There are so many amazing self-care techniques out there, but not all of them are necessarily attainable because they can be too time-consuming. In today’s fast paced world where we value productivity and mental wellbeing, I thought it might be helpful to compile a list of my 5 favorite self-care activities that can be done in 5 minutes (or less):
1. Calming 5-second Breathing
Sit in a comfortable position (can sit with your legs crossed, on your heels, or in a chair), making sure your back is completely straight, your chin is slightly lifted, and your shoulders are down and back. You can also do this exercise standing or walking with the posture described above. Slowly inhale on the count of 5 through your nose expanding the air in your rib cage, hold your breath to the slow count of 5, and then slowly exhale all the air out through your mouth to the count of 5 (can make noise in your nostrils and out your mouth as you breathe in and out). Repeat at least 10 times and if it is helpful, you can close your eyes and set a timer so that you can allow yourself to fall into a meditative state. This is a great breathing practice to help slow down the heart rate that can be done anywhere - at work, at home, or to calm anxiety when waiting in a long line with tons of people at the supermarket.
2. Free Writing or Doodling
Take a few minutes to simply write down or draw whatever comes to mind, without regard to grammar, spelling, topic, or perfect artistry. Set a timer to 5 minutes so you are free to be entirely creative and expressive without any regard for a ticking clock. Free form writing or doodling sparks creativity, reduces self-criticism, and provides clarity and focus that you can bring to your work or any other activity throughout the day.
3. Listen to Music or Audio Book
You may not always have the time to dive deep into reading a book, but you can certainly put on Spotify when commuting on the train or walking to work to calm anxiety and re-energize for the day. I also love listening to Yoga with Adriene playlists on YouTube - just listening to her breathing exercises calms me down and unblocks creativity when I want to sit down to write (I’m actually listening to her right now ;-). Find whichever story or whoever’s voice resonates with you and have a ‘go-to’ on your phone whenever you need a quick stress reliever or ‘feel-good’ fix.
4. 1-minute Push-ups and Plank
Sometimes it just feels good to work out and release bottled up energy as opposed to standing or sitting still. Try a quick 1-minute strength exercise first thing in the morning of a series of push-ups for 15 seconds, holding plank pose for 30 seconds (can try advanced variations such as lifting opposite arms and legs), and then ending with more push-ups for 15 seconds (try different push-ups like keeping elbows in for toning triceps). Pay special attention to your breathing too, making sure it’s smooth, even, and consistent. You can of course add on more time and variations as you get stronger (and if time allows).
5. Express Gratitude
Take a minute or two to identify three specific things that you feel lucky to have in your life at this very moment (people, pets, and/or inanimate objects). You can write these down or simply identify them in your head and take a moment to internally thank them for positively adding to your life. If you are writing the three things down, write down why they make you happy and exactly what you want to say to give thanks. Gratitude practice can significantly decrease stress hormones like cortisol and even boost your immune system.
Hopefully these 5 tips will be useful for you even on your busiest days. Just one to five minutes a day of devoted, consistent self-care can have a huge positive impact on the rest of your day, your week, and ultimately, your life.