5 ways to relax in 5 minutes

Whether it's a petty problem like forgetting to pick up your favorite dress at the dry cleaner or something more seriously annoying like a cold you just can't shake, for all of us, it's more than easy to get swept up in the stress of our day-to-day lives. In times like this, what you need is a week of aromatherapy and massage, but what you'll settle for is five minutes of self-centered bliss. And really, it's not being selfish-in order to keep functioning as a top-notch mom, employee, wife, or friend you have to take time to refuel. Because honestly, if you're running on empty, how are you going to have anything to give? Here are five ways to replenish your energy reserves in less time than it takes to actually fill up your gas tank (and for a teeny fraction of the cost!).

Have a cup of tea.
You don't have to be British for this one. Put a kettle on and drop a bag of your favorite black tea in a proper ceramic cup (preferably painted with your favorite flower). You probably already know tea is loaded with antioxidants -- which never hurts -- but that's not what we're after here. Pausing for a cup of tea (or coffee or even a glass of V-8 -- whatever floats your boat) is a relaxing ritual you can include in your everyday life, no matter what drama is swirling around you. Wrap your hands around a warm cup, breathe in the steam, and for just a few moments you can enjoy a moment of peace.

Sing along to your theme song.
Sometimes when I'm plagued by needling nervousness and a wave of self-doubt, I listen to a little Maria von Trapp. Yes, a grown woman turns to "I Have Confidence" from "The Sound of Music" when she needs a little spring in her step. And the funny thing is, it works: just as faking a smile can make you feel genuinely happier, singing along with your favorite song (even if you don't feel like it) can do wonders for your mood. For the length of that song, you are not a mature adult, holding it together for others around you. You are a rock star, a smokin' hot cabaret singer atop a piano, or even an Austrian nun. So roll up the windows of the car and let it rip.

Breathe. If formal meditation seems too hippie-dippy for you, you're in luck. Just focusing on your breath can garner some of the same benefits. Wherever you are -- in the car, waiting in line at the post office -- take a long, slow breath in, relaxing your belly and completely filling up your lungs. Hold for a moment, and then slowly exhale. Repeat several times. Isn't it kind of amazing how this insta-therapy empties your mind of that running to-do list and calms your entire system? Bonus points: carry lavender oil in your purse, rub some between your fingers, and dab on your temples and earlobes beforehand.

Write it down. Sometimes the best thing you can do to quiet your mind is to directly confront it. Are you worried about a sick relative or how you're going to pay the heating bill? Take a few minutes and just write it down. List everything that's stressing you out and causing you concern. Just emptying the clutter in your brain will make you feel lighter, whether or not you have the time or energy to focus on solutions right now. You'll get to that soon enough -- but you can't address what's troubling you until you know exactly where that anxiety is coming from.

Stretch. You could probably give yourself a mini-yoga class if you know the postures, but you don't need to be a yogini to engage is some old-school gym class stretches. Stand up, and keeping your knees soft, fold at the waist and hang your head and arms loose towards the floor. Let gravity do the work of pulling you down. Then, stand up straight, clasp your hands behind your back and stretch your shoulders and upper back. Gently stretch your neck with slow, easy neck circles or by hanging your right ear towards your right shoulder, then left ear to left shoulder. If you're feeling especially tense, take a few moments to knead the muscles along the top of your shoulders.

So, what do you do to relax?

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