Usually we think of stress relievers as calming, quieting techniques. But sometimes, such attempts at self-soothing only leave the stress bottled up inside and make the pressure build. In those situations, what we really need is a way to release the tension — fast. So the next time stress threatens to make you blow a gasket, try any one (or more) of the simple 60-second strategies below, repeating as necessary. Within one minute, you’ll feel the toxic energy leaving your body, restoring peacefulness and productivity.
Vocalize. Feeling stressed is an indication of deeper troubles, worries or anger. In a private place, speak aloud to yourself and say what is bothering you (“I am so upset about… “) without worrying about the words you use or whether they even make sense. Keep talking, and don’t be concerned if the topic changes. Purposely escalate the outburst, screaming as loud as you can or speaking gibberish if it feels good. You may, in fact, gain insights into your situation or emotions — but the main goal is to let out the steam so that, like a child after a temper tantrum, you will find yourself almost magically calmer.
Get physical. Since emotional upset is stored in the body, a physical release also releases emotional tension. Try this: Stand erect, hands at your sides, with legs firmly planted and shoulder-width apart. Inhale deeply as you lift your arms in front of you, palms down… then exhale slowly as you reach your arms behind you, bringing your shoulder blades together (this expands the chest, freeing your breathing for more positive energy). On the next breath, lower your arms… then lift your arms as high overhead as you can, reaching upward with fingers outstretched. Next, stretch your arms out at your sides… and twist your trunk side to side several times as you let out a guttural sound from as deep in your belly as possible.
Curl up. Sit on a couch, a sturdy chair or the floor and curl up in a ball, hugging your knees to your chest in a safe, protected position. Continue for one minute, focusing on the resulting feeling of relaxation.
Smash and thrash. Punching pillows is a proven psychological technique for releasing stress. If there’s no handy bed pillow or sofa cushion nearby, punch the air as if shadowboxing… pound your fists on a desk or tabletop (preferably after covering the surface with something soft to cushion the blows)… or squeeze any pliable object (your coat, for instance) as hard as you can for one minute. Growl or grunt if it feels good.
Switch gears — by doing something you can control. Since much stress comes from feeling like you don’t have control, stop whatever you’ve been doing and briefly engage in some quick act or task over which you do have complete control. Believe it or not, you can get a stress-relieving sense of satisfaction from spending just one minute doing something for yourself — even something as simple as sharpening your eyeliner pencils, massaging your neck or texting a joke to a friend.