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5-Minute Stress Fixes

WebMD Feature from "Redbook" Magazine

By Tara Rummell Berson
Redbook Magazine Logo
Go from keyed-up to calm with these easy tactics.

Whether you're anxious about the hectic holiday season, frustrated by an endless list of chores, or upset over an argument with a loved one, you don't have to let stress get the best of you. All you need is five minutes to escape life's frantic pace and regain your composure. Here, quick tips for conquering stress in your most distressing moments from Jeffrey Brantley, M.D., coauthor of Five Good Minutes at Work and director of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program at Duke University's Center for Integrative Medicine.

Running late?

You overslept, hit traffic, and are dashing into an important meeting 15 minutes late — again. Instead of spinning into an anxious frenzy, press your inner pause button and ask yourself, What's another five minutes when I'm already late? suggests Brantley. "There's no point worrying about something you can't change," he explains. "So call to let your boss know that you'll be late and surrender control." Then take slow, deep breaths and seek solace by letting your mind wander to a better place (like your last vacation) or making a mental list of things you're grateful for, suggests Brantley. "This will help you get back in touch with what's most important and keep you from rebounding through the day on overdrive," he says.

Overwhelmed by others' needs?

Somewhere between juggling demands from your high-maintenance boss, your meddling mother-in-law, your distraught girlfriend, and/or your bickering kids, slip away for a moment — either by ducking into an empty room or just closing your eyes — and draw an imaginary circle around yourself to create your own private island. Use your senses to distance yourself from reality: "See" a cloudless blue sky, "feel" the warmth of the sun, and "taste" that creamy piña colada, advises Brantley. "Within your circle of solitude, no one can enter or disrupt your inner peace and harmony," he says. "Keep this imaginary island as your own breathing room for safety whenever you feel engulfed by incessant pressures to be available to others."

Annoyed by difficult people?

We all encounter them: nosy neighbors, buttinsky relatives, rude grocery clerks. To insulate yourself from their irritating behaviors, first acknowledge how you're reacting (for example, your fists may clench while thoughts of how to escape race through your head). "Recognizing your emotions enables you to develop strategies for soothing them, which in turn delivers a sense of calming control," says Brantley. Start by rolling your wrists to alleviate any physical tension. To silence those mental SOS sirens, recite a calming self-affirmation, such as, "No matter how much she gets under my skin, I'll treat her with kindness." And have some good excuses prepared for escaping your next encounter, such as, "Sorry — gotta go. I'm expecting a phone call."

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