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Instant Stress Relief for High-Pressure Moments


August 17, 2023

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could get instant stress relief to help you handle what’s in front of you? You may be surprised to learn that you actually can!

The tips I’m about to share with you aren’t a permanent fix for ongoing stress or anxiety. But they’re also not gimmicky tips – they’re backed by science. By putting these simple tactics and strategies into practice, you can calm your overwhelmed mind and relieve stress quickly. 

Keep an open mind as you give these techniques a try. I used to doubt the value of breathing exercises or calming meditation, but the number of times I’ve reached for both definitely proves they’re effective. Instant stress relief can happen if you give some tips a chance and listen to your body’s needs. 

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How to Relieve Stress Quickly

Remember, don’t knock it ’til you try it! Keep an open mind and give these tips a chance. They may seem simple, but they’re surprisingly effective. I used to doubt the value of breathing exercises or calming music, but the number of times I’ve reached for both definitely proves they’re effective. Instant stress relief can happen if you give some tips a chance and listen to your body’s needs.  

Deep Breathing Exercises

Let’s start with the simplest tip: breathing. Of course, you breathe all the time to survive. But this tip is about intentional, deep breathing. Inhaling and exhaling in a slow, deliberate manner does wonders for the mind and calms the fight or flight response. It allows for full oxygen exchange, and can instantly lower your heart rate and blood pressure, two things that rise when you’re stressed.

If you’d like a little structure for your breathing exercises, try box breathing. For each step in the box breathing process, use a slow count of four: Breathe in, hold, slowly exhale, hold. It can help to imagine drawing a box and creating a new line to the count of four with every step.

A 2023 study showed that just five minutes of structured breathing (including box breathing) enhanced mood and reduced stress.

Stay Present

There is a lot of mental work that goes into reducing stress quickly. One way to stay in the present is by engaging your senses. Take a moment to be with yourself in the here and now. Remember that you’re one person who can only do so much at a given time.

You can use the 5-4-3-2-1 technique to help you stay in the here and now. It’s simple! Just direct your focus toward naming:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can touch
  • 3 things you can hear
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste (even if it’s just your lingering coffee breath!)

When you are present, you stop focusing on past problems or future stressors. Being present frees you from feeling trapped and out of control. Staying present has been my number one goal lately, and it has helped me survive some stressful situations.

Create a To-Do List

When you have conflicting goals, you often feel overwhelmed, like there aren’t enough hours in the day. That drive to get it all done causes stress. Creating a to-do list can create instant stress relief, according to science. Research shows that when you make a plan, your brain temporarily suspends that stress-inducing drive to finish the task. 

Making lists gives your brain some clarity and organization. It allows you to stop thinking about everything at once, but instead prioritize what needs to get done right now. Writing out lists helps to determine the steps and actions needed to accomplish your tasks. When your tasks feel more manageable, that definitely makes for some instant stress relief!

Go For a Walk

Leaving the actual stressful environment to go for an outdoor walk puts a lot into perspective. You will immediately realize how much more there is to life than your stressful situation. The world keeps on going, and you don’t live in a bubble. This realization, as small as it may seem, significantly helps in giving you instant stress relief. 

Research shows that just a little exercise, like a brisk walk on your lunch break, can boost your energy levels. Walking outside in the sunlight can also boost serotonin levels and improve your mood and focus.

Related: Want Better Mental Health? Do This!

Guided Meditation

We live in a time where everything is at our fingertips, and this includes guided meditation. Headspace, for example, is a wonderful mobile app. They have dozens of guided meditations of different lengths. 

During a high-pressure moment, it is normal for your stress to increase. To decrease it, take just five minutes to listen to some guided meditation. You can use an app, but you’ll also find meditations on streaming audio and video platforms. Search out your favorites and add them to a playlist for stressful moments. Then close your eyes, plant your feet on the ground, and sink into the calming voice that is telling you exactly how to relieve stress quickly.

Related: How to Meditate: Tips for Finding Inner Calm

Why Being Mindful Is Important

Mindfulness for workplace stress relief is a powerful practice. The tips I’ve shared with you will be far more effective if, while you’re practicing them, you put a little mindfulness to work. When you focus hard on what you’re experiencing in the moment, anything that isn’t happening right here, right now slides to the background.

Giving stress relief your full attention is a gift you give to yourself. Chronic stress can be a silent killer! According to the American Psychological Association:

The long-term activation of the stress response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that come with it can disrupt almost all of your body’s processes. This can put you at increased risk for a variety of physical and mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, digestive issues, headaches, muscle tension and pain, heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, sleep problems, weight gain, and memory and concentration impairment.

How Stress Affects Your Health, American Psychological Association

Take good care of yourself, so you can lead a more relaxed life as you take care of others. I hope these 5 tips that have not only worked for me but many peers help you out too!  

Pooja Patel is a registered nurse of eight years with a master’s degree in nursing leadership. Her primary specialty is in women’s health. She has worked as a labor and delivery nurse, fertility nurse, and now a fertility nurse manager. She has also worked in corporate insurance and ambulatory care. Pooja started her wellness and lifestyle blog, Nurse Bestie, to help overwhelmed nurses conquer their stress and learn how to live a happy and healthy life. She’s passionate about being healthy and sharing all of its life-changing benefits for busy nurses.