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How to Combat Stress in 15 Minutes (or Less)

This post focuses on seven lightning-fast ways to reduce your stress. Within a few minutes you can reduce the tension you feel and manage your reactions to the stress-inducing events around you. Try one of these stress relievers the next time you need relief fast.

Although it would be next to impossible to eliminate it completely from modern life, we can learn to manage and control the stress we feel.

To do this, we must remember that situations on their own do not cause stress – stress is created based on our response to these events.

Sometimes we need complex stress management systems, and sometimes we just need a way to blow off stress quickly.

Stress ought to be a four-letter word, I often think. It can cause physical and emotional harm, derail our best intentions, and make us lose sight of our goals.

Ways to Control Stress Quickly:

  • Drink a big glass of water.
  • Meditate
  • Take a Few Long, Deep Breaths
  • Do a Brain Dump
  • Ask for Help
  • Get Moving
  • Use an Affirmation

The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines stress as:

a “feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous…Your body reacts to stress by releasing hormones. These hormones make your brain more alert, cause your muscles to tense, and increase your pulse.”

Stress is a normal feeling, and quite familiar to most of us.

Sometimes, it can be positive, as when it alerts you to danger or motivates you to meet an important deadline.

However, it can also have a negative impact on both your emotional and physical health. These instances are when you need to find a way to reduce the stress you are experiencing, in order to move forward with the actions you must take.

read about physical self-care for women over 50
peaceful seaside with sand and grasses, 7 lightning fast ways to reduce stress

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7 Speedy Stress Relievers for Adults

1. Drink a big glass of water.

Stress can cause dehydration.

This is due to increased fluid loss in your body from heavier breathing and higher heart rate. In addition, when you are stressed, there’s a good chance you are not eating and drinking a well-balanced diet (or anything, for that matter).

Dehydration also causes stress, as it can increase cortisol levels, headache, and fatigue.

It’s a vicious circle.

Although a big glass of H2O will not eliminate the sources of your stress, it can definitely alleviate some of the ways your body responds to your circumstances.

The stressors will continue, but your physical reaction to them will decrease.

If you find yourself in a high-stress situation, there’s a good possibility you haven’t kept up with your water consumption. You’ll benefit from both the hydration boost and the momentary break that drinking gives you. Drink up!

How long does it take: less than a minute

2. Meditate

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I’m a huge advocate of meditation in daily living.

Meditation is an excellent stress reliever and provides many other benefits as well.

When you are feeling overwhelmed, spending even a few minutes in meditation can restore your calm and inner peace.

Many people think meditation is a complex process, but it can be as simple as sitting comfortably, focusing your thoughts, and breathing slowly. This enables you to control both the physical and mental impact of the stress you are feeling.

A quick YouTube search will provide many guided meditations you can access immediately, some specifically designed for stress relief.

How long does it take: two to twenty minutes, depending on your level of experience. A shorter session is generally better for beginners who are still learning to focus.

woman in pink sweatshirt meditating, stress relievers for adults

3. Take a Few Long, Deep Breaths

If meditation is not your style, take a minute just to focus on your breath. It will have much the same effect. Bonus: you can do this anywhere, anytime!

Take several long, slow, deep breaths. Inhale and exhale as slowly and completely as you can.

box breathing  instructions.  breath in, hold, breath out, hold, each for a count of four.

Repeat the box breath several times, keeping your focus on your breathing.

This focus on the breath (and not the thing that’s stressing you out!) helps to calm you.

You will also increase your oxygen intake, counteracting the shallow breathing you have probably been doing unaware.

How long does it take: about two minutes

4. Do a Brain Dump

What is a brain dump?

Simply put, it is a way to take all the different responsibilities, activities, demands, and deadlines out of your head and put them into a document.

A brain dump is particularly effective if your stress is caused by having too many responsibilities and are losing track of things you need to do.

This technique can get quite complicated and time-consuming (although the more detailed it becomes, the more effectively it controls stress.)

In its most basic, quickest-acting form, a brain dump is a short exercise in writing down one big to-do list for your current situation.

Open a blank document on your computer (or use pen and paper, if you prefer). Write down everything – I mean everything – you have going on in your life right now.

Create one giant to-do list with every responsibility you can think of included.

Let this be a stream-of-consciousness exercise, and don’t get bogged down in the details of creating any sort of order. Just try to get everything in your head into a written form.

This process of writing things down will increase your feelings of control, thereby helping you to manage your stress.

After everything is in writing, you can choose what to do with it – sort by priority, add deadlines, cluster similar activities, etc.

The first step is the most urgent, however – get this information out of your head and into writing.

How long does it take: ten-fifteen minutes

“Get the important things right, and let the rest go.”

Christina Carbonell, co-founder of
woman lying on bed, writing in orange journal, stress relievers for adults

5. Ask for Help

This is both the simplest technique on this list and possibly the hardest one for most people to do.

In modern society, we often treat “having too much to do” as a positive quality and look down on those that reject or cannot handle the “busy-ness” of life.

This, unfortunately, tends to wear down on us eventually.

There is nothing, I repeat – NOTHING – wrong with asking for help when you are stressed.

Very often, people are more than willing to help out because they know just how you feel when you are overwhelmed. If you don’t ask for help, however, they may not realize that you need it, or what they can do to help you.

It can seem hard to ask, but remember – if the shoe was on the other foot, would you be willing to help out a friend, family member, or colleague that was feeling overwhelmed?

Ask for help when you need it.

How long does it take: about two minutes

6. Get Moving

Movement of any sort will reduce stress hormones and stimulate the production of endorphins, which together help foster relaxation.

  • Take a short, fast walk or run.
  • Dance to the most energetic song you know.
  • Blast out some jumping jacks.
  • Get on a bike and pedal your fastest.

Aim for a burst of energy release, the more intense, the better.

How long does it take: five minutes

woman dressed in black and white workout clothes jumping rope in a field, stress relievers for adults

7. Use an Affirmation

Affirmations are simple words or sentences that provide emotional support or encouragement when repeated consistently.

By speaking or writing an affirmation, you are changing your thoughts from limiting beliefs to empowering ones.

As a result, you take control of your response to the situations around you.

How do you use an affirmation?

Start by choosing one of the statements below that speak best to how you want to feel.

Stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eye, and repeat the affirmation several times.

Alternatively, you can write it down.

Either way, repeat at least ten times or until you begin to believe and trust in the affirmation.

Choose Your Affirmation:

  • Everything is going to be okay.
  • I have the power to manage my stress.
  • I choose to respond to situations from a peaceful place.
  • The end result is worth the stress I am currently feeling.
  • I can manage my stress by moving forward.

How long does it take: about two minutes

Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.

Gigi Goldman

Read More About Managing Stress:

Final Thoughts on Speedy Stress Relievers for Adults

Any one of these stress-busters on its own will help control stress, but combining two or more would be even more effective.

Personally, I always start with a big glass of water and then move on to one of the other techniques.

My favorite is the brain dump because it gives me the greatest sense of control.

Which of these stress busters works the best for you?

18 thoughts on “How to Combat Stress in 15 Minutes (or Less)”

  1. I will give these ideas a try! I have done some of them before, but perhaps being more “intentional” about them may help. (Time to finish my glass of water now!)

    1. Drinking water is the FASTEST stress-reliever on my list. So, good for you for downing that glass! I hope you do give these ideas a try, I think you will find they really do work! See which are best for you and your particular situation. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. It is appreciated!

  2. I’ve been using affirmations for a while now, but never think to do so when feeling stressed, I need to try it! I love the examples you give as well, thank you so much!

    1. “I am relaxed and calm.” “I am releasing my stress.” “I surrender my need for control.” Depending on the cause of the stress, those are just three examples of affirmations that can help reduce it. Thanks so much for reading!

  3. A helpful reminder to us all! 2020 have been a lot stressful and it’s great to calm down and rewind a bit, even if its for 5 minutes. And this post sounds just like the five love language between partners or any relationships!

  4. Thanks for this post! I have chronic stress due to a chronic disease, and I am so open to all the different ways people find to destress. All of your ways are so good, and I’ll be sure to implenement them! Thanks!!!

    1. I am sorry to hear that you have chronic stress, Sara, but I’m glad you are open to exploring different options that will help you with it. There is no one size fits all, and no one method works for every kind of stress for one person. Thanks for reading and commenting and let me know which of my techniques works best for you!

  5. I love to to do a good brain dump. and goo point on hydration! All your tips are great. Deep breathing and tellin myself it is not as bad or whatever helps so much. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I love these tips for stress reduction! I never thought of the connection between dehydration and stress. I know my appetite decreases with stress but never thought about the lack of fluids! I also love mediation for stress relief. I often do mediation throughout the week but doing a quick body scan mediation is a great way to reduce stress!

    1. Thanks for reading, Darla. Yes, probably 3/4 of us are dehydrated and it causes all sorts of problems – large and small, including reducing our stress tolerance. And you might not actually be hungry when you are stressed – just thirsty!


    1. Writing things down is SO helpful, and is a crucial step in reducing stress. This is because your mind is able to release it’s hold on all of those “to-do’s” because it knows they won’t be forgotten! Just a couple of nights ago I was tossing and turning. Finally, I got out of bed, took 10 minutes for a brain dump – and went right back to bed and fell asleep instantly. So effective! Thanks for reading, Amie!

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