The Time-Crunched Guide to De-Stressing

Girl On A Bench Michal Zacharzewski

You’ve been in back-to-back meetings for what seems like two weeks. You can scroll through your unread messages on your BB for a full five minutes. And by the way, when was the last time you got your full eight hours a night?

Between work, the gym, whatever after-hours activities you can squeeze in, plus attempting to maintain your relationships—you’re running on fumes. And if one more item gets added to your to-do list, you might just collapse in a heap.

In our day-to-day lives, stress is unavoidable. But when it’s left unmanaged, it can wreak havoc on our bodies and our minds. So, when things get extra-crazy, that’s exactly when you need to stop, slow down, and de-stress.

I know, I know—you don’t have time. It’s not like you can breeze past your boss and inform him you’ll be at the day spa, or take a four-week-long holiday in Mauritius whenever you feel like it.

Whether you have five minutes in between meetings, or can spare a few hours, here are some quick and simple methods to bring some calm into your day.

If You Have 5 Minutes

A lot of us tend to pounce on our phones whenever we have a moment's quiet, but consciously doing nothing is a better way to unwind. Even if you only have a few minutes to decompress, you still can relax your mind and body with some simple techniques. If you’re at work, take a quick break from staring myopically at your screen to stand up, stretch, and take a few deep breaths.

Or, if you’re somewhere else (say, early for a meeting), close your eyes, pop in your headphones, and just take a minute to slow down.

Have a hard time sitting still? Do something totally mindless, like cleaning the receipts out of your purse.

If You Have 15 Minutes

When you have few more minutes—a break between meetings or time for a quick lunch—taking a short walk is a good way to clear your head, even if it’s just around your office building. Getting away from your current environment gives your mind something new to focus on, plus even a little bit of exercise provides endorphins that elevate your mood.

You can also take 15 minutes to call to a friend or family member (but beware of getting dragged into the latest family drama!), read a magazine, or scribble some thoughts down in a journal. Or, try something that requires even less energy, like browsing the shops without the intention of buying anything.

The key is to separate yourself from everything that’s wearing you down and find a moment of light-heartedness. Even a short escape from the grind can make you refreshed (and more productive) when you return.

If You Have an Hour

When I have a good chunk of time to myself, I sometimes feel obligated to use it to get other things done, like running errands or deleting and filing emails, but I’ve learned that the only way to use that time to truly reduce my stress level is to do something totally for me.

A yoga class or quick burst of exercise is a good method to calm your spinning head. Grab an ice cream or lunch date with a friend. You could also indulge in the total silence of a library, or find some calming retreat in one of the many churches in The City. Lots of them hold mindfulness sessions or lunchtime concerts that can be like a cool ocean breeze to a buzzing, stressed brain.

And sometimes, what you need most to decompress might just be sitting by yourself and people-watching while you let your mind slow down.