Take breaks to de-stress


Stress is an unavoidable part of life. Work deadlines, financial worries, relationship issues, and other daily pressures can easily cause stress to pile up. While a manageable amount of stress can help motivate and focus us, too much chronic stress takes a major toll on both physical and mental health. Taking intentional breaks to de-stress is essential for counteracting “stress overload” and maintaining overall wellbeing.


  1. Understanding Stress and Its Impact on Health
    1. The Damaging Effects of Chronic Stress
  2. Why Taking Breaks Is Vital
    1. Allows the Body to Restore Balance
    2. Calms the Mind
    3. Boosts Motivation and Performance
    4. Promotes Overall Wellbeing
  3. Effective Ways to Take Breaks That De-Stress
    1. Deep Breathing Exercises
    2. Guided Visualization and Meditation
    3. Yoga and Stretching
    4. Spend Time in Nature
    5. Listen to Soothing Music
    6. Unplug from Technology
    7. Take a Power Nap
    8. Laugh and Socialize
    9. Infuse Aromatherapy
  4. Maintaining Balance Through Routine Breaks
    1. Schedule Breaks Throughout Your Day
    2. Use Reminders to Take Breaks
    3. Make Breaks a Shared Practice
    4. Try a Wellness Break ‘Menu’
    5. Start Small
  5. The Importance of Relaxation for Health
  6. How Chronic Stress Impacts Overall Wellbeing
  7. The Role of the Relaxation Response
  8. Key Ways Relaxation Boosts Wellbeing
  9. Integrating Relaxation Techniques Into Your Routine
  10. Accessible Ways to Relax Anywhere
  11. Morning and Bedtime Relaxation Rituals
    1. Morning Ritual
    2. Evening Ritual
  12. Schedule Daily Relaxation Breaks
  13. Creating an Ideal Relaxation Space
  14. Key Features of Relaxation Spaces
    1. Location
    2. Ambiance
    3. Lighting
    4. Seating
    5. Temperature
    6. Accessories
  15. Relaxation Nook Ideas
    1. Yoga Room
    2. Meditation Corner
    3. Reading Nook
    4. Porch Swing
  16. Portable Relaxation
  17. Relaxation Methods Backed by Science
  18. Breathing Exercises
    1. Technique
  19. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
    1. Technique
  20. Mindfulness Meditation
    1. Technique
  21. Yoga
    1. Technique
  22. Guided Imagery
    1. Technique
  23. Natural Ways to Relax and De-Stress
  24. Fresh Air and Sunshine
  25. Natural Aromas
  26. Soothing Nature Sounds
  27. Organic Teas
  28. Essential Oil Baths
  29. Relaxation Techniques to Do At Work
  30. Three Deep Breaths
  31. Tense and Release
  32. Chair Yoga
  33. Alternate Nostril Breathing
  34. Hand Massage
  35. Nature Visualization
  36. Keep Calm Reminders
  37. Top 10 Relaxation Exercises to Reduce Stress Quickly
  38. Creating a Nightly Relaxation Routine for Better Sleep
  39. Why Pre-Sleep Relaxation Matters
  40. Essential Components of a Relaxing Routine
    1. Unwind Hour
    2. Mindfulness Practice
    3. Gentle Yoga Poses
    4. Aromatherapy
    5. Cool, Dark Room
    6. Sleep-Promoting Supplements
  41. Effective 15-Minute Self-Massage for Tension Relief
    1. Neck
    2. Shoulders
    3. Upper Back
    4. Lower Back
    5. Hands and Wrists
  42. Frequently Asked Questions About Taking Breaks to De-Stress
  43. What are the benefits of taking regular breaks?
  44. How often should I take breaks?
  45. What are some productive ways to spend my breaks?
  46. How can I remind myself to take regular breaks?
  47. Is it okay to take a 20-30 minute nap?
  48. What if I don't have time for breaks?
  49. How can I relax if I can't leave my desk?
  50. Are relaxation breaks just as important outside of work?
  51. Resources used to write this article

Understanding Stress and Its Impact on Health

Understanding Stress and Its Impact on Health

Stress activates the body’s natural “fight-or-flight” response, which causes physical changes like increased heart rate, tightened muscles, and a rush of adrenaline. This prepares us to respond to perceived threats. However, when stress is allowed to continue unchecked, it leads to chronic inflammation and hormone imbalances that negatively impact nearly every system in the body.

The Damaging Effects of Chronic Stress

Prolonged stress has been linked to:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Muscle tension, back pain, and other body aches
  • High blood pressure and heart disease
  • Hormonal imbalances like excess cortisol
  • Diabetes and obesity
  • Gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome
  • Weakened immunity and frequent illnesses
  • Insomnia, fatigue, and burnout

Chronic stress also impairs brain functions like memory, focus, and concentration. It can make us quick-tempered, negative, and withdrawn. Stress takes a toll both mentally and physically over time.

Why Taking Breaks Is Vital

Taking meaningful breaks gives our minds and bodies a chance to recover from stress before it causes deeper damage. Relaxation is not a luxury but a physiological need. Here’s why taking breaks is so important:

1. Allows the Body to Restore Balance

Relaxation activates the parasympathetic nervous system, sometimes called the “rest and digest” system. This reverses the fight-or-flight response and allows overworked systems to come back into balance. Taking breaks helps regulate hormones, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and restore proper immune function.

2. Calms the Mind

Breaks also calm the mind by slowing racing thoughts and lowering stress hormones like cortisol. This provides relief from anxious thinking patterns and worry. Taking time to decompress prevents stress from accumulating and gives the brain an opportunity to regroup.

3. Boosts Motivation and Performance

While pushing through stress might seem productive, research shows that taking short breaks actually improves focus, motivation, and performance. The brain functions best with periodic downtime to replenish resources drained by intense concentration and decision making. Regular breaks keep us working productively.

4. Promotes Overall Wellbeing

Relaxation strengthens the body’s stress resilience. With regular breaks, we become better equipped to handle daily stressors without becoming overwhelmed. Making time for renewal amidst the demands of life promotes long-term health, inner calm, and general wellbeing.

Effective Ways to Take Breaks That De-Stress

Taking even short 1-5 minute “breathing breaks” throughout the day quickly reduces stress. However, longer 15-30 minute breaks are ideal for restoring mind-body balance. Here are science-backed methods to recharge:

Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep, diaphragmatic breathing triggers a relaxation response that lowers heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormones. Try this technique: Inhale deeply through the nose, drawing air into the belly. Exhale slowly through the mouth. Repeat for 2-5 minutes.

Guided Visualization and Meditation

Meditation quiets the mind’s stress-inducing “chatter.” Guided imagery also uses focused concentration to elicit relaxation. Many apps offer free visualization/meditation content. Practicing these techniques for 10-30 minutes effectively alleviates stress.

Yoga and Stretching

Yoga combines flowing movements, deep breathing, and mindfulness to release muscular tension and stress. Even 5-10 minutes of gentle stretching can relax the body. Take a break to do yoga poses or stretches that feel good.

Spend Time in Nature

Being in natural settings surrounded by trees, mountains, lakes, or the ocean has stress-reducing effects. If possible, spend 15-30 minutes of your break outside breathing fresh air and connecting with nature.

Listen to Soothing Music

Hearing calm instrumental music or nature sounds like ocean waves or rainfall entrains the nervous system into deep relaxation. Make a playlist for breaks or try a meditation app’s music.

Unplug from Technology

Give your eyes and mind a break from screens by turning off devices for 15-30 minutes. Remove mental clutter by avoiding work-related emails or texts during breaks.

Take a Power Nap

Even a 10-20 minute power nap gives the brain time to recharge. Lay down, set an alarm, and allow yourself to doze off. Waking up from a nap feels rejuvenating.

Laugh and Socialize

Laughter’s contagious effect elevates mood and decreases stress hormones. Calls, texts, or quick in-person chats with friends or loved ones is a relaxing distraction.

Infuse Aromatherapy

Essential oil scents like lavender and bergamot have calming properties. Diffuse oils during your break or massage diluted oil onto pressure points. Inhaling the aroma initiates relaxation.

Maintaining Balance Through Routine Breaks

Taking random breaks when already feeling stressed is better than nothing. However, building regular short breaks into your routine prevents stress from accumulating and offers the most benefits.

Schedule Breaks Throughout Your Day

Mark break times in your calendar as you would other appointments. Ideal times are mid-morning, post-lunch, and mid-afternoon.

Use Reminders to Take Breaks

Set a recurring alarm, phone notification, or other reminder to go off multiple times per day prompting you take to a break.

Make Breaks a Shared Practice

Encourage coworkers, employees, or family members to join your scheduled breaks. Making relaxation a shared practice helps motivate consistency.

Try a Wellness Break ‘Menu’

Create a list of potential break activities and rotate what you do. Variety keeps relaxation time interesting while allowing you to match activities with your current energy level.

Start Small

Even one minute of deep breathing or doing shoulder rolls is rebooting. Gradually increase your break durations to build the relaxation habit.

Being intentional about taking breaks prevents stress buildup, refreshes perspective, and boosts resilience to life’s demands. Protect your wellbeing by pausing regularly to de-stress.

The Importance of Relaxation for Health

The human body is designed to handle positive forms of stress in small doses. Small amounts of short-term stress can help us perform better by producing adrenaline and cortisol. However, chronic long-term stress has seriously detrimental effects on physical and mental health.

How Chronic Stress Impacts Overall Wellbeing

Here’s an overview how ongoing stress negatively impacts wellbeing:

  • Immune System: Chronic stress weakens immunity making you more prone to frequent colds/flu, infections, and autoimmune flare ups.
  • Cardiovascular System: Stress hormones constrict blood vessels and raise blood pressure, eventually causing hypertension and heart disease.
  • Digestive System: Stress alters gut bacteria balance and impairs digestion leading to issues like reflux, cramps, and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Reproductive System: Stress disrupts menstrual cycles and fertility in women. In men, it reduces libido and testosterone and causes erectile dysfunction.
  • Musculoskeletal System: When muscles remain tense for extended periods, it often results in tension headaches, jaw pain, muscle spasms, and body aches.
  • Respiratory System: Stress commonly manifests as shortness of breath and tightened airways as well as weakened immunity increasing respiratory infections.
  • Endocrine System: High cortisol from chronic stress deregulates glucose metabolism, thyroid function, and hormones causing complications like diabetes and weight gain.
  • Nervous System: Stress impacts the sympathetic nervous system resulting in anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and elevated “fight or flight” responses.

The Role of the Relaxation Response

Activating the body’s relaxation response counteracts the damaging effects of long-term stress. Relaxation:

  • Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
  • Reduces muscle tension
  • Balances hormone and glucose levels
  • Returns breathing to normal patterns
  • Calms emotional reactions
  • Strengthens immune function
  • Improves focus and concentration
  • Boosts energy levels
  • Promotes restful sleep
  • Increases stress tolerance and resilience

The cumulative impact creates overall greater health, vitality, and a sense of wellbeing.

Key Ways Relaxation Boosts Wellbeing

Here are some of the top scientifically proven benefits of taking time to relax:

  • Lowers risk of heart disease - Studies show people who regularly relax have lower blood pressure and heart rate variability indicating reduced chance of stroke and heart attack.
  • Decreases depression - Relaxation lowers cortisol which influences mood regulation and mental health.
  • Reduces chronic pain - Deep relaxation reduces muscle tension which commonly leads to fewer headaches, back pain, and arthritis flares.
  • Balances blood sugar - Meditation and yoga have been shown to lower A1C levels in people with diabetes by reducing blood sugar spikes due to less stress hormone.
  • Improves immunity - Relaxation strengthens immune cells’ ability to respond to foreign invaders resulting in fewer illnesses.
  • Increases focus and concentration - Taking breaks to relax has been proven to heighten focus, boost productivity, and improve work performance.
  • Enhances sleep quality - Unmanaged stress often causes insomnia. Relaxing before bed makes it easier to fall and stay asleep.
  • Lengthens lifespan - One study showed people with the highest stress have a 43% increased risk of dying compared to their low-stress counterparts indicating relaxation’s life-extending benefits.

Regularly taking time to consciously relax combats the toll chronic stress takes on your body and mind, promoting greater overall health. Even basic deep breathing done consistently strengthens your wellbeing.

Integrating Relaxation Techniques Into Your Routine

Living fast-paced, stress-filled lives, relaxation is often neglected and viewed as an extra we try to fit in only when everything else is done. However, regularly engaging in simple science-backed techniques prevents stress accumulation from damaging health.

Accessible Ways to Relax Anywhere

Relaxation doesn’t require expensive spa visits or weeks at mountain retreats. Several easy mind-body practices can be done anytime, anywhere:

  • Breath focus - Close your eyes and focus fully on the sensations of breathing. Silently count each inhale and exhale. Reset counting after each exhale.
  • Body scans - Slowly scan your body from head to toe, progressively relaxing each muscle group. Release facial tension, relax shoulders, soften abdomen, and unlock knees and ankles.
  • 5-4-3-2-1 grounding - State out loud 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you feel, 2 things smell, and 1 good thing about yourself in the present moment. This rapid sensory inventory shifts awareness from stressors.
  • Hand massage - Use both hands to gently knead palms, fingers, knuckles, and wrists. Apply light pressure with your thumb to reflexology points.
  • Shoulder rolls - Lift shoulders up toward ears. Roll shoulders backward making full circles. Repeat 4-5 times to relieve upper body tension.
  • Calm music - Listen to serene instrumental music for 10 minutes. Allow your mind to effortlessly drift away from analyzing.

These mini relaxation habits alleviate stress anywhere when you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or fatigued.

Morning and Bedtime Relaxation Rituals

Bookend your day with relaxation to start on a calm note and decompress before bed:

Morning Ritual

  • After waking up, sit in bed with eyes closed for 2 minutes just noticing your breath
  • Stretch arms overhead while inhaling. Exhale lowering arms. Repeat 5 times.
  • Roll shoulders backward 5 times opening up chest muscles.
  • Say positive affirmations like “I am calm” or “Today is a fresh start” out loud.

Evening Ritual

  • Diffuse a calming essential oil like lavender during your wind-down time.
  • Take a warm bath or shower before bed to relax muscles.
  • Spend 10 minutes tidying and decluttering to calm your mind before sleep.
  • Practice a 10 minute guided meditation lying in bed.
  • Massage 2-3 drops of diluted lavender oil onto temples, wrists, and neck.

Ritualizing relaxation consistently results in falling asleep faster, higher quality sleep, and waking up feeling refreshed.

Schedule Daily Relaxation Breaks

Relaxation shouldn’t be sporadic. Instead, proactively schedule 15-30 minute breaks into your daily work calendar for:

  • A quiet cup of tea or nature walk mid-morning
  • A yoga or deep breathing session during lunch
  • Listening to a guided visualization mid-afternoon

Periodic, shorter 5-10 minute breaks are also beneficial:

  • Set a repeating alarm to remind you take a minute to do mindful breathing or stretching
  • Step outside for fresh air when you’re feeling overwhelmed
  • Do a calm desk yoga routine like neck rolls before resuming work

Planning structured relaxation breaks prevents you from feeling too busy, leading to greater consistency.

Make relaxation a priority by integrating simple eco-friendly techniques into your regular daily life. This provides lasting benefits for both your physical and mental wellbeing.

Creating an Ideal Relaxation Space

Your surroundings significantly impact relaxation. While beneficial anywhere, creating an optimized space devoted to relaxation maximizes benefits. Thoughtfully designed, this space becomes a sanctuary to retreat to for restoring inner calm and reducing stress.

Key Features of Relaxation Spaces

Consider these elements when designing your ideal relaxation zone:


Choose a quiet, private space away from household or workplace noise and distractions. Basements, bedrooms, home offices, or even a corner with partitions work well.


Incorporate calming scents using essential oils or candles. Diffuse lavender, bergamot, chamomile, sandalwood, or clary sage. For sound, add a small water fountain, wind chimes, or play meditative music.


Install dimmable lighting you can adjust from bright to softly lit. Hang blackout shades to make space very dark. Low lighting enhances relaxation.


Select a comfortable chair, couch, or floor cushions. Include pillows for extra support and soft blankets to stay warm during relaxation.


Maintain a comfortably cool room temperature around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm temperatures make people sleepy.


Decorate with houseplants, which purify air. Also add a small table for relaxation props like journals, coloring books, or aromatherapy.

Optimizing these elements creates a welcoming space for restoring mind-body balance through regular relaxation sessions.

Relaxation Nook Ideas

Dedicate a whole room or create a relaxing nook inside an existing space:

Yoga Room

Convert a spare bedroom into a relaxing yoga studio. Install wood flooring, bring in mats/cushions, and add calming decor elements like Buddhas, incense, or live plants. Diffuse essential oils during practice.

Meditation Corner

Cord off an area of a bedroom or living room to make a meditation corner. Include a floor cushion, small altar table, candle, and meditation journal. Sit here to meditate, breath, or reflect.

Reading Nook

Place a plush chair or loveseat in a bay window or corner. Add a floor lamp, bookcase, throw blanket, and a table for a teacup. Curl up here with an absorbing book to de-stress.

Porch Swing

Hang a two-person porch swing and add weatherproof cushions/pillows to create an outdoor relaxation space. Gently rocking is calming. String twinkle lights above for evening appeal.

Portable Relaxation

For travel, work trips, or small living spaces, create a portable relaxation kit with:

  • Battery operated string lights
  • Travel pillow and eye mask
  • Portable Bluetooth speaker for nature sounds
  • Travel-size lotion, essential oil rollerballs, candle tin
  • Mini journal, adult coloring book, magazines

Having dedicated relaxation items fosters taking intentional breaks whenever stress builds, even if your options for space are limited. Choose what enhances your own unwinding.

A comforting, distraction-free environment supports relaxation unlike busy spaces we occupy the rest of the day. Invest time into creating a specially designed area or corner conducive for relaxing your body and mind.

Relaxation Methods Backed by Science

Ancient practices like acupuncture, breathwork, and meditation have long been known to counteract stress. Now modern research confirms these and other relaxation techniques impart measurable, positive effects on stress physiology.

Breathing Exercises

Diaphragmatic breathing elicits a deep relaxation response. During stressful times, breathing becomes rapid and shallow, exacerbating anxiety. Deep, rhythmic breathing tells the brain to calm down. Studies confirm it:

  • Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
  • Reduces cortisol and adrenaline
  • Increases HRV indicating healthier stress response


Inhale slowly through nose for 4 counts, directing air deep into belly. Exhale gently

through mouth for 6 counts. Repeat for 3-5 minutes.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This technique involves tensing then relaxing different muscle groups. Research shows it:

  • Reduces chronic neck, shoulder, and back pain
  • Lessens tension headaches
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves sleep quality


Starting with feet, tightly tense muscles for 5 seconds. Release, feeling tension melt away. Progress up body to calves, thighs, hips, etc. ending with facial muscles.

Mindfulness Meditation

Studies verify regular mindfulness meditation:

  • Increases gray matter density in parts of brain related to stress regulation
  • Reduces anxiety, depression, PTSD symptoms
  • Improves emotional regulation abilities
  • Strengthens immune function


Sit comfortably with eyes closed. Bring awareness to bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions without judgment. Refocus attention anytime it wanders.


Research confirms yoga’s wide-ranging whole body benefits:

  • Lowers inflammation markers like IL-6, CRP
  • Decreases stress hormones cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone
  • Reduces anxiety, depression, and intrusive thoughts
  • Improves relaxation and feelings of wellbeing


Move through comfortable poses while coordinating breath. Hold stretches gently. Flow at a relaxing pace. End with savasana resting pose.

Guided Imagery

Also called visualization, this cognitive process positively impacts:

  • Chronic pain management
  • Postsurgical recovery time
  • Cancer treatment side effects
  • Stress, anxiety, and depression


Listen to peaceful guided scene descriptions. Imagine sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feel of the location using all senses. Remain fully immersed in the tranquil imagery.

Research confirms relaxing actively combats damaging stress to foster overall wellbeing. Try these proven methods and notice the benefits firsthand.

Natural Ways to Relax and De-Stress

In our fast-paced, hyperconnected world it’s easy to forget that nature offers simple, accessible ways to relax anytime. Take advantage of these calming natural options to reduce stress:

Fresh Air and Sunshine

Getting outdoors is rejuvenating. Sunlight boosts vitamin D and serotonin improving mood. Ample oxygen also calms the nervous system. Try these tips:

  • Take 10 minute fresh air breaks throughout your day.
  • Eat lunch in an outdoor setting.
  • Sit outdoors first thing in the morning.
  • Stroll through a garden, forest, or park.

Natural Aromas

Inhaling nature’s relaxing scents initiates a relaxation response. Surround yourself with:

  • Fresh flowers - Keep bouquets around your home or office.
  • Herbs - Crush mint, basil, lavender or rosemary and inhale.
  • citrus fruits - Slice lemons, oranges, grapefruit or lime and squeeze to release aroma.
  • Trees - Sit under a pine tree. Inhale its calming scent.
  • Ground coffee beans - Coffee’s rich aroma is soothing.

Soothing Nature Sounds

Hearing ocean waves, birdsong, rainfall or crickets relaxes the mind by masking stressful background noises.

  • Listen to high quality nature recordings while working, reading or resting.
  • Keep a window open to hear live outdoor sounds.
  • Install a small indoor water fountain.
  • Hang wind chimes outside your window.

Organic Teas

Sipping herbal tea promotes relaxation from both the aroma and medicinal plant compounds. Beneficial varieties include:

  • Chamomile - Anti-anxiety.
  • Lavender - Induces calm.
  • Lemon balm - Eases tension.
  • Passionflower - Aids sleep.
  • Peppermint - Uplifts mood.

Drink tea intentionally, inhaling the scent before sipping slowly.

Essential Oil Baths

Add a few drops of anxiety-reducing essential oils to warm bath water. Soak to enjoy full mind and body benefits. Calming oils include:

  • Lavender - Balances emotions
  • Roman chamomile - Eases irritability
  • Clary sage - Alleviates stress
  • Bergamot - Boosts relaxation
  • Cedarwood - Promotes inner peace

Let nature nurture you. Incorporating natural stress relief into your routine creates lasting calm and equilibrium.

Relaxation Techniques to Do At Work

The workplace is one of the most common sources of stress. Luckily, various subtle mind-body practices can be done right at your desk to relax amidst the demands of the workday.

Three Deep Breaths

Simply taking three full deep breaths stimulates the vagus nerve causing your body to relax. Make it a habit to intentionally take three long, slow breaths periodically throughout the day.

Tense and Release

Discreetly tense each muscle group starting with the feet and progressing up to the face. Hold for 5 seconds then completely release tension. This full body progressive muscle relaxation can be done unnoticed while sitting.

Chair Yoga

Do these subtle stretches sitting at your desk to relieve tension:

  • Neck stretches - Slowly tilt ear toward shoulder, alternating sides
  • Shoulder rolls - Lift shoulders up and roll back in circles
  • Seated twist - Turn upper body left and right holding each side
  • Back arch - Clasp hands and reach arms overhead, extending spine
  • Ankle circles - Rotate ankles clockwise and counter-clockwise

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Cover right nostril, inhale through left. Switch, covering left and exhale through right. Inhale right, switch, exhale left. This yogic breathing calms the nervous system.

Hand Massage

Use thumbs to apply pressure in circular motions along palm and each finger. Rub knuckles and back of hands. Massaging hands relaxes the entire body.

Nature Visualization

For one minute, imagine looking out at a serene nature scene like a beach, forest, or mountain vista. Engage all the senses such as smells, sounds, temperature, etc.

Keep Calm Reminders

Place a small object like a smooth stone or inspirational photo where you can see it. Let this serve as a visual cue to take a mindful breath break whenever overwhelmed.

Taking mini relaxation breaks prevents work stress from accumulating into harmful chronic stress. Protect your wellbeing.

Top 10 Relaxation Exercises to Reduce Stress Quickly

Feeling stressed? The following highly effective relaxation techniques provide near-instant relief by activating your body’s natural calming systems:

  1. Deep Breathing - Inhale fully through the nose, hold for 2 seconds, exhale slowly through the mouth. Repeat for 2-5 minutes.
  2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation - Tense then relax each muscle group from toes to head. Melt away tension.
  3. Guided Imagery - Vividly imagine a peaceful setting like a beach using all your senses for 5 minutes.
  4. Mindfulness Meditation - Observe passing thoughts and bodily sensations without judgment for 10 minutes.
  5. Yoga Poses - Move through gentle stretches coordinating breath and movement for 10-30 minutes.
  6. Listening to Calm Music - Play serene instrumental music and focus on the melody for 10 minutes.
  7. Self-Massage - Use hands to massage sore muscles, applying pressure to knots for 5 minutes.
  8. Soothing Aromatherapy - Inhale the scent of relaxing essential oils like lavender from a tissue.
  9. Spending Time in Nature - Walk barefoot on grass, sit under a tree or listen to birds for 15 minutes.
  10. Laughing - Scroll through funny videos online or call a friend who makes you laugh for 10 minutes.

Practicing any of these methods for short periods when feeling stressed quickly reduces anxiety, muscle tension, racing thoughts, and irritability by activating the relaxation response. Make time to regularly unwind using these techniques to maintain balance and prevent stress buildup.

Creating a Nightly Relaxation Routine for Better Sleep

Do you struggle with falling asleep, wake frequently, or feel unrested in the morning? The culprit is often excess stress and overstimulation late in the evening. Implementing a relaxing nighttime routine better prepares the mind and body for quality sleep.

Why Pre-Sleep Relaxation Matters

Calming your nervous system before bed:

  • Lowers heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure
  • Decreases stress hormones like cortisol
  • Halts anxious thoughts and worry
  • Eases muscle tension
  • Controls pain and restless legs
  • Regulates temperature and hunger hormones
  • Triggers production of sleep hormone melatonin

Without relaxation, you may feel tired yet remain mentally wired making it impossible to fall and stay asleep.

Essential Components of a Relaxing Routine

Unwind Hour

Dedicate 60-90 minutes before bedto unwinding. Dim lights, disconnect from screens, and avoid stimulating tasks. Do leisurely activities like reading, stretching, or taking a bath.

Mindfulness Practice

Calm racing thoughts with 15 minutes of breath focus, body scanning, or simple meditation. Observe thoughts non-judgmentally.

Gentle Yoga Poses

Do 10 minutes of passive opening poses to reduce musculoskeletal tension without energizing.


Diffuse lavender essential oil or massage diluted oil onto wrists and temples to induce tranquility.

Cool, Dark Room

Adjust thermostat to around 65° F. Install room darkening shades. An environment mimicking night supports melatonin release.

Sleep-Promoting Supplements

Consider supplements like magnesium, CBD oil, chamomile tea, or tart cherry juice which contain compounds that enhance relaxation.

Sticking to this routine for 30-60 minutes pre-bed every night conditions your body to wind down for quality, uninterrupted sleep.

Effective 15-Minute Self-Massage for Tension Relief

After a stressful day, your muscles often remain tense long after work is done. Self-massage techniques target irritated muscles to provide rapid relief without the spa price tag. Devote 15 minutes before bed to release accumulate d tension.


  • Tilt head side to side, allowing weight of head to gently stretch neck.
  • With flat fingers, apply firm pressure down the neck along the spine. Repeat on each side of spine.
  • Supporting head with other hand, gently tilt it to side and massage up the exposed neck area. Switch sides.


  • With thumb and fingers, massage along top of shoulder and shoulder blade, pressing into any knots.
  • Grip upper arm with opposite hand and slowly roll arm forward and up to stretch shoulder socket. Switch sides.
  • Place tennis or lacrosse ball between shoulder and wall. Roll it around applying pressure.

Upper Back

  • pressing fingers alongside spine to loosen tight back muscles.
  • Place tennis ball on back of chair. Lean back, guiding ball along muscles beside spine.

Lower Back

  • Place tennis ball under back. Raise hips slightly off floor, slowly rolling ball under back muscles for 30 seconds.
  • Lay on back. Bring knees toward chest, hands clasped behind thighs. Rock knees side to side to stretch low back.

Hands and Wrists

  • Massage fleshy pad at base of thumb in circular motions.
  • Grip palm and pull fingers back toward body gently stretching. Switch hands.
  • Use thumb and forefinger to squeeze and roll wrist joints. Repeat on other wrist.

Be sure to engage in relaxing activities afterwards so muscles remain relaxed for sleep. Self-massage combined with mindfulness, stretching, and aromatherapy offers powerful tension and pain relief so you wake refreshed.

Frequently Asked Questions About Taking Breaks to De-Stress

What are the benefits of taking regular breaks?

Taking short, frequent breaks throughout the day provides many benefits:

  • Reduces muscle tension and eyestrain from prolonged computer use
  • Improves mental clarity, focus and concentration
  • Increases productivity by allowing the mind to recharge
  • Lowers stress by activating the body's relaxation response
  • Decreases fatigue and burnout
  • Boosts creativity and idea generation
  • Helps maintain work-life balance

How often should I take breaks?

Experts recommend taking a short 1-5 minute break every 45-60 minutes. This could be stepping away from your desk to stretch, meditate, or grab a healthy snack. It's also ideal to take a longer 15-30 minute break after 2-3 hours of intense focus to allow your mind and body to fully recharge.

What are some productive ways to spend my breaks?

  • Go for a short walk outside to get fresh air
  • Do some light yoga stretches
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Meditate or practice deep breathing
  • Eat a healthy snack like fruit or nuts
  • Chat with coworkers about non-work topics
  • Read an article or interesting book

How can I remind myself to take regular breaks?

  • Set a timer or alarm on your phone to go off every 45-60 minutes
  • Download an app that provides periodic reminders to take breaks
  • Place visual cues like stickers around your workspace to trigger you
  • Ask your colleagues to provide mutual accountability and nudge each other
  • Schedule breaks into your calendar just like other appointments

Is it okay to take a 20-30 minute nap?

Yes, taking a 20-30 minute power nap during an afternoon break can be very beneficial for energy and focus. Finding a comfortable, quiet place to doze off for this short period allows your body to get light restorative sleep which leaves you feeling refreshed. Just be sure to set an alarm!

What if I don't have time for breaks?

Carving out small windows for relaxation may feel impossible when you're very busy. However, incorporating mini breaks actually boosts productivity and focus, giving you more energy to get things done. Even just taking 1-2 minutes for a breathing break or rolling your shoulders can relieve tension. The benefits of short breaks outweigh the minutes they require.

How can I relax if I can't leave my desk?

There are many subtle ways to take "micro breaks" right at your desk:

  • Close your eyes and take 5 deep breaths
  • Visualize a calming scene like the beach or forest for 60 seconds
  • Stand up and discretely stretch your neck, shoulders, back and legs for a few seconds
  • Squeeze a stress ball
  • Listen to a relaxing song with headphones
  • Slowly sip a cup of herbal tea

Are relaxation breaks just as important outside of work?

Absolutely! It's crucial to also integrate breaks into your non-work hours. Schedule time to unplug from digital devices, enjoy hobbies, socialize, exercise, and partake in full self-care rituals. Protecting leisure time is key to avoiding burnout. Don't overschedule yourself.

Resources used to write this article

American Psychological Association. (2022). Stress effects on the body. APA Dictionary of Psychology. Retrieved from https://dictionary.apa.org/stress

HelpGuide. (2022, October). Relaxation techniques for stress relief. HelpGuide.org. Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/relaxation-techniques-for-stress-relief.htm

Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Stress and heart health. HopkinsMedicine.org. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/stress-and-heart-health

Mayo Clinic. (2022, January 15). Relaxation technique: Breath focus. MayoClinic.org. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/relaxation-technique/art-20045368

Mindful Staff. (2015, April 29). This is your body on meditation. Mindful.org. Retrieved from https://www.mindful.org/this-is-your-body-on-meditation/

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2016, April). Relaxation techniques for health. NCCIH.NIH.gov. Retrieved from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/relaxation-techniques-for-health

Torpy, J. M. (2020). Acute emotional stress and the heart. JAMA, 323(9), 900. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.1233

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