7 Stress Relief Strategies You Can Do in 10 Minutes or Less

Stress resilience strategies that fit into your crazy busy life

Posted Apr 20, 2016

Early last year I wrote an article about stress-relief strategies you could do when you have ten minutes or less.  It was inspired by all of the hard working folks I meet who want short, digestible strategies they can incorporate into their busy day.  One thing I have heard loud and clear since publishing that article is, “We want more!”  Since April is Stress Awareness Month, here are seven additional stress-relief strategies you can use when you’re short on time.

Power Pose.  When you need a quick dose of confidence-on-the-go, try a power pose.  Based on the work of Dr. Amy Cuddy, power posing involves literally putting yourself in a physical position of power, which then causes your brain to think in a more confident way.  Whether you’re going through a challenging situation or just going about your day, Cuddy suggests the following activities which will help you evoke confidence:  keep your shoulders back and chest open; stand up straight; keep your feet grounded; if you talk on the phone a lot, use a headset and stretch while you’re talking; and combine power posing with daily routines.

Change Your Passwords.  This is the only strategy I carried over from the first article, and I include it again because of the feedback I’ve received about it.  A colleague of mine told me that her teenage son is using it, and just today my husband switched his password to match a big goal he has for a new work position.  This strategy is powerful because it’s a form of priming – creating cues in your environment to prompt you to act in a certain way.  The cue then gets cemented when you re-enter your password over and over during the day.  Why not make your password something that is going to help you get closer to an important goal?

ARM Yourself with a “Stress Helps” Mindset.  Being a flexible, accurate, and thorough thinker under stress and pressure is a foundational skill set for stress resilience; however, thinking traps, your core beliefs about your life experiences, and runaway thinking, or catastrophizing, can sabotage even the best intentions.  Utilize the ARM technique from psychologist Alia Crum to build your “stress helps” mindset:

STEP 1:  Acknowledge stress when you experience it – notice how and where it impacts you physically.

STEP 2:  Recognize that the stress response is linked to something you care about.  What is meaningful about this situation, and why does it matter to you?

STEP 3:  Make use of the heightened energy and focus that stress gives you.

STOP Stress.  This mindfulness technique is great when you feel stuck, frustrated or stressed out but need to remain focused on a task.  The steps are as follows:

S:  Stop.  Literally, stop what you are doing and pay attention to how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking.

T:  Take a breath.  Taking a quick breath or two helps you to re-center and re-focus.

O:  Observe.  Take a mental note of where you feel tension in your muscles.  Are your shoulders tight?  Is your jaw clenched?  What are you thinking, and are those thoughts productive or counterproductive?

P:  Proceed.  Now that you have a little additional information about the sources of stress in your environment, proceed with what you were doing.  The goal is to go about your merry way, but it a more intentional and balanced way.

Maximize Your Decision Points.  Do you ever feel swept along by your day?  According to Dr. Josh Davis, we get ourselves into cognitive trouble when we jump from task to task without giving any deliberate thought to what actually makes sense to do next.  Recognizing your daily decision points allows you to choose how to spend your time – usually when a task ends or gets interrupted.  You can even pre-plan your decision points the evening before a particularly busy or stressful day.      

Create a Gratitude Wall.  This one is simple – create a designated space at work for people to write what they are thankful for.  Some companies use a big dry erase board, others have a space and ask people to pin sticky notes to it.  The wall becomes a constant reminder of all of the things that are actually going right in your organization.  You can also create a Gratitude Wall at home with your family.

Do a 5-Minute Favor.  This is a new spin on reciprocity that Dr. Adam Grant writes about in his book Give and Take.  Rather than trade value back and forth with someone, make it your goal to add value.  Grant recalls a conversation he had with Adam Rifkin who lives by the philosophy that, “You should be willing to do something that will take you five minutes or less for anybody.”  And who is Adam Rifkin?  He’s a software programmer who has more LinkedIn connections to Fortune’s list of the most powerful people in the world than anyone else in the world.  He built those connections by giving – doing these five-minute favors for anyone who asked.  Rifkin’s favorite favors are giving honest feedback and making an introduction for someone.  Think of the ways you can help out your colleagues or family members in short doses.

Pick two or three strategies that resonate most with you on this list and try incorporating them into your day.  I’d love to hear from you – what are some stress-relief strategies you use when you’re short on time? 

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Paula Davis-Laack, JD, MAPP, is a lawyer turned stress and resilience expert.  Having burned out at the end of her law practice, she now works with organizations and individuals to build stress resilience.  You can connect with Paula and to learn more about her work here:

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