To be calm is to be peaceful, serene, self-possessed.  It’s easy to feel calm when there’s no stress in your life.

Have you got the stress thing figured out? Is yours under control? Do you know just what to do when you’re feeling the physical and mental effects of stress? Do you recognize the signs? In the next few minutes, I promise that you will learn astress-and-weight-gain valuable skill for reducing your stress and calming your nerves.

Recently I was sitting at my computer after a long day and I began to feel chest pains. I know my heart is healthy and that when I experience pains in my chest it’s due to muscular tension and stress. When I start to feel uncomfortable, I realize it’s time to take a break. So I walked away from my computer and sat down on the couch to watch television.

I love television. It relaxes me and I really don’t have to think about anything. I don’t watch it a lot, but enough to enjoy the comedy or drama (can you say Breaking Bad?) that takes my mind off of the many tasks on my to- do list. After about 5 minutes, I started to feel better. I realized that the tv was just what I needed at that moment.  Sometimes I take a nap or put my legs up the wall.  It depends on what’s accessible to me.

We all experience stress and it’s not always a bad thing. It’s just that over-stressing is bad for your health. We tend to ignore the signs of stress and I’m here to ask you to begin noticing, acknowledging and taking action to calm yourself down. 5 minutes can make a difference in your life, so here is a short exercise that will take you from stressed out to calmed down in 5 simple steps:

Minute one: NOTICE when you are feeling tired, having chest pains, feeling cranky, being snippy, argumentative or short with others. Once you begin to notice your emotional and bodily sensations, explore them. See if you can find the source of your stress and ask yourself, am I tired? Stressed? Freaked out about something? Have I been working a lot? Begin to treat your own stress as a personal crisis. If you were to hear of a family crisis, wouldn’t you drop everything and run to assist? You need to place a high value on your health and be your own best friend in securing some peace.

“Sometimes when people are under stress, they hate to think, and it’s the time when they most need to think.” William J. Clinton

Minute two: Start thinking and ask yourself, “what would make me feel better right now?” Look for what is accessible to you at the moment. Is it your breath? Do you have a couch nearby? Can you throw your legs up the wall for 20 minutes? Is television or a book handy? Would a shower help? Would a hug help? What is close, accessible and realistic for helping you to release your current state of stress? Sometimes a 20 minute walk would help while other times, a 20 minute nap is more appropriate.  Sitting at a stoplight is a good time to take 5 deep breaths.

Minute three: Take action. Stop whatever you are doing and take 5 deep breaths. Run to the shower. Go jump on your bed and relax. Apply an essential oil or inhale something yummy that will help you calm down. Watch a little television. Grab a book and let the world go aside for a little while. It will be there when you get back.

Minute four: Be present in whatever you have chosen to do in releasing your stress. Do not allow yourself to be distracted for the next segment of time that you are devoting to yourself.  If you need to nap but can’t fall asleep, remind yourself that you are resting…and that’s what you need.

Minute five: Feel the benefits of your action – your decision to do something positive on your own behalf. Acknowledge that what you are doing is benefiting you and allow yourself to enjoy this moment. If you feel any notions of “guilt” for taking a few minutes off, consider the alternative and the end-results of neglect. Remind yourself that you care about yourself and you deserve and need a little time off.

The first 5 minutes is important because you are acknowledging a feeling, sensation or state of mind, recognizing that you need to shift something for your health’s sake and then considering your options for a better situation. What follows is also important…the action you take…and I highly recommend you acknowledge and notice how you feel after you’ve taken your break.

Living with major stress in your life is actually a choice. My own husband decided a long time ago that he could work 60 hours a week or 40. He decided that quality of life would be better if he worked less and made less money. I am so happy he made this decision. It has resulted in years of quality time together, less stress and it forced us to spend our money wisely.

You do not have to live “under the gun”. Take control now and learn to manage your stress by starting with this 5 minute exercise. It may take longer than that to calm down, but the first 5 minutes will help you get it under control. Make it a habit to notice your state of body and mind, identify ways you can take a break, take action, be present and again, notice the results. Remember to be your own best friend and remind yourself it’s best not to run yourself into exhaustion, but rather rest and restore yourself to a calmer you.