5 Easy Ways to Reduce Anxiety and Stress in 2 Minutes
I wake up every morning expecting the day to be amazing. It’s a new day, and there is something refreshing about that. Like the stress of yesterday is washed away while you sleep. Inevitably, though, by mid-morning, the anxiety and stress begin to creep into my mind. At least, it used to. Then, I discovered that by including three effective habits, I could reduce my stress and anxiety almost immediately. Hang out with me for a minute, or two.
READING FOR 2 MINTUES WILL ALTER YOUR PERSPECTIVE.
I begin each day reading. It doesn’t matter what you read as long as it is a book. Not social media, not a newspaper, and definitely not closed captions on the television. Open a book and read for two minutes. Set a timer, open the book, take a sip of coffee or tea, and read.
Our brains are hard wired to take in information. Whether you are aware of the cue or not, your eyes, ears, nose, and brain are responding to those cues all day long. Reading will focus your mind on a topic of your choosing, creating new connections, and effectively reducing your response to negative stimuli.
Consider the last time you read a really good book, article, or recipe. That feeling of joy, curiosity, or even distraction allows your brain the exercise it needs to recognize fulfillment and relaxation. “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”—Joseph Addison If we want to train our minds to focus on what we choose and reduce the amount of time it wanders into the scary unknown, we need to actively practice focusing.
Some of you may be avid readers, so two minutes seems pointless. However, even the most proficient readers feel stress and anxiety from time to time. When your body cues the stress hormone, cortisol, learn to recognize the hot flashes, increased heart rate, or inability to focus, and open a book for 2 minutes. With access to books on our phones, this is easier than ever before.
One in five adults are reported to suffer from some form of mental illness in their lifetime. Reading, fiction especially, allows your mind to enter a state of altered consciousness. It literally allows your imagination to take over, reducing stress and anxiety. A word of caution: reading on an electronic device will expose you to blue light—a known perpetrator of anxiety and sleeplessness.
Either read an old fashioned book (libraries are still full of them), or consider blue light blockers. Find a quiet spot, turn on adequate lighting, and dive in to a good book for at least 2 minutes. Practice this each time you begin to feel anxious before bed or after waking. I find that personal development books, devotionals, and the Bible are the most effective at changing my mood. I can always get lost in a good piece of fiction too!
Ultimately, the goal is to train our brain to recognize the cause of the stress and anxiety, and then use an effective and healthy tool, reading, to quickly reduce the stress. It’s hard to be anxious while reading a good book!
WRITING FOR 2 MINUTES ALLOWS YOU TO PROCESS PROBLEMS AND FIND SOLUTIONS.
After my morning reading, I jump right in to journaling. This wasn’t always the case, and it definitely took practice. I began writing 2 minutes at a time. What I found, was that taking two minutes to brain dump freed my mind to focus on finding solutions to my stress and anxiety.
Basically, I write whatever I want to for two minutes. I let it all out as if it were my best friend and we were sharing a glass of wine. I put every negative, positive, and ludicrous thought down on paper. For two minutes, my pen doesn’t stop. It’s ridiculously therapeutic.
Our brains are hard wired to take in information. Yes, I’m repeating myself because it matters. The stimuli you interpret is based on your own neurosis. I don’t mean that negatively, but you should know that perception is largely affected by experience. That girl at work didn’t sneer at you. She was having a bad day. But because you are insecure, you saw her staring towards you with a dirty look and thought she was directing it at you.
See? Neurosis. Our fears, failures, self-perception, desires, passions, all play in to how we interpret the world around us. That leads to excess stress and anxiety when we aren’t processing the lies in order to find the solution: the truth. Writing allows us to see in print the reality of our thoughts.
Gratitude journaling is great. I value it. I do it. I love it. But, I also feel that we need to acknowledge the ugly and the hard in order to find negative patterns in our thoughts. If we don’t sit with it, write it down, re-read it, then we will struggle to find the gratitude. It is easier to believe the lie than to fight for the truth.
Now, the good news is that you are officially invited to go shopping! You now need some good books and a new journal, new pens, and maybe even a good book light. I’ve shared some of my favorites here.
MOVING YOUR BODY FOR 2 MINUTES RELEASES ENDORPHINS FOR POSITIVITY.
Okay, I know you must be thinking, seriously? You want me to exercise for 2 minutes? Yes. Yes I do. Because 2 minutes of committed movement is a start. As time goes on, feel free to increase that to twenty minutes, but can you commit to 2 minutes for now?
Endorphines occur naturally in our body and release stress and anxious feelings by helping the nervous system cope. There are many ways to help your body release endorphins, and I recommend several. Adding in essential oils like Motivate blend can support your body as it prepares to move by allowing the release of endorphins to happen more rapidly.
Are you the type to go big or stay home? I used to be. I honestly didn’t think there was any point in moving if I couldn’t commit to an hour or at least thirty minutes. What ended up happening was that I didn’t move at all—at least not for the purpose of raising my heart rate. But, when I made a promise that I would move for two minutes a day, I followed through.
In two minutes of purposeful movement, your body’s central nervous system begins to release hormones, endorphins, and there is no better way to combat anxiety and stress. To be clear, stretching, yoga, and low impact movement or even dancing can be effective ways to get your heart rate elevated just enough to do the trick.
When I am feeling most anxious, and I feel like I can’t take a deep breath, I like to really elevate my heart rate by doing some cardio. Jumping jacks, running in place, a brisk walk, or even kickboxing are great ways to quickly elevate your heart rate. You’ll find, like me, that you naturally begin to breathe deeply, allowing the stress to melt away.
Consider how many times a day you are stressed or feel anxious. If you did a 2 minute movement each time, that adds up! Wake up and read for two minutes. Then write for two minutes. Stand up and move for two minutes. In under five minutes, you have started your day better Than the day before.
SPEND 2 MINUTES IN GRATITUDE, PRAYER, OR MEDITATION TO ALIGN YOUR BODY AND MIND.
I’ve personally never understood how people can sit for twenty minutes in one position, not moving, not speaking, and meditate. It’s just not for me. I am a mover and think better when I’m active. That said, I have come to appreciate sitting with my thoughts and prayers for a few minutes throughout the day.
After I read, journal, and move, spending time in gratitude and prayer is how I align my body and mind. This practice takes less than five minutes, but it has the biggest impact on my day. Meditation has long been practiced by cultures throughout the world. It’s simply focusing on a thought or mantra and working to eliminate invading thoughts and outside distractions.
In a word, the goal is to learn how to shut out the world and focus entirely on how your body feels while training your mind to focus on a positive feeling or idea. The healing benefits of this practice are physical as well as emotional and mental. I like guided meditation through an app called Soul Space. It is scripture based and allows me to focus on God’s word.
For some, even two minutes of mediation or prayer can seem like an eternity. Our bodies hum with vibrations as we sit and try to be completely still. And silence can be deafening. So start with twenty seconds, then a minute. Work your way up, or use a guided meditation and set your timer for two minutes.
Using essential oils like Frankincense, Align, Arise, or Anchor during meditation can help your body and mind find synchronicity and connect faster and more deeply. I like to have one of these oils diffusing or placed on my forehead, heart, and stomach while I breathe in the rich aroma. It is helpful in reducing stress, anxiety, and increases focus and productivity.
The next time you are sitting at your desk feeling overwhelmed, try grabbing a couple of minutes of gratitude journaling, prayer, or meditation. That two minutes will help you get back on track in a more focused and intentional way.
DEEP BREATHING FOR 2 MINTUES DECREASES CORTOSOL LEVELS AND REDUCES TENSION.
My uncle has a theory about eating and our breathing. He says that the first time you “sigh” you are showing appreciation for the meal. The second “sigh” is a warning that you are feeling full. The third “sigh” is too far. It’s funny, but oddly true!
Have you ever noticed that your breathing changes when you are stressed or feeling tense? Rather than taking deep breaths through the belly, a stressed person will take more frequent, shallow breaths. It can even lead to increased heart rate and panic attacks.
Taking a deep breath signals our brain that everything is okay. It lowers our heart rate, opens our mind to process the threat, and allows us to begin calming down. One of my favorite breathing techniques is a 2 minute repetition of 4-4-4.
Breathe in for a count of 4. Hold for a count of 4. Release for a count of 4. Hold for a count of 4. Repeat. During this process, be sure you are breathing from your belly. Your chest should not be moving much at all. Repeat this process for a total of 8 times.
Go ahead. Try it now and feel the difference. Do you notice that your shoulders relax about halfway through? Your eyes close almost without you recognizing it? When your eyes open, and you take the next breath, it is deeper, more relaxed, and your mind is now focused.
Our bodies and minds are often so connected that we fail to identify where the stress and anxiety are coming from. When you feel stress, your mind registers it as a threat, and your body immediately picks up on the cues. However, it could be that your back begins to hurt, or your neck and shoulders feel tight, or maybe even your digestive system is over/under active.
Our bodies were created to work in tandem with the stimuli and cues we observe and process. It is how we know to run when we are being chased by a predator. Due to the increased stress and pressure of our work, our home lives, relationships, and even our own fears, we have become over stimulated and push ourselves to the breaking point.
IT DOESN’T MATTER WHERE YOU BEGIN, AS LONG AS YOU START SOMEWERE.
I used to watch people, co-workers, and observe how they handled situations that caused me stress and anxiety. It always amazed me how my husband, for example, could walk into our home filled with toys, dirty dishes, and laundry piled up without batting an eye.
His perspective was that our home was perfectly imperfect. The noise, the kids messes, the dirty dishes I hadn’t washed were all signs of a well lived life. I, on the other hand, looked at the same scenario and felt inadequate, overwhelmed, and completely anxious.
When I was in the classroom, I worked closely with my co-teachers. Three out of four of us would struggle to reach a particular student, which caused stress, and when things at home were busy and we were overwhelmed with our other tasks, it seemed like there just wasn’t enough chocolate to go around. So, we would sit and vent, and then start the process of solving the problem with the student.
Stress is part of life. It is our way of improving ourselves, learning, and growing. Those things are hard work! Rather than trying to be perfect at everything all the time, what if you took two minutes to find perspective, positivity, and productive ways to cope?