Need quick ways to relax and de-stress throughout the day?

by Kaiser Permanente |
Smiling woman looks at tablet in her home

If you’re feeling more stressed during these uncertain times, you’re not alone. Yet there are still ways to finds moments of relaxation in your everyday life. You can start by practicing mini relaxation techniques. These quick techniques can be done throughout the day — helping you to de-stress.

Here are a few techniques to try.

Tense and release

Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that can be used to control stress and anxiety. To practice this technique, you’ll need to tense up muscles in a certain area of your body for 15 seconds and then relax. You can start by clenching your toes and then work your way up your body section by section until you reach your head. Practicing progressive muscle relaxation is also a good way to check in with yourself and pay attention to any pain you may not have noticed before. And if something is causing you pain, talk to your doctor about it right away.

Express gratitude

Experiencing high levels of chronic stress, depression, anger, and hostility can negatively impact your health — including increasing your risk of having a stroke.1 Shifting our thoughts to more positive ones can help us redirect negativity before it can affect our mood and cause us harm. One easy way to do this is by reminding ourselves of the good things in our lives. Take a few moments every day to list out what you’re thankful for. It could be a loved one, the roof over your head, or a happy memory. This practice can help us focus on the positive parts of our daily lives.

Explore your happy place

Even if we’re stuck at home, we can still "take a trip" using our imagination. So when you’re feeling sick of being indoors, imagine a place that makes you feel safe, comfortable, and completely at peace. It could be a real-life memory or something you make up — like your own private lakeside cabin.

As you picture this place, try to get as detailed as possible. Imagine the scent of pine in the air or the sound of a kitten purring on your lap — whatever will help you feel calm and at ease. Take deep cleansing breaths while picturing every detail. After a few minutes, you’ll start to feel your tension melt away.

Take a break

When you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed, it’s OK to simply take a break — even if it’s for a few minutes. The key is to recognize when you need to step away. It’s easy to get so caught up in our work and routines that we forget to take time for ourselves. To ensure you’re making time for daily breaks, set an alarm or download an app.

And when you do get to take that break, try to use the time to completely reset. Avoid looking at your phone, reading, or watching TV. Instead, take this time to be in the present moment — and settle into a true state of rest and relaxation.

Do a 1-minute meditation

There are many health benefits to meditating. In fact, studies show that meditation can improve anxiety, depression, and pain, and may even help you sleep better.2,3

However, trying to meditate can be a challenge. Some people have trouble finding the time to meditate regularly. Others struggle to clear their minds or sit still for too long.

This is where the 1-minute meditation can help. Simply set a timer for 60 seconds and clear your mind by focusing on your breath or repeating a mantra. This micro meditation can help you quickly relax and reset.

Focus on your breath

There are several relaxation exercises you can do with your breath. You can:

  • Draw in a very deep breath from your stomach, filling your lungs from the bottom up. Once you can’t take in any more air, exhale by letting your breath out as slowly as possible.
  • Do a series of breaths where you breathe in to the count of 4, hold for 4 beats, and then exhale to the count of 4.
  • Observe yourself passively breathing in and out. Feel your breath going in and out through your nose and take note of how it feels as your lungs expand and contract.
  • Breathe in while saying "I am," and then breathe out with a positive statement like "at peace."

Looking for more ways to feel at ease?

Check out our mental health and wellness resources site for more tips, tools, and activities on how to manage stress.

"Chronic Stress, Depressive Symptoms, Anger, Hostility, and Risk of Stroke and Transient Ischemic Attack in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis," American Stroke Association, July 2014.

"Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis," JAMA Internal Medicine, March 2014.

"The Value of Mindfulness Meditation in the Treatment of Insomnia," Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine, November 2015.