something good in the world.

30. Grab a blanket – or a pillow for your back. Make yourself as comfortable as possible when feeling overwhelmed.

31. Light a candle – aromatherapy is always a good idea.

32. Find an inspiring quote – especially a quote that you truly resonate with.

33. Book an appointment – maybe you need a massage or a haircut. Or maybe you have been meaning to schedule a doctors appointment. Booking an appointment can help us feel productive and it only takes a couple minutes.

34. Compliment yourself – reflect on what you love about yourself. It’s not selfish, it’s an important part of self-care.

35. Read a poem – if you don’t read poetry, take a couple minutes to explore some poetry online.

36. Create a goal – when we feel overwhelmed, setting a goal can help us feel like we are getting back on track.

37. Look in the mirror – who are you? You are a strong, unique, beautiful person in the world. Take a minute to reflect on some of your best qualities and how you have gotten through numerous challenges before in your life.

38. Write down a happy thought – even if it’s a silly one, write down anything that makes you feel good.

39. Look at funny memes / jokes – simply go online and amuse yourself with the latest memes.

40. Do nothing / just relax – yes, you are allowed to do nothing. You are not wasting any time. Rest is vital! Allow yourself 5 minutes to just sit quietly.

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We’re here for YOU. Please don’t hesitate to call or text us at (248) 717-1232 or email lauren@riveroakspsychology.com to schedule an online counseling appointment. Your mental health matters.