The five senses: The best way to quickly relieve and manage stress

You can rapidly reverse the effects of stress by exposing yourself to sensory input that brings you back into balance. Sensory input encompasses what we hear, feel, touch, taste, and see. You can use the five senses to soothe, comfort, and invigorate yourself almost immediately. All you need are a few short minutes.

Movement for quick stress relief

If you tend to shut down when you’re under stress, stress-relieving activities that get you moving may be particularly helpful. Anything that engages the muscles or gets you up and active can work. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Run in place.
  • Jump up and down.
  • Dance around.
  • Roll your head in circles.
  • Do a few quick yoga stretches.
  • Stomp your feet.
  • Go for a short walk.
  • Squeeze a rubbery stress ball.


Sight for quick stress relief

If you’re a visual person, try to manage and relieve stress by surrounding yourself with soothing and uplifting images. You can also try closing your eyes and imaging the soothing images. Here are a few visually-based activities that may work as quick stress relievers:

  • Decorate your home or office with cherished photos and favorite mementos.
  • Bring the outside indoors; buy a plant or some flowers to enliven your space.
  • Enjoy the beauty of nature—a garden, the beach, a park, or your own backyard.
  • Surround yourself with colors that lift your spirits (paint your walls with your favorite color, for example)
  • Close your eyes and picture a situation or place that feels peaceful and rejuvenating(e.g. playing with a beloved pet or baby; thrilling to a game of tennis or basketball; a day at the seashore swimming in clear blue water). The more sensory rich the image, the better.

Touch for quick stress relief

Experiment with your sense of touch, playing with different tactile sensations. Focus on things you can feel that are relaxing and renewing. Use the following suggestions as a jumping off point:

  • Wrap yourself in a warm blanket.
  • Pet a dog or cat.
  • Hold a comforting object, such as a stuffed animal or a favorite memento.
  • Soak in a hot bath.
  • Give yourself a hand or neck massage.
  • Wear clothing that feels soft against your skin.


Sound for quick stress relief

Are you sensitive to sounds and noises? Are you a music lover? If so, stress-relieving exercises that focus on your auditory sense may work particularly well. Experiment with the following sounds, noting how quickly your stress levels drop as you listen:

  • Sing or a hum a favorite tune.
  • Listen to uplifting music.
  • Tune in to the soundtrack of nature–crashing waves, the wind rustling the trees, birds singing.
  • Play an instrumental or classical CD.
  • Hang wind chimes near an open window.
  • Buy a small fountain, so you can enjoy the soothing sound of running water in your home or office.


Smell for quick stress relief

If you tend to zone out or freeze when stressed, surround yourself with smells that are energizing and invigorating. If you tend to become overly agitated under stress, look for scents that are comforting and calming.

  • Spritz on your favorite perfume or cologne.
  • Light a scented candle or burn some incense.
  • Lie down in sheets scented with lavender.
  • Breathe in the smell of freshly brewed coffee or tea.
  • Smell the roses or another type of flower.
  • Enjoy the clean, fresh air in the great outdoors.


Taste for quick stress relief

Slowly savoring a favorite treat can be very relaxing, but mindless stress eating will only add to your stress—and your waistline. The key is to indulge your sense of taste mindfully and in moderation. Eat slowly, focusing on the feel of the food in your mouth and the taste on your tongue:

  • Drink a refreshing cold beverage.
  • Chew a piece of sugarless gum.
  • Indulge in a small piece of dark chocolate.
  • Sip a steaming cup of tea.
  • Enjoy a perfectly ripe piece of fruit.
  • Savor a healthy, crunchy snack like celery, carrots, or trail mix.


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