You didn’t really have to go to the bathroom — that was just an excuse. In reality, you just couldn’t take any more of your family: the nagging from the kids, the stomach-tightening political arguments, the same old stupid stories, and everything else that makes you want to yeet yourself into the sun before sitting in that chair for another five seconds.
Rather than climb out that bathroom window and risk your family filing a missing person’s report, we turned to a handful of relaxation experts to find out how best to use that five minutes to calm down and recenter yourself.
Sean Salazar, nutritionist, personal trainer and owner of Anywhere Gym: First, you want to focus on your breathing to get oxygen into your blood, then a bit of stretching with your upper back and shoulders to help relieve tension, because we’re often pretty tense in our shoulders. So, elevate your shoulders and hold them like that for five seconds. Then lower your shoulders and squeeze your shoulder blades in the back as if you’re trying to squeeze a grape between your shoulder blades. Hold that for five seconds, then go back to elevating your shoulders and repeat the steps. That, along with breathing, can be done in a small space to relieve the tension in your body.
Kristina Sarr, yoga instructor: The key thing is to calm the body down, so turn the water on to tune out any noise, then breathe as few times per minute as possible. Try to inhale for 15 seconds, hold it for 15 seconds, exhale for 15 seconds, then hold it out for 15 seconds. That last one, holding it out, is really hard, so you can also try inhaling for 20 seconds, holding it for 20 seconds, exhaling for 20 seconds. Whatever you do, slow down the breathing as long as possible — as long as your body can comfortably handle.
Jodi Erin Rabinowitz, psychotherapist, licensed professional counselor, and certified hypnotherapist: I’ve noticed that many busy people balk at the idea of scheduling time for self-care because they feel they don’t have the time. In reality, just a five minute break while hiding in the bathroom can be enough to reset and de-stress. Just the act of intentionally taking time for yourself can be a great start to letting your nervous system know that it’s safe. When we’re constantly experiencing stress, our nervous system feels like we’re perpetually in danger — this can cause the steady release of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can have negative health repercussions.
So, here’s how to de-stress during the five minutes you’re in the bathroom: Sit on the toilet — make sure it’s clean first — and take some deep belly breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. On your third exhale, close your eyes. Notice how your feet feel on the floor. Imagine, in your mind’s eye, that tree roots are growing from the bottoms of your feet and going deep down into the earth. Imagine that the feelings you want to feel — calm, happiness, relaxation, etc. — exist deep down in the Earth’s core, and on each inhale you’re bringing those qualities up the tree root and into your body.
After taking a few deep breaths, you can use positive affirmations: Think, “I am calm. I am safe,” or “I’m doing a great job today.” Say them to yourself on every breath for a couple of minutes.
Then stand up, take a few deep breaths and notice your feet on the floor. Imagine that your right foot is sucking up all of the calm, cool energy from the earth and bringing it into your body. Then imagine that you’re pushing all of the stress back down your left leg and into the earth to be recycled. Do this for two minutes, then shake your body. The shaking energizes you, releases stuck or stale energy, and gets you ready for the rest of your day.
Michael Schneider, founder and CEO of Holistro: Breathing exercises can be done without the assistance of an app or technology, but if you have a smartphone and/or some headphones, those can be powerful tools to help you mentally escape a stressful situation. Meditation apps like ours have a variety of guided meditations and guided breathing exercises so that you can do them while listening to peaceful music or white noise. Closing your eyes while listening to a relaxation session and focusing on the sounds of the meditation can mentally teleport you to a calm and safe space. Headphones or earbuds make a huge difference — just putting headphones on and hearing the buzz of the world drop away can trigger relaxation during the holiday season and beyond.
Mike Bridavsky, owner of recently deceased celebrity cat, Lil Bub: There have been studies done that show that watching cat videos can help to ease anxiety and help you to wind down. That goes for any kind of humorous video, but funny videos with people are often funny at the expense of others. With animal videos — especially cats — it’s so innocent and simple, which is why it’s so relaxing.