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Five ways to reduce stress in under five minutes

It’s not news that our work as care providers and family child care providers is just as stressful as it is rewarding. We find ourselves often confronting difficult choices and lacking much time for ourselves and our self-care.

We hear it all the time— “You can’t pour from an empty cup. You need to do all these things to take care of yourself.” We hear these things so often that many times we shrug them off, because how can we take care of ourselves when so much responsibility rests on our shoulders?

Caring for others is in our nature and as hard as it may be, we need to learn to prioritize and care for ourselves, as well. Stress can lead to burnout and increased risk of conditions like heart disease, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease, so prioritizing our needs and our health is one way we can prolong our well-being and continue providing quality care. Our time and responsibilities as care providers may limit our self-care options. For us, self-care may not mean spending hours at the gym or in a resort but creating even small pockets of time that allow for us to unwind and destress. Everyone’s schedule and availability are different, and sometimes all we have is five minutes to ourselves. Here are five ways to help you cope with stress in five minutes or less:

  1. Move your body!
    This can mean a quick walk around the block, a dance-off in your living room, or a quick stretch. Set a timer and get moving!
  2. Go outside
    Sit, stand, walk, or run, spend your time in nature in whichever way you choose. Getting a few breaths of fresh air, standing in the sun for a few minutes, and changing the scenery can have a profound effect on your stress levels and drastically improve your mood.
  3. Mediate
    Mediation is not limited to sitting in silence. Many people practice various techniques that help them control their breathing and become more mindful of their body and it’s needs. Here are four ways you can dive into meditation:
    • Box Breathing
      Find a quiet place. Close your eyes. Start to slow down your breath. Picture a box and think of each side as a motion of your breath. Follow the following:

      Inhale on a slow count of 4
      Hold your breath at the top for 4
      Exhale through the nose for 4
      Hold empty at the bottom for 4
    • Journal
      Set a five-minute timer at the beginning of your day or right before bed and write whatever comes to mind! Whether it’s about your day, how you feel, or your dreams, journaling can help reduce stress, boost your mood, evoke mindfulness, and help you strengthen emotional health.
    • Listen to a soothing song
      Choose a soothing song, close your eyes, tune into the melody. Pay close attention to the instruments, words, harmonies, and lose yourself in the song. Take this time to relax your muscles, from your jaw to your ankles. Music is a great way to help quiet your mind and release pent-up tension in your body.
    • 5-4-3-2-1 method
      Use this method to help you practice mindfulness. Slow your breathing and identify the following for each of your senses:
      • 5 things you see
      • 4 things you can touch around you
      • 3 things you can hear
      • 2 things you can smell
      • 1 thing you can taste
  4. Hang out with a furry friend
    Take a quick break and snuggle up next to your best fur-iend (furry friend). Pets, especially dogs and cats, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health. Don’t have a pet of your own? That’s okay! Take a few minutes to sit outside and look for your neighborhood birds. Listen to them sing and flutter through the trees.
  5. Get a good laugh
    Take a quick break and look up a few cute or funny videos online. It can be a quick compilation of America’s Funniest Home Videos, or cats playing the keys—whatever lights up your day and brings a smile to your face. Laughter, even smiling, has been proven to help reduce stress.

Whichever way you choose to take a moment to yourself is a great start! District 4 Vice Chair, Florence “Corie” Crowson, said it best, “You may be a hero, but even heroes can ask for help and support.”