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5-Minute Stress Relief

Focused on Health - November 2012

By Adelina Espat

Whatever your holiday woes, don’t turn what should be merriment into a season of discontent. After all, stress is nosnowflake holiday gift.

“The good news is that holiday stress is usually short-term, so don’t over-interpret it as a bad thing,” says Anil Sood, M.D., professor in MD Anderson’s Departments of Gynecologic Oncology and Cancer Biology. “Instead, focus on curbing holiday stress before it turns into a long-term issue.”

If stress is a chronic problem for you, Sood suggests you visit your doctor.

“Prolonged stress weakens the immune system, affects tumor development and makes it harder for your body to remain healthy,” says Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor and director of integrative medicine at MD Anderson.

Try these quick tips to combat holiday stress. Within five minutes, you’ll re-energize your festive mood.


  • Relaxation - Nov 2010

    Brief Relaxation

    Even just a few minutes of meditation can help you de-stress.

    • Sit with a straight, relaxed back.
    • Focus your attention on your breath and let all other thoughts disappear.
    • Do a few, slow, deep breathes (breathing with your lower belly instead of your chest).
    • Inhale for five counts and exhale for five counts. 
    • Focus your attention on each muscle in your body.
    • Move your tension downward, from your face, down your neck, shoulders, stomach, legs and out of your feet.
    • Imagine all your tension is now on the floor.
    • Feel your muscles relax and soften. 
    • Concentrate on the center of your chest, imagining a deep calm and peace at your core.
    • Spend a few minutes in this state of tranquility, focusing on your center and slow breathing.
  • Beach Visual - Nov 2010

    Visual Imagery

    Also known as guided imagery, this exercise is used widely for relaxation and stress management.

    • Find a comfortable chair or bed.
    • Close your eyes.
    • Visualize a place, such as a garden or beach, where you feel safe and at peace.
    • Look around this place slowly. Notice every detail.
    • Use all your senses to make this place as real as possible.
    • Think about what you see, feel, hear and smell.  
    • Repeat to yourself, "I’m relaxed. I’m safe here."
    • Spend a few minutes enjoying the feeling of deep relaxation.
    • Open your eyes when you are ready.
  • Deep Breathing - Nov 2010

    Deep Breathing

    Concentrating on your breathing can increase the flow of oxygen to your body and make you feel more relaxed.

    • Sit with a straight, relaxed back.
    • Place your feet on the floor if you are in a chair.
    • Cross your legs if you are sitting on the floor.
    • Breathe normally.
    • Pay close attention to your breath as it exits and enters the body. 
    • Do a few, slow, deep breathes (breathing with your lower belly instead of your chest).
    • Inhale for five counts and exhale for five counts.
    • Don't try to control your thoughts.
    • If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the breath.
    • Spend a few minutes concentrating on each breath until you are completely relaxed.
  • Stretch - Nov 2010


    Relieve stress by doing simple stretch exercises. They get your blood flowing and improve circulation, while increasing flexibility and relieving muscle tension.  Try this easy arm and back stretch from the American Institute for Cancer Research.

    • Sit on a straight-backed chair.
    • Hold a belt (or rolled up towel) in your right hand.
    • Inhale and extend your right arm upwards, letting the belt dangle behind you.
    • Exhale and bend your right arm at the elbow.
    • Push your left shoulder back as you reach around to grasp the end of the belt with your left hand.
    • Move your hands closer together while holding the strap and keeping your spine straight.
    • Don’t bend your head and neck forward.
    • Take five breaths.
    • Switch arms and repeat on the other side.

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