5-minute stress busters

Getty ImagesGetty ImagesBy Allison Avery

Let's be honest: Sometimes a day at work is just no fun, and the stress starts to take its toll. Your heart races, you break out in hives or a sweat, or you have a headache from all that silent screaming. Next time, try to head off that stress attack with these calming tricks from Kathleen Hall, PhD, founder and CEO of The Stress Institute.

Serenity break
Take time to tune out. Listen to your favorite music (bonus points if you have an office that allows you to sing or hum along, which increases the calming benefits). Trigger your own slide show of favorite photos. Some people also find that it's very soothing to meditate, practice relaxed breathing, or repeat a mantra, such as "All is well in my life," Hall says. If all else fails, dab calming lavender aromatherapy oil on your pulse points.

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The best medicine
Remember the time you laughed so hard with your best friend that you almost peed your pants? Stop what you're doing for a few minutes and relive a moment like that in your mind. Or, if you've had a less-than-comedic life lately, get your giggles at a joke Web site like or watch a Web cam at a doggy day care center.

Make a connection
With everything you have going on in your superbusy life, chances are you don't take time to stay in touch with your friends as well as you should. Schedule a few minutes to e-mail a pal and update her on your life. The act of feeling connected to someone will instantly calm you when the going gets rough.

Release endorphins
Keep some five- or eight-pound weights under your desk, so you can do some light lifting when things start to get heavy at work. Or try our at-your-desk stretches.

Write it down
Journaling is a great way to not only get those negative emotions out but also disconnect for a few minutes, Hall says. Your journal can be anything you want-typed or hand-written, or even drawn.

Sleep on it
The Spanish have reaped the benefits of midday siestas for years. Now it's your turn. "Recent research has found that napping may reduce your risk of death from heart attack and increase productivity, alertness, and concentration," says William Anthony, PhD, a psychologist and researcher at Boston University and author of The Art of Napping at Work. Even if your office doesn't encourage midday snoozing (yes, some enlightened employers offer napping rooms), close your door, slip on an eye mask, and put your head on your desk for five or ten minutes. "Nobel Prize winners, presidents, top scientists, and athletes all nap," according to Anthony, whose survey of several thousand people found that 70 percent nap on the job (though 70 percent of those people do it on the sly).

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Change your mind
Take a mental break with a game of solitaire or sudoku. "Play can be very powerful," Hall says, "because it can take your mind off of work."

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Time for tea
Skip your Starbucks run and have a cup of tea when you find yourself in a 4 p.m. tizzy or slump. Every time we turn around, there's another report that black, white, and green teas can do everything from warding off cancer and heart disease to boosting metabolism.