“Palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy” are more than just lyrics to Eminem's Lose Yourself for people experiencing anxiety and distress. For some people, it's a daily reality.
The Yerkes-Dodson law, which maps the relationship between performance and arousal, indicates that a certain amount of stress is good for the body to increase attention and interest. However, it also indicates that too much stress or arousal can impair performance because of increased levels of perceived anxiety.
We are not hard-pressed to accumulate increasingly toxic levels of stress in the modern world. The quandary is finding ways to gradually adjust our daily levels of arousal or stress for our individualized optimal performance level.
So to help you achieve your optimal performance potential in a manageable amount of time, here are 5 simple 5-minute practices to calm the mind!
1. Hill Sprints
Stress is an automatic bodily response that prepares the physical body for any approaching danger. Trouble is that modern day dangers are less physical and often more mental and emotional, so we never release the tension and stress-induced flood of hormones from our physical body.
Any form of movement, like walking or dancing, will help release some of the anxiety we build up in our bodies. High intensity workouts like hill sprints allow you to get more bang for your buck. Practice by finding a small yet steep hill, sprint as far up (eventually training to make it to the top), gently walk back down the hill and repeat.
2. Walk Barefoot in a Green Space
Green spaces including grassy lawns or meadows are great places to walk around barefoot to soak up energy from the earth into your feet. In addition, research evidence supports a large improvement in mood and self-esteem within just five minutes of being in a green space.
3. Listen to Adele or “Weightless” by Marconi Union
While a little longer than five-minutes, Marconi Union released “Weightless,” an eight-minute long track created in collaboration with the British Academy of Sound Therapy in 2011. Tested by Mindlab Institution, a neuromarketing company, the song has been shown to induce a 65% reduction in overall anxiety and reduced listeners' heart rates.
In addition, Adele’s music is well-known for producing tears because of her use of appoggiaturas, which are grace notes that create tension in the melody. Returning from appoggiaturas relieves the tension and thus, relieving the listener.
4. Practice a Moon Flow or Chandra Namaskar
Chandra Namaskar, or Moon Flow, is the sister sequence to the infamous Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation. Moon Flow is a practice focused on quality of movement to calm the body, rather than specific points of breathing to ignite the internal fire.
While there are numerous variations of the practice, the flow generally has the practitioner moving around the mat in a circular motion bowing to the moon's lunar energy. Lunar energy is known to be soothing, refreshing, rejuvenating, and all around calming. This flow helps people feeling stressed out to find balance energy in the body and quiet the mind.
5. Practice Improv Techniques
Improvisation is a form of live theater where most or all of what is performed is made up or improvised in the moment. Some of the benefits of regularly practicing improv are increased and enhanced confidence, public speaking skills, creative-thinking abilities, decision-making skills, and listening and observation skills.
Many of the principles and techniques of improv can help calm the mind and reduce levels of anxiety. Two simple techniques known as "yes, and…" and "no, but…" are great ways to help reframe your life and keep you from blocking your potential success.
For example, “Yes, I am stressed that I cannot predict my entire future AND I can only focus on breathing for these next five-minutes.” Or, “No, I can't help you unpack on Monday because I have work, BUT I can help you clean your place on Sunday.” More examples of Improv Techniques include “Don’t Block” to help find ways to go with the flow and create transitions, or “Make Active Choices” aligns with the idea that getting moving and being mentally creative helps calm the mind.
Hopefully these simple 5-minute calming techniques will help you get your anxiety in check next time life starts to feel overwhelming. Let us know if any of these help you out and feel free to add any other suggestions in the comments section below!