Health & Wellness

3 Instant Relaxation Techniques that Work

Let’s face it; life can be stressful. Sometimes, it can feel like we don’t even have 10 minutes to spare. Even if you know all the Stress Management skills, sometimes one just needs a quick break from the stresses of a busy day—in the middle of the day. At these times, instant relaxation techniques can serve as lifesavers. These mini-relaxation techniques are powerful stress-busters that you can reach for anytime. Whether you’re preparing for an important meeting, stuck in traffic, or in the middle of an uncomfortable situation—these exercises can be a fast and effective tool to help you achieve instant relaxation so that you can confidently face the stresses of the day. So go ahead—take some time to try them all to see which ones work best for you.

Have 15 minutes to spare? Try a full relaxation technique for a total de-stressing experience.

Instant Relaxation Techniques

– 1 –
Breathing for Instant Relaxation


These techniques counteract the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.

Technique #1: Deep Breathing

 Time Needed: 30 seconds

How to do it:

  1. Sit back in a comfortable position.
  2. Place one hand on your belly, so you can feel it rise and fall with each breath.
  3. Breathe in slowly through your nose.
  4. Hold the air within your lungs for 5 seconds.
  5. Pucker your lips, and slowly exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds.
  6. Repeat several times

Technique #2: Focused Breathing

◊ Time Needed: 30 seconds

How to do it:

  1. Sit back in a comfortable position.
  2. Begin breathing slowly and naturally.
  3. Quietly whisper “I am” as you breathe in and “at peace” as you breathe out.
  4. Repeat this several times.
  5. Feel your entire body relax into the support of your chair.

– 2 –
Practicing Mindfulness

 Time Needed: 1 minute

instant relaxation techniques that work

Rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, the act of mindfulness switches the focus to what’s happening right now, allowing you to be fully engaged in the present moment. Use this instant relaxation technique when you are at work, home, or even when you are doing activities such as walking, exercising, or eating…whenever you need a dose of calmness.

How to do it:

  1. The first time you try this, get in a comfortable position—sitting in a chair or cross-legged on the floor.
  2. Focus on an aspect of your breathing:
    • The sensation of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth
    • Your belly rising and falling
  3. Now, begin to widen your focus:
    1. The sounds you hear
    2. The sensations you feel
    3. The objects you see
  4. Embrace and consider each thought or sensation without judging it good or bad.
  5. If your mind starts to race, return your focus to your breathing and repeat the exercise.

– 3 –
Tensing & Releasing

 Time Needed: 2 minutes

instant relaxation techniques that work

When we hold onto worries and stress, our muscles unconsciously tighten. Most of the time we don’t even notice how tense we are–until the tension leads to aches, pain, and exhaustion. This particular instant relaxation technique is all about helping your body let go of all that tension. By first tensing your muscles and then loosening them, you force your body to release the stresses of the day.

How to do it:

  1. Sit or lie in a comfortable position.
  2. While taking a deep breath in, tense your entire body by squeezing every muscle you can–from your face down to your toes.
  3. Hold this tension and your breath for 5 seconds.
    • Notice the heaviness and tightness
  4. While exhaling, relax all of your muscles, imagining all the built-up tension and stress in your body melting away into the ground
    • Notice the lightness of your body
  5. As you take slow, deep breathscontinue focusing on how soft your muscles are and how relaxed you feel.
  6. Continue this until you feel completely relaxed.

* * *

Like all skills, I encourage you to practice these techniques several times a day for at least a week of two, in order to find what works best for you. For more effective relaxation tips, be sure to check out the article on complete relaxation techniques that you can do when you have more time set aside.

Now that you are equipped with these instant relaxation techniques, let’s all breathe our way to a stress-free day!

Want to keep this information handy for future reference?
Below is a printer-friendly handout with all these tips and more!


Phoebe Chi, MD
Phoebe Chi, MD

As a physician, author, and managing editor of PhoebeMD: Medicine + Poetry, Dr. Chi aims to inspire, educate, and empower the reader community. She is the author of Being Empowered for a Healthy Heart: A personal guide to taking control of your health while living with chronic conditions, founder and designer at Pendants for a Cause, and a minion to her feline companion, Samantha.

21 replies »

  1. The “tensing” exercise is one that I have found to be helpful, especially in those moments where you can feel your body already tensed up. It’s something about being aware that your body creates that tense position unconsciously and then realizing you do have control over it that I find comforting. Thanks for the post!

  2. Great techniques. I especially like Mindfulness. It’s nice to sit and meditate or breathe for relaxation, but being able to be mindful while out and about is also helpful on “those” days.

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