16 Ways To Cope With Heavy Stress When You Only Have A Few Minutes
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Health and Wellness

16 Ways To Cope With Heavy Stress When You Only Have A Few Minutes

1. Squeeze some ice cubes.

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16 Ways To Cope With Heavy Stress When You Only Have A Few Minutes

Maybe you've just experienced an awful breakup. Maybe midterms and deadlines are stressing you out or even causing a breakdown. Maybe you've just lost a loved one.

When stress gets to you or when you experience a traumatic event, it's really easy to inadvertently make things worse by neglecting your physical or emotional self, or even actively making things worse. And the problem with sadness or depression is that the things that would help (like working out) we often don't have the energy to do because—surprise surprise—we're depressed.

When I'm caught in a funk or genuinely struggling with depression or grief, here's what's helped me. And best of all: everything can be done in five minutes or less.

​1. Squeeze some ice cubes. 

(2mn) If you're in extreme emotional pain and need something RIGHT NOW—go to your freezer, get out two ice cubes, and squeeze them in both hands. It takes two minutes or less. My therapist gave me this hack, saying that it tricks your body into giving it the physiological responses that you broke through the ice and are drowning.

There's no space for existential despair when your body thinks it's dying and moves instantly to survival mode. Regardless of the reason—IT WORKS. The times I've been crying inconsolably, this snapped me out of it enough to get a breath of air and realize these feelings are temporal.

(This hack alone is worth this entire article. Try it when your mind is in pain. It works.)

2. Heed your physical health.

Check in with yourself for five minutes or less. Is your sadness being worsened or even caused by something off with your body or physiological sensations? (We all know how being hangry can make us irrational.) Even if the sadness is purely emotional, you can literally make yourself feel happier by addressing physical factors, such as the ones below.

3. Water is life. 

This only takes one minute or less! Drink a glass of water. Dehydration actually makes you more sensitive to pain, retains toxins in your body, and prevents nutrients from being absorbed. A glass of water will never hurt and may always help.

4. "One cannot think well if one has not dined well."  - Virginia Woolf 

Eat something. ANYTHING is better than nothing. Something healthy is preferable. It can be small: a piece of cheese, an apple, a food bar. If you don't have the energy to make a sandwich, just eat the meat and cheese. If you don't the energy to bake a potato, put it in the microwave. It's so easy to not eat when you're hurting or stressed, but your body will feel worse: low blood sugar can actually make you more depressed and sad. Eat something.

5. Move your body. 

Put in earbuds with a jaunty tune and go on a 3mn brisk walk. Step outside or into your living room and stretch. Turn up some music and just dance by yourself in your room. If you're sad or depressed, the idea of going to the gym or carving out forty-five minutes for a full exercise routine might feel too overwhelming. So just do something that moves your body and gets those endorphins going. 1 pushup is better than no pushup. Maybe you can't do a 30mn yoga routine, but you can hold downward dog for 30sc.

6. Take a Nordic shower. 

Take a really hot shower. A hot shower can raise your oxytocin levels, lower stress, and soothe you. If you can stand it, blast yourself with cold water at the end—following a hot shower with a cold shower will shock your system with alertness, relieve depression, and improve your mood. It works very much like the ice cube hack above: it's difficult to feel sad with such an intense physiologically shocking experience!

7. And then, take deep breaths. 

(1mn+) Breathe in for eight seconds, hold for eight, breathe out for eight. Or do four-four-four. Deep breathing actually helps relieve pain, increases your energy, and relaxes your body and mind. Even just thirty seconds of mindful breathing can help calm a racing mind.

8. Take care of your emotional health. 

Now is the time to check in with your heart and soul, not just your body.

9. Cuddles, cuddles, cuddles! 

(Okay this could go under the physical aspect, but it's so emotionally uplifting I put it here.) Reach out to a friend and ask if they want to watch a movie and cuddle. If you feel uncomfortable asking for a cuddle, ask a friend for a hug—text them and straight up ask, or ask them out for tea and get a hug as a benefit. Honestly, when I've been really awfully sad I've even asked complete strangers for hugs and many of them have obliged. Trust the kindness of your friends.

10. Remember that this too shall pass. 

Sit down cross-legged and repeat to yourself: this too shall pass. Maybe today is really really bad. Maybe tomorrow will be better. Even when things seem permanent, remember times in your life that things seemed permanent then too…and now they've changed. This too shall pass.

11. Think of someone else. 

Force yourself out of your head for a minute and be kind to someone else. Ask the cashier about his day and actually listen, smile genuinely at a person, text a friend how much you appreciate them. Tell your mom or sister you love them; when someone holds open a door for you or gives you your coffee, make eye contact with a smile and say, "Thank you"; give a friend a genuine compliment. Helping someone else can have a stronger effect than exercising four times a week! Making someone else happy also just makes you happy.

12. Distraction works wonders. 

Get out of your head by distracting yourself—go for a walk, get out of the house, call a friend—even go see a movie. Most things on this list would work great for a distraction. There will be a time to deal with sad feelings—but maybe now is not that time. If you're just wrapped up in sadness, getting away from it for a bit might give you perspective or help you work through it later.

13. Accept where you're at. 

Sometimes what you need, though, is to acknowledge how you're feeling. I've found great comfort in acknowledging and accepting my feelings: "right now I'm really sad—and that's okay." Sometimes repression or suppression of your negative feelings will make it worse. This is part of being human: we have feelings that make us feel happy, and feelings that make us feel sad. Two sides of the same coin. Sometimes accepting where you're at helps. Sit down, center yourself, and name each negative feeling you have: sadness, anger, jealousy, the whole shebang. As you name each one, tell yourself it's okay to feel these things.

14. Find a mantra. 

(5mn) Sounds super cheesy, but this is just a short saying you can tell yourself that helps. I shared mine above: I acknowledge the feeling ("I'm sad/ etc") and say, "and that's okay." Maybe yours will be, "this too shall pass," "just make it through today," "breathe in, breathe out". It doesn't have to be a fancy philosophical mantra: it just has to be something that helps you.

15. Take it day by day.

One of my friends told me that in her darkest state when she was struggling with wanting to end her life, her therapist told her that if she decided that's what she wanted, she could always do that tomorrow. Let's commit to getting through today. Tomorrow's always there. Let's focus on today. And when tomorrow becomes today—just get through that today. One day at a time.

In the worst times of depression and grief, getting through an entire week—let alone a lifetime—can feel too overwhelming. You don't have to get through your entire lifetime now. This too shall pass, assuredly, but maybe you don't believe that right now, maybe you think this is going to be the rest of your life—and that's okay. You don't have to get through your whole lifetime right now. Just today.

16. Breathe.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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