Destress in 10 Minutes or Less

Quick ways to mindfully back away from the boiling point.

Topics: Assistant Principals, Health and Wellness

When you’re leading a building with lots of unpredictable moving parts including hundreds of young students, stressful situations can arise in seconds. Nosebleeds and meltdowns, teachers and staff calling in sick, and circumspect parents are just a few of the problems you may handle on any given day.

Even if you meet most issues gracefully and decisively, stresses inside and outside the school can mount fast, leaving you feeling irritable, angry, or downtrodden. When you start to hear your inner teakettle coming to a boil, try a quick destressing strategy to calm your mind and bring the temperature back down.

If you have 10 minutes and a quiet space, try one of these ways to destress quickly:

  • Take a deep breath (or several). Deep breathing brings oxygen to the brain and lowers levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Simply inhale deeply through the nose for five seconds, then use your diaphragm to exhale completely through the mouth for another five. Repeat until you feel calmness take over.
  • Do a few yoga poses. Just 10 minutes of yoga practice can interrupt the body’s stress mechanisms, relax tensed muscles, and ease anxiety, research says. Never done yoga before? No problem—YouTube offers dozens of 10-minute tutorials like this to target stress.
  • Get some fresh air. Get out of the building for 10 minutes and take a brisk walk. The physical activity will get the blood pumping and help clear your head for the rest of the day. Better still if your building has a nearby natural area to enjoy as you stroll.
  • Rock out. If you have a song that has buoyed your spirits in the past, put your headphones on and punch it up on iTunes. Or zone out with an internet video that makes you laugh or takes your mind off the more stressful matters close at hand.
  • Vent to a friend. Part of what makes stress so debilitating is that it makes you feel like it’s you against the world. Phone a friend or chat with a trusted colleague to unburden yourself; just make sure it’s someone who can listen without escalating the situation.
  • Perform a mindless task. Knitting, fidget spinners, and puzzles can occupy your hands while taking your mind off stressors. Do the dishes in the lounge or tidy up your workspace, and you’ll feel like you accomplished while easing your anxiety.

These suggestions are intended to triage sudden bouts of stress on those rare days when it seems like one thing after another—and you need a fast break before tackling another emerging issue. If you find that you’re experiencing lingering dissatisfaction, ongoing anxiety, or depression, talk to a professional. But for everyday stresses, 10 minutes may be all you need to bring your best self to the classrooms and hallways.