We all have busy schedules that can sometimes make self-care and stress management challenging. Many of us understand the importance of a daily 30-minute fitness regimen, meditation practice, or yoga class for our overall well-being. So are we out of luck when we don’t have 30 minutes in the day for a stress-buster? Are we doomed to be flooded by stress hormones all day long? Absolutely not. There is plenty we can do with only minutes in the day to de-stress.
Mini-mental health workouts can be the answer on these hectic days. Additionally, these exercises can be used to complement your other self-care practices to create even more stress management benefits. These mini-mental health breaks are fun and will help reduce stress hormones while leaving you feeling replenished and energized.
While mini-mental health workouts can go a long way toward managing mood and decreasing stress levels, they should not replace more substantive self-care practices such as cardio workouts or yoga classes. Here are a few exercises anyone can easily incorporate into their daily activity to help de-stress and feel good:
- Strike a pose: That’s right, do your best Wonder Woman or Superman pose with arms fixed on your hips and legs shoulder width apart for 2 minutes. Alternatively, celebrate like you just climbed Mount Everest, with hands raised above your head in a “V.” These are only a few of the power poses studied in 2010 by Amy Cuddy, social psychologist and professor at Harvard Business School. According to her research, 2 minutes is all you need to change your body chemistry to promote confidence while decreasing cortisol (stress hormone) levels. These simple poses can brighten your mood and reduce your anxiety in short order.
- Pictures of nature: Don’t have time to go for a walk outside? Then try this trick for your brain, mind, and body. All you have to do is spend at least 5 minutes looking at snapshots of nature and greenery to potentially see a change in your stress levels. This powerhouse mini-mental break mobilizes the calming parasympathetic nervous system and may produce a relaxation response, leaving you feeling refreshed (van den Berg, et. al., 2015).
These five simple and fast tools weaved into your routine may help increase your productivity while minimizing the energy-depleting effects of stress.
- Listen to a song: Have a list of “feel-good songs” you can play when low on energy or feeling stressed. Rock it out for a couple of minutes when you need to. If you have some privacy, consider pairing your feel-good song with a dance party, your best air guitar, or air drumming for increased physical movement which will allow for the release of the feel-good chemical dopamine. The movement combined with the music packs an extra punch.
- Simulated or genuine laughter: Laugh it up for a couple of minutes. Try watching a funny video clip or a scene from one of your favorite comedies. Laughter is often said to be the best medicine, and there is plenty of science to back that up. Since the 1980s, Dr. Lee S. Berk, a researcher at Loma Linda University, has found laughter has amazing benefits. She discovered laughter can mobilize the relaxation response in the body by decreasing stress hormones and stimulating the release of feel-good endorphins. If you can’t think of anything to help create a laugh, don’t worry—a simulated belly laugh can be just as powerful, with the same potential yield.
- Deep breathing/diaphragmatic breathing: Taking deep, rhythmic breaths is one of the most powerful ways to put the brakes on the sympathetic nervous system and stimulate a relaxation response. This means taking in breaths through your nose to the count of five and then holding for five seconds before exhaling through pursed lips to another count of five (select a breath count that is comfortable for you) can have immediate positive effects. Many meditation practitioners and behavioral health experts believe deep breathing is one of the most powerful weapons in combating stress.
So next time you have to skip your cardio boot camp class, don’t fret—you still have options for stress management. By implementing these mini-mental health workouts into your day, you may be better able to manage your stress and mood. These five simple and fast tools weaved into your routine may help increase your productivity while minimizing the energy-depleting effects of stress.
All you need is 120 to 300 seconds throughout the day to employ these tools. Anyone can do that!
- Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J.C., & Yap, A. J. (2010). Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance. Psychological Science, Vol 21(10), 1363-1368. doi:1177/0956797610383437
- van den Berg, M. M.H.E., Maas, J., Muller, R., Braun, A., Kaandorp, W., van Lien, R., van Poppel, M. N.M., van Mechelen, W., & van den Berg, A. E. (2015). Autonomic Nervous System Responses to Viewing Green and Built Settings: Differentiating Between Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Activity. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Vol 12(12), 15860-15874. doi: 3390/ijerph121215026
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