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Ten to Zen – 10 Ways To Reduce Stress In Ten Minutes

No matter where you are in your life, knowing how to reduce stress is a no brainer. Like Verbal Kint said in the classic thriller The Usual Suspects “stress is a killer.”

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, excessive stress that goes unchecked can increase the chances of high blood pressure, anxiety and depression, obesity and heart disease while decreasing the strength of the immune system. The American Psychological Association’s 2011 Stress In America Survey showed 44% of those surveyed felt their stress increased over the previous 5 years and 39% of those surveyed chose to deal with the stress by overeating. Stress is no joke so how to reduce stress effectively can be a game changer.

If you find yourself feeling stressed throughout your work week, here’s some quick and effective ways to reduce stress and get back to your happy place. The best part about it is all of the techniques can be done in less than 10 minutes.

  1. Breathing – some of the physiological responses associated with stress is elevated heart rate and rapid respiration, so naturally one solution is to control your breathing. Sitting in a quiet place and focusing on taking controlled, relaxed breaths for ten minutes can be just what you need when in need of a little break from chaos. Here’s a great link that has breathing exercises from beginner to advanced to try throughout your day and help reduce stress.
  1. Exercise – not only will it help burn off some of the excess energy you have coursing through your veins, exercise is also known to increase endorphins (happy place brain hormones) that can put you in a way better place. No need to hit the gym for a spin class or bench press 300 pounds twenty straight times. Something as simple as a few minutes of jumping jacks, toe touches, lunges, planks, sit ups and push ups can be all your body needs for a quick pick me up and calm me down zen moment. If weather and schedule permits, a brisk walk is the perfect combination of stress reducing exercise and a quick sunny dose of vitamin D.
  1. Snack “Happy” – Now by no means is this a plug to eat a Snickers every time you get stressed out. But you have to admit the ‘hangry’ struggle bus is a real thing, people. If you find yourself a) about to rage out b) feeling a little snacky and c) needing to simmer down snacking on certain foods may help manage and reduce stress because you know…science.

Certain foods help your body create, manage, and control hormones, endorphins and neurotransmitters that assist in a healthy response to stress. Salmon, spinach, cabbage, collards, dark chocolate, berries, oatmeal, chickpeas, nuts, and pumpkin seeds aren’t only tasty and good for you, but are chock full of nutrients like folate, magnesium, B vitamins, and omega 3 fatty acids and can increase cortisol, serotonin and dopamine levels that help combat the effects of stress. If you’re looking for a great relax snack recipe, greatist.com has some great ideas for DIY energy bars. The next time you need a quick pick me up, take a 10 minute break from the daily grind and treat yourself to a happy snack. For legal purposes for any sue-happies out there, we’re not nutritionists or doctors. We’re simply common sense users.

  1. Power down – With the proliferation of electronic devices in our daily lives, it’s a whole lot easier to get that stress inducing e-mail or frustrating text message. One way you can quickly reset is to simply get away from every single last smart phone, tablet, and laptop for 10 solid minutes. Powering them all the way down is a great way to eliminate the possibility of any distractions to your moment of peace and tranquility. Studies have actually shown that the light from a handheld device, even dimmed down, can interrupt sleep cycles at night. If you are looking for a quick way to get on the relaxation train, power down your cell phone, Kindle, and computer and just chill. For some devices it can even help the performance when you power it back up while helping you reduce stress. Everybody wins.
  1. Catch some Zs – While we’re on the subject of powering down, taking a quick power nap has not only been proven to help maintain energy throughout the work day but can also help you decrease stress. Studies have shown that even a 10 minute nap can reap huge benefits as it relates to reducing stress, improving cardiovascular health, and improving alertness. Even if you cannot fall asleep within 10 minutes, just finding a quiet place to try and rest is beneficial. Peak nap times are between 2-3pm and to avoid feeling groggy, set your alarm and try not to nap more than 30 minutes. Sneaking in a 10 minute stress relieving cat nap is a great way to break up your day.
  1. Self Massage – Ever feel stressed and get pain in your neck and shoulders? If you are the type that carries stress in your upper back and body, self massage of muscles in your neck and back is a great way to break up those knotted muscles. When muscles stay contracted as the neck and shoulders often do under stress, they can develop painful knots that restrict blood flow, decrease range of motion and in some cases can create a host of issues like tension headaches. Common areas to target with slow, firm motions are the base of the neck, the trapezius (connects the neck to your shoulders), but also self massage of the face, forehead, hands and feet can help reduce stress in 10 minutes. One of my favorites is using a tennis ball to work the kinks out of the shoulder blades. Just lean up against a wall and let the ball slowly work out knots out. WebMD has a great resource of self massage techniques for stress relief that can be done in 10 minutes.
  1. Visualization – Recently I visited the beautiful island of Oahu. After a short hike, I found myself sitting in the cool waters of an ice pond – a small natural waterfall surrounded by plush green vegetation and bright red flowers. The rushing white water came to a quiet end in an 8 foot pool of water as a few birds playfully flew over my head. The sun, which peaked in and out of the clouds that day, was warm against my face as the water rushed against my back. Whenever I get stressed out and need to combat stress, I think about this serene moment of my life, breathe methodically and can’t help but feel better. Visualizing a serene and peaceful scene is a powerful way to reduce stress in 10 minutes or less. Combine it with aromatherapy and some of the breathing exercises above to really get your Zen on.
  1. Aromatherapy – Have you ever walked by a bakery and the smell transports you to simpler, happier times? When attempting to reduce stress, it’s important to remember to address all of the senses including the sense of smell. If essential oils is your thing then lavender, ylang ylang, chamomile, and frankincense all get high scores when it comes to reducing stress. If you don’t have essential oils handy, you may be able to find some aromatherapy relief around the house. Vanilla, baked goods, chamomile, cinnamon and coffee can have a calming effect to help you reduce stress. Smells associated with travel (think suntan lotion, coconut oil and the beach), pleasant childhood memories (think cotton candy and peanuts at a fair), and your loved ones (his favorite cologne or aftershave) are also great ways to take away your blues in 10 minutes or less.
  1. Stretching – Helping to combat against those pesky knotted muscles in your shoulders, neck, and upper back, doing a few brief stretches can also help you manage and reduce stress. Making sure to use controlled, non-jerky motions, simple stretches like side bends and toe touchers won’t even use the full ten minutes! Stretching has been proven to help improve blood flow, elongate those pesky contracted muscle knots, and also strengthen muscle fibers. If you’re looking for a few stretches you can do at your desk, www.fitnessrxwomen.com has seven great yoga stress busting stretches.
  1. Coloring – There’s just something so relaxing and cathartic about coloring that it makes me wonder why I even stopped in the first place. Whether you have some high-end colored pencils or you want to go old school with the box of Crayola with built-in crayon sharpener, I dare you to color for 10 minutes straight and not be in a good mood afterwards. It’s been shown to help reduce stress, increase focus, and help ward off anxiety and depression. Check out these great coloring books on Amazon.

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