How to Relax the Mind and Body in 4 Minutes or Less

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Meg Prater (she/her)
Meg Prater (she/her)



"Rough day?" We've all gotten that question when we greet a friend or loved one after a tough stint at the office. In fact, the American Institute of Stress cites several studies naming work-related anxiety and fear as the leading source of stress among adults.

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Salespeople know their jobs can be especially brutal. Quotas, deadlines, and activity boards compound ordinary job stress and risk turning a bad call, missed number, or even a well-meaning loved one into a trigger for a frustrated remark or angry outburst.

But before you launch into your significant other or attempt to lift your spirits with a season of "Black Mirror," relax and reset with a few of these techniques to unwind and manage stress in four minutes or less.

How to Relax Your Body

1. Fix your posture.

Did you know your muscular state relates to your emotions? Adopting an upright posture actually leads to high self-esteem, better moods, and lower fear. It also reduces self-focus and builds resilience to stress. So, listen to your mother and sit up straight!

2. Eat a banana.

This popular fruit is packed with potassium and magnesium which are natural muscle relaxants. Next time you feel your blood pressure rising, take a quick, healthy snack break, and find your balance once more.

3. Sniff some coconut.

The scent of coconut can reduce your body's natural fight or flight response by slowing the heart rate. In fact, a Columbia University study found people who breathed in coconut fragrance before completing a challenging task experienced faster blood pressure recovery.

4. Laugh.

Laughter reduces stress by increasing your intake of oxygen-rich air. This additional oxygen stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, and produces endorphins. It also fires up and cools down your stress response, which can elicit a relaxed feeling.

Next time you need to calm down, pull up your favorite funny YouTube video or watch a few minutes of a comedy set, and allow your body to benefit from a good laugh.

5. Try progressive muscle relaxation.

Allow 15 minutes to reap the full benefits of this exercise -- but it will be worth the extra time. Progressive muscle relaxation is the practice of quickly tensing and relaxing each of the muscles in your body, one at a time.

It's been shown to lower blood pressure, decrease muscle tension, and promote a feeling of well-being, all while reducing fatigue and anxiety.

6. Have some honey.

Honey contains a high source of tryptophan, known to relax the body and mind. It's also rich in potassium, which fights stress hormones and relaxes the nervous system. Add it to your tea, spread it over toast, or down a spoonful of nature's nectar to reboot your system.

7. Try walking meditation.

Can't sit still long enough to meditate? Try this on-the-move variation. Be aware of each step you take, let your arms swing naturally from relaxed shoulders, and notice every sound and stimulant around you. Your mind will soothe, your body should relax, and you'll even get a little exercise.

8. Think outside.

While four minutes might not give you enough time to commune with nature, scientists at the University of Sussex recently found even listening to nature sounds helped subjects relax.

So, search for the sounds of a babbling brook or tropical rainforest on Spotify, and feel the physical effects of an afternoon outside -- even while jockeying for a seat on your commute home.

9. Hug your pet.

They lower stress hormones, bring down blood pressure, and some are even licensed in emotional support. They're our pets, and a snuggle or two is scientifically proven to help you relax. Don't have a pet of your own? Volunteer at a local shelter to get your furry fix.

10. Squeeze a stress ball.

Yep, stress balls aren't just for cool 90's offices anymore. They help you release tension and relieve stress by boosting blood circulation. Plus, they strengthen wrist and hand muscles reducing your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

11. Give yourself a self-massage.

Self-massage calms nerves, increases stamina and alertness, and promotes better, deeper sleep. Simply move your fingers in a circular motion around your head, joints, and the soles of your feet to feel the full effects.

12. Hydrate.

Even a small amount of dehydration can cause a spike in the stress hormone, cortisol. Give your body the water it needs -- approximately 2.4 liters every day -- and feel the positive changes as your body finds its balance once more.

13. Eat fermented foods.

Researchers at Cornell University recently found microbes like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, often found in fermented foods, influence brain health and reduce mild symptoms of anxiety and stress.

Take a quick snack break and grab another pickle, some kimchi, or probiotic-rich yogurt to get a healthy gut and a calm mind.

14. Breathe deeply.

We often think of "fight or flight" as a reaction triggered only by extreme situations. But compounding day-to-day events like traffic, work stress, or a fight with your significant other can elicit the same response. To calm your nervous system, take four minutes to breathe.

For best results, mindfully count to 10 as you inhale and count to the same number as you exhale, or close your eyes and inhale and exhale through your nostrils in an alternating pattern -- a yoga practice that can easily be done sitting at a desk or on a bench.

15. Flow for four minutes.

Don't have time to unwind at your local yoga studio? Pull up a video like the one below, and relax by giving your neck and shoulders a quick stretch.

16. Drink milk.

Warm milk contains tryptophan, which aids in the production of serotonin and induces feelings of pleasure and sleepiness. Not ready to hit the hay? Cold milk keeps drowsiness at bay while delivering the calming benefits of calcium.

17. Tap it out.

The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or "tapping," is the practice of tapping your fingertips on pressure points on top of the head, nose, chin, and collarbone, around the eyebrows and eyes, under the arm, and on the wrists. Tap each point five-to-seven times to relieve symptoms of anxiety and promote general well-being.

18. Carb up.

Carbohydrates release serotonin in your brain, which promotes a general sense of well-being. Actually, studies have found adults on a high-carb, low-fat diet are happier over time than those on a low-carb diet. When you're feeling stressed, reach for a bowl of whole grains like oatmeal or quinoa and nourish while you relax.

19. Splash cold water on your face.

Our mammalian reflexes kick into full gear when we splash cold water on our faces. Our heart rate decreases, more oxygen reaches the heart and brain, and the resulting feeling is one of relaxation.

20. Reach for the chocolate.

The serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine each bite of chocolate stimulates reduces stress levels in the brain and simply makes you happy!

Just make sure you're reaching for bars with 70% or higher cacao content. That go-to milk chocolate bar likely won't have the same effect on your mood.

21. Go barefoot.

Each of your feet contains 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Oh, and the soles of your feet have over 20,000 nerve endings. Researchers believe going barefoot keeps the information highway to your brain open and refreshed, so kick off your shoes, put your feet on the floor, and walk around to feel the full effects.

Want an added relaxation boost? Add a few drops of essential oils, like lavender or peppermint, into a foot bath and feel your body relax immediately.

13 Tips for Relaxing Your Mind

22. Find your Zen.

Zen gardens represent the soothing elements of nature. Also known as meditation gardens, they were first used centuries ago by Buddhists. Today, miniature garden boxes help anyone reduce stress and anxiety by promoting mindfulness and inner peace.

23. Write in a journal.

When the world deals you one punch after another, give expressive writing a try. A University of Texas, Austin study found students who wrote about personally traumatic life events or trivial topics regularly for six months visited their campus health centers less often and used fewer pain relievers.

So, silence your phone, pick up your pen, and write out what's bothering you to reduce stress and brighten your outlook.

24. Meditate.

Sales pro Mike Rogewitz says, "Thinking too much is what makes me a great sales professional. It's also why I can easily get hung up on negative experiences." To reduce stress, Rogewitz swears by mediation.

The meditation app Headspace makes it easy to plug in and get mindful for a few minutes every day. The result? Rogewitz explains, "Before meditation, I handled high-stress situations by leaving the office. Now, I can book a meeting room, plug into a 10-minute meditation, and walk out calm, collected, and ready to make more calls."

25. Make a happy list.

Set a timer for four minutes, and list the good things in your life. By switching your thoughts from negative to positive, you can actually rewire the brain for a better, calmer reaction to future stress.

26. Be mindful.

Scientific studies from the University of Massachusetts suggest mindfulness reduces stress and builds inner strength reducing the impact of future stressors on health and happiness. Give this quick mindfulness practice a go:

  1. Think of a challenge you're currently facing
  2. Notice the stress in your body
  3. Be curious and accepting of these feelings
  4. Place your hand on the location of these sensations
  5. Feel the sensation as you breathe
  6. Feel present and mindful in this moment

27. Turn off notifications.

Slack, email, and text notifications are a way of modern life. But these constant reminders of the people and tasks that need our attention can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety. Take four minutes to snooze Slack, delete unused apps, and disable push notifications. You'll feel lighter, less distracted, and more relaxed.

28. Purge your schedule.

A calendar packed with back-to-back meetings and social commitments is a one-way ticket to feeling overwhelmed and out of control. If your manager gives the O.K., delete all recurring meetings once a quarter. If they're important, the scheduler will send a fresh invite. If not, you've just won back a valuable chunk of time.

29. Doodle.

Doodling helps you recall information and calms your mind by allowing you to intently focus on one thing. Studies show doodlers are also more likely to daydream. So, set a timer for four minutes and let your mind free to create, wonder, and dream.

30. Create a "to-don't" list.

You know when something's causing your blood pressure to rise. Instead of giving in to frustration or anger, distract your mind with a "to-don't" list. Simply write down every reaction or habit you want to avoid in this moment, and wait for your feelings of annoyance to pass.

31. Listen to relaxing tunes.

A Stanford University study found listening to music changes brain function to the same extent as some medications. Native American, Celtic, Indian stringed-instruments, drums, and flutes are most effective at relaxing the mind.

Want to go for a one-two punch? Pair sounds of nature with light jazz or classical music.

32. Repeat a success mantra.

Simply repeating a mantra over a few minutes can help you feel less overwhelmed and more relaxed. Chant phrases like, "Breathe in, breathe out, move on," or "I've survived all the difficult decisions of my past," or create one that's unique to you.

33. Breathe essential oils.

Smells can trigger memories, emotions, and even affect our nervous systems. When we catch a scent, the olfactory nerve sends signals to your brain, including the limbic system and amygdala, which regulate emotion, mood, and memory.

Lavender, lemon, bergamot, jasmine, and grapefruit are scents that promote relaxation, sleep, and well-being. So, next time you need to relax, grab some essential oils, a scented candle, or the real thing, and take a deep breath.

34. Pick up the phone.

Researchers have found people who experience a negative event with a friend present feel better about themselves and have lower levels of stress hormone cortisol.

Your best friend might not be in the meeting room when your boss asks why you didn't hit your number this month, but they can offer support and encouragement when you pick up the phone on your way home.

35. Stay motivated.

Whether you have a Pinterest board packed with motivational quotes, a favorite book, or a go-to video that inspires -- have a motivation bank that helps you relax and remember why you sell.

HubSpot Director of Sales Dan Tyre recommends all salespeople keep a motivation board by their phones. He explains, "Whether they're making their eighth or eighteenth call of the day, a motivation board is a good reminder why they're picking up the phone again and again."

Stop the endless phone scroll, and avoid turning to hours of television as an escape from a stressful day. Instead, relax with a few of these strategies, and give your mind and body a quick reboot. To learn more, read our tips for how to stop worrying.

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