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10 Ways to Combat Your Stress in Under a Minute

06/30/2015 08:40 am ET | Updated Jun 30, 2016
Jason Homa via Getty Images

Want to beat your stress? You could exercise, meditate, or do yoga.

But if you're in the middle of a busy workday or if you have young, demanding toddlers around, you might find it impossible to carve out even 30 minutes to meditate or do yoga. Sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day.

Want to beat your stress in under a minute? Here are 10 fun and uncommon ways to combat your stress, especially when you only have a few seconds.

1. Take Five Deep Breaths
Breathe deeply in and out five times and allow yourself to feel good and relaxed while you're doing it. This can reset your nervous system and bring more oxygen into your bloodstream to deliver to your brain. Breathe in as deeply as you physically can, hold it for a few seconds, and then let it out. Notice how refreshing and renewing it feels to your body.

2. Dance Around
While this tip isn't ideal for your corporate office, if you're at home or amongst friends, dancing can quickly release any tension you've built up. Try to be stressed out while you're dancing, and you'll see it's impossible. As Tony Robbins says, if you change your body's state, it will change your mental state. That's why at his seminars he has people jumping around to music. Don't you feel great when you're dancing? Start moving to some music and you're almost guaranteed to start feeling better.

3. Get Up From Your Desk or Move Away From the Situation
Take a break and step away from your computer screen or from the situation that's driving you nuts. Removing yourself from the environment that has been causing you stress will signal your nervous system to take a deep breath and relax. Heading over to the water cooler or stepping outside for a second, or even staring out of the window will put you in a better state of mind.

4. Smell Something Fragrant
According to one study, smelling essential oils actually reduced stress perception. Aromatherapy is becoming more widely used as a great way to relieve stress and lavender in that same study has been shown to be very effective. You can try lighting a scented candle or inhaling a freshly cut lemon or piece of ginger. The part of the brain that processes smells is located next to the brain's emotional center, so it makes sense that aromatic smells can make you feel more calm.

5. Laugh
Laughter releases endorphins in the brain, which makes you feel better. Ask the person you're with if they know any good jokes, or think of some on your own. Sometimes when you're in a stressful situation, laughter doesn't come very naturally. But the moment you find yourself giggling over something silly, you'll start to feel better, even if you resist it at first. Search YouTube for your favorite standup comic and see if you can get a big belly laugh.

6. Hug Someone
This one might only be practical for you if you're around close friends or family members who you feel comfortable giving a big hug. But when you hug someone oxytocin and dopamine are both released inside you, which lowers your cortisol levels (the stress hormone) in your bloodstream as well. How do you feel when you hug someone? It can help make your stress go away in less than a minute!

7. Imagine Yourself in a Relaxing Place
Remember that time you were on a vacation by the lake, and you felt so relaxed and calm? Or that time when you were hiking in the forest, listening to the birds and looking up at the trees? Remind yourself of a pleasant moment and mentally imagine yourself there right now. Perhaps it's somewhere you've never been before, like on a Caribbean beach. By imagining the scenery and sensations vividly, you will reduce your muscle tension and feel less stressed.

8. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is a technique that was developed in the 1920s by Edmund Jacobson, and it's actually quite simple. You start with one muscle group, such as your feet, and you deliberately tense those muscles for a few moments, and then release it. Then move on to another area, such as your legs, thighs, back, shoulders, arms, etc. This may seem strange at first, but it works because you are releasing the tension throughout your entire body. And once your body is relaxed, your mind will soon follow.

9. Listen to Your Favorite Song
Some songs just make you feel good, like "Happy" by Pharrell Williams or "I Gotta Feeling" by The Black Eyed Peas. Studies have shown that listening to music can help relieve stress by lowering your blood pressure and your cortisol levels. Who knows, maybe it'll even inspire you to dance! And if you don't have headphones with you, just humming to yourself can be as soothing and relaxing. Give it a try.

10. Chew Gum
Chewing gum gives you a little physical movement to do, especially if you're stuck sitting in a work environment. Again, scientific studies have shown that chewing gum can reduce the amount of stress hormones in your body. Isn't it hard to picture yourself angry while you're chomping on a piece of Trident? If you're not into gum, try a sucking candy like a Life Saver or a mint. Whatever it takes to set you at ease.

Feeling stressed out? Find new tools and ways to reduce your stress with an online life coach. Learn more about how you can reach your goals when you're feeling stuck. To find out if life coaching is right for you, take our quiz.

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