Do you know how to relax your mind when you only have a few minutes? You should, because these days it’s a basic survival skill! Fortunately it’s not hard.
Just keep in mind that there is no single answer for everyone. If you try one method and it doesn’t help, try another. If it takes a little time to discover what works best for you, that’s okay. You’re worth it!
- 10 Ways to Relax Your Mind When You Only Have a Few Minutes
10 Ways to Relax Your Mind When You Only Have a Few Minutes
Since the workplace is such a common source of stress, all the methods below are appropriate for most office situations. Some can be done right at your desk, and others require stepping away but not for long.
Run for the Border
Wherever you are, think of a way you can temporarily escape your space. A brief change in surroundings can work wonders for your mind, especially if you’re stuck working inside an office every day. One bonus is that your body will benefit too. We’ve all heard that sitting is the new smoking, so do yourself a huge favor and take a hike.
- Head outside and take a brisk walk around the block. Swing your arms, hum to yourself, and enjoy the fresh air.
- Stay indoors and go for a leisurely stroll through the halls of your building, or even around your office. Make it interesting by using your imagination. (Take off your shoes and pretend that’s a sandy beach you feel under your feet.)
- Got a stair well? You can walk or jog the stairs while playing the Rocky theme in your head. You don’t need your smart phone for the music. You know the tune!
Pump Iron – Sort Of
Another great way to benefit both your mind and body at once is to do a mini workout. At the very least you can remain seated at your desk and do some forward and backward shoulder rolls, then rotate your head to give your neck a nice stretch. If you have a little more freedom stand up and jog in place, or try something a little more interesting:
- Another idea for remaining seated is to do a quick version Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Nothing could be simpler than intentional tensing/relaxing of every body muscle, and it works wonders.
- To actually pump iron at work, keep a set of small dumbbells within easy reach. When your mind is uptight take a pause for a few sets of bicep curls, shoulder presses or other basics.
- For a quick but complete workout right at your desk, check out all the videos on YouTube. Use one of those routines, or create your own. Click here to go to YouTube for ideas.
- Do Yoga at your desk. You can choose your own favorite positions, but keep it simple. If you need ideas, again, YouTube is an excellent source – check out these videos.
Doodle, Draw, or Color Yourself Peaceful
In elementary school you get in trouble if you get caught doodling during class, but did you know it’s actually good for you? Psychology Today says that doodling and drawing have numerous benefits that range from helping you think to memory retention.
It’s also excellent for calming your mind, and you don’t have to be artistically talented. Try this:
- If you’re a habitual doodler just spend a few minutes doing your usual doodling thing.
- If not, take a shot at drawing a place where you’d like to be right now (it doesn’t matter if you’re the only one who can tell what it is!).
- Doodling doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If the mere thought of trying to draw a stick man stresses you out, try an adult coloring book instead. This simple activity brings you into the present moment, helping distract you from other thoughts so your brain can relax.
Breathe to Trick Your Mind
Did you know that your brain cells are spying on your breathing? Findings from a recent study showed that those cells monitor your breath and report back to your brain, which tells the brain when to relax – or not.
The good news is, that puts you in control. One fast, easy way to relax your mind is slow, deep breathing. Concentrate on what you’re doing to inhale as much as you can, and then exhale it all, completely. You’ll feel the relief almost at once. You can also try the popular 4-7-8 breathing exercise explained in the video below.
The Blank Stare With a Purpose
Like taking a mini vacation, staring off into space can serve as a brief escape. It can give your mind a break from the anxiety or frustrations of the moment. Many times it’s enough to allow you to come back to the present moment feeling refreshed and relaxed. Try one of these methods:
- Window Gazing: Take a moment to gaze out the window, looking closely at everything you can see. Drink it in from earth to sky, noticing every detail, and describe it as you go. If you don’t have a view, or don’t like the view you have, then take a cue from the old Hospital Window story (the good version), and make it up. Never mind what what you really see. Describe what you wish you could see. Have a fun daydream, or go on a pretend vacation. You can make it something different every day.
- Slow Backward Countdown: Sit up straight without straining or being stiff, and look up at the ceiling. Take a deep breath, and as you release it start counting backward from 100. By gazing upward you can trigger your own personal energy conservation (the parasympathetic nervous system that does calming things like slowing your heart rate). At the same time, your slow-paced counting draws your attention to help you release distractions. If you spend most of the day looking at computer screen, phone or desk top, your neck will also thank you for the break from holding the weight of your head at an awkward angle.
Comfort Food the Healthy Way
The problem with “comfort foods” is that most of our favorites are unhealthy for one reason or another. We may feel better momentarily but will later suffer guilt, regret, or maybe even weight gain. When you’re trying to relax your mind, a much better option is to choose a snack that can actually improve your mood.
- Perhaps the easiest way to indulge is to enjoy a pleasant drink. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and anything sugary sweet. Instead choose chamomile tea or one of the many delicious varieties of green tea. Quite often you’ll find that the process of making a cup of tea is itself quite relaxing.
- Good choices for snacking include mood boosting foods such as fresh nuts (walnuts almonds, brazil nuts), bananas, blueberries, oranges (clementines, tangelos & other varieties), dark chocolate, sunflower seeds, soynuts, low fat yogurt.
For more long term benefits you might also consider planning your daily diet around other mood-boosting, stress-fighting foods such as salmon, turkey, grass fed beef, garlic, lentils, eggs, dark leafy greens, asparagus, avocado, oatmeal, chia seeds, and whole grains.
The Dear Self Letter
Don’t dismiss this idea just because you think you’re not a good writer. Talent isn’t important, and remember that no one else will ever see your work unless you want them to. Opportunities for writing to relax your mind are almost endless, and here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Talk to Yourself If you really hate writing you could do this aloud, but it’s often much more helpful to put it on paper. When you’re stressed you may be tempted to give yourself a stern lecture, but forget that. Instead, take stock of what’s going on in your head, and try to have the same compassion for you that you would so readily give to others. As you write, give yourself the pep talk that you’d give to someone you love.
- Even professionals can experience writer’s block. If that stops you from even trying this method, consider getting a book with journaling prompts. Plenty of non-writers absolutely love keeping a journal, especially with the aid of a writing idea on each page.
- If you’ve ever heard of positive affirmations, you can write them instead of repeating them aloud. Don’t try to convince yourself of anything outrageous. Just make the conscious decision to find things about yourself to appreciate.
Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. Doubtless that is true for some of our other senses – specifically, sound and smell.
Soothing music can go a long way toward reaching a calmer state of being. Research has shown that music can affect our emotions and body in a range of ways. To relax and quiet the mind, experts recommend classical music that has a soft melody and slow tempo. If your coworkers object, your smart phone and a set of ear buds can come to your rescue.
Pampering your sense of smell can be more challenging in a shared space whether at work or at home. Your options may be limited by the preferences of others, and possibly even their allergies or other health issues. That said, incense is very enjoyable to some, but it can be quite strong. The same can be true of scented candles, and they also present a possible fire hazard if forgotten and left burning. By far the best option is essential oils. A good oil diffuser will automatically shut itself off if you forget about it, and the selection of oils includes very mild scents that are less likely to offend others.
Do Something With the Place
Take a minute to look around you. What do you see? No, look closely and see what is really there. Chances are there are at least a few things you could do to spiff up the place. Give yourself a 5 minute break, and freshen up your surroundings.
- Water the office plant, snip off dead leaves, and give it a light misting.
- Clear a bit of clutter off one corner of your desk. Then take out the trash.
- Straighten a drawer or shelf, or clean your keyboard.
It doesn’t matter what you do, and it’s not about getting into a major cleaning job or complete office reorganization. Just find any small way to make your space a little more pleasant when you return to work.
Who’s In Control Here Anyway?
Take charge of your mind and show it who is boss. Indulge in some little treat, do something that’s a total waste of time, or have a little fun. We’re talking 5 minutes here. It’s okay. Really.
- Call a friend for no reason. Have a quick chat and keep it light, no gossip, no drama. Don’t text, or you’ll just end up multi-tasking with your mind still absorbed in what’s bugging you. Make a real phone call so you can actually hear your friend’s voice, a real live human connection.
- Lose yourself in a pointless activity. Some people find stress relief in puzzles like a Rubik’s cube or even certain smart phone video games. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s an activity that forces you to focus yet doesn’t stress you out.
- Find reason to laugh. With the web always at your fingertips this is easy. The only rule here is to avoid topics like politics that can be both humorous and stressful at once. Stick with mindless humor, anything that makes you laugh, the harder the better. You may love the famous comedians, but sometimes the funniest entertainment comes from lesser known people like Heather Land and her I Ain’t Doin’ It videos.
Now what are you waiting for? Go relax already!