Despite the portrayal of remote work as a sweat-pants-wearing, ability-to-do-whatever you want bliss, the reality is starkly different. As a remote worker, you have to put up with constant distractions, achieve a work-life balance, and manage your time efficiently. As a result, you may have more stress than you realize — even in comparison to an office worker. Yet time is still of the essence. You can’t necessarily call it a day at noon just because you’re stressed. Instead, you must find ways to reduce stress, optimally in five minutes or less. Not only will such techniques allow you to stay on task, but you’ll remain mentally prepared for the rest of the day.
1. Make a Cup of Tea
There’s something relaxing about a warm cup of tea. It’s warm and calming and the smell can help you relax. If anything, preparing a cup of tea forces you to take a timeout and focus on yourself. After a few deep breaths and a little warm tea, you’ll be ready to get back to work.
So why does tea help you relax? It’s one part mental and one part nutrition. Drinking tea has been a part of various cultures for thousands of years. It’s not only nutritious, but the making of the tea is somewhat ritualistic. Everyone likes their tea a certain way and preparing, smelling, and enjoying it can be a soothing experience in itself. From a nutritional standpoint, most teas contain theanine — an amino acid that’s been linked to elevated mood and increased relaxation. Tie the two together, and a cup of tea is sure to cure what ails you, both mentally and physically.
Meditation has been linked to numerous benefits, acting as a destressor and reducing anxiety. The best part is that you can meditate just about anywhere without noise or distraction. Just put your head back, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing for a few minutes. Things will be a little clearer after you open your eyes.
Furthermore, meditation offers a number of other benefits to a remote worker in addition to stress relief. The list of perks includes:
- Enhanced focus and attention span
- Improved brain health and emotional health
- Pain reduction
With multiple advantages, meditation is perhaps the most all-encompassing and holistic approach of any of the ways to reduce stress.
3. Purchase a Stress Ball
Do you know those squishy balls that come in multiple shapes and colors? They are designed to fit in your hand so you can squeeze it and reduce stress. There’s something about squeezing a stress ball that really works to relax you. Maybe it’s the act of focusing on tensing and releasing your muscles, or maybe it’s just focusing on something else for a few minutes. Consider giving it a try, especially if you’re someone with a touching fixation.
4. Stretching or Yoga
Stress isn’t just a mental state; you carry stress in your body. If you’ve ever had a massage, the massage therapist can almost instantly tell where you hold your stress, although it’s different for each person. But you don’t have to schedule a $100 massage to get the benefits of reducing stress physically or mentally. Instead, turn to stretching or yoga.
Through stretching or yoga, you can relieve the muscle tension that’s often associated with stress. Both of these activities can reduce overstimulation in the mind, which is one of the biggest causes of stress. If you’ve never done yoga, a five-minute session is a great way to start, or you can split the short time between stretches and yoga. With a bit of determination, you can combine both practices into a five-minute exercise that will push the stress out of both mind and body.
5. Listen to Music
Music has a profound effect on both your mental and emotional state. While up-tempo music is ideal for working out or getting ready for a sporting event, certain beats, tempos, and musical keys have been associated with a marked reduction in stress and boost in relaxation.
A University of Nevada at Reno study showed that stress reduction with music is most common at a tempo of 60 bpm (beats per minute). The reason is that this bpm synchs up with alpha brainwaves that are present when a person is relaxed. So instead of shredding on Metallica or dancing to Cardi B, you should stick to this moderate tempo. Some examples of 60 bpm tempos include:
- The Tokens – The Lion Sleeps Tonight (think “The Lion King” or “Friends”)
- Elton John – I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues
- Lynyrd Skynyrd – Simple Man
- Fleetwood Mac – Landslide
- The Dave Brubeck Quarter – Take Five
- Almost every Frank Ocean song
If these songs aren’t aligned with your musical tastes, you almost assuredly can find something that’s close to 60 bpm. If not, just find a tune that soothes you and takes your mind off work and personal matters. Because music is completely subjective, you know exactly what helps you relax. Throw on a song or two, get your bearings, and your stress will hopefully be gone.
6. Take a Short Walk
You don’t have to hit the weight room or do a hardcore workout to get rid of the stress. Sometimes, even a tiny bit of exercise is conducive to reducing your stress levels. A short, five-minute walk is ideal. Getting outside, breathing in some fresh air, and enjoying the ability to go outdoors when office workers can’t should help you reduce your stress levels.
It’s also a way to take a break from indoors. According to numerous studies, staying inside for too long can have adverse effects on your mood and mental health. Not only does it lead to increased anxiety, but it can also cause negative fluctuations in your eating habits, sleep schedule, and other aspects of your daily life. If you can take five minutes a day to destress, you might not find a better way than getting some fresh air.
7. Talk to a Friend or Co-worker
Friends are great stress relievers. If you’re having a rough day, consider giving one a call. The conversation doesn’t have to be a long one; you can set a timer for five minutes. A lighthearted chat with a friend is sure to lighten your stress load. If you’re worried about the conversation taking too much time away from work, start off the talk by saying that you don’t have a lot of time but want to schedule a lunch date.
Virtual talks with co-workers are also a great outlet for relieving stress. If you’re working on the same project, a bit of banter about other aspects of your life will help you focus on something else, even if it’s only for five minutes. Find common interests, talk about what’s going on in each other’s lives, or discuss what it’s like to be remote workers in completely different time zones. It’s one of the best ways to reduce stress, especially if the other person can relate to your virtual work situation.
8. Chew Some Gum
You may chew gum as a way to alleviate bad breath, but studies have shown that chewing a big wad of bubble gum can actually help you destress. In the study, a vast majority of subjects reported a lower stress response. So whether you love Juicy Fruit or a stick of Wrigley’s spearmint, you may find that flavor and motion provides you with a reduction in anxiety.
9. Buy Some Essential Oils
The essential oils business is booming thanks to discoveries that aromatherapy is highly effective at reducing anxiety and stress. By breathing in these scents, you can holistically balance mind, body, and soul. Some of the best stress-reducing scents for aromatherapy include:
- Orange blossom
With so many essential oil options, you can conduct some trial and error to see what works for you as far as stress reduction and your olfactory senses.
10. Plan a Fun Activity for Later
Humans, and animals in general, thrive on a rewards-based system. Much like Pavlov’s dog, the excitement of a satisfying activity can help you get stimulated for the task at hand. In this same vein, scheduling or planning a fun activity after work can help you destress and actually put a jolt in your productivity. When you have something you’re excited about, you kick your work into overdrive without the added stress. If you can complete your tasks for the day, you’re free to do whatever you want for the rest of the day. So if all else fails, go golfing, set up a happy hour, or prepare snacks to watch your favorite show. The results will speak for themselves.
Destress Your Way to Productivity
One of the most common misconceptions of remote work is that you’re resigned to your desk for the entire day or you’re stealing time from your employer. But think about how many breaks an office worker takes during the day. Smoke breaks, water cooler talk, or even chatting with a cubicle partner can all detract from work, but are readily accepted in the workplace. Though you may not have these social outlets at home, taking a few minutes to destress and recharge your internal batteries shouldn’t be frowned upon by you or your employer. Take advantage of the opportunity to relax for five minutes. Your improved mental state will improve productivity and make you a better worker in the long run.
Do you have ways to reduce stress in five minutes or less? Does the process come naturally or do you have to work on it over time? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts and tips. We’d love to hear from you!
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Updated based on original content from Sarah Rivkind from an April 7, 2014, article.