Thirty years ago, Time magazine dedicated its cover issue to the topic of stress. The article title read: “The Epidemic of the Eighties.” Life for the average American has only intensified since that time. In 1983, 55% of Americans claimed they felt stressed. Studies show that that number has jumped to 80%, with much of the blame placed on the fact that jobs are more scarce or insecure, or people are simply unhappy in their field of work. Our pace of life is insane.


I have to say I agree about the increase in stress. Back in 1983, my biggest worry was how long I’d have to lie down during naptime in pre-school. Now, just coping through the next hour, the next day, the next week becomes overwhelming.

Are you with me—do you fall somewhere in that 80%? If not, thank heaven and read on so you can help someone else achieve five minutes of peace.

And for the rest of us? Let’s find some space when another one of those chest-tightening moments show up on our doorstep. Preparation is power.

In my mind I talk a big game about taking care of myself, but as someone so eloquently put it, life is just so daily. We have our lists (mental or actual), our schedules, the demands put on us by others and the ones we put on ourselves. No wonder we find ourselves cranky every once in a while, if not more frequently. It’s rare I make room for fun in my life.

Before the days of electricity, unless you were one of the wealthy, sundown pretty much meant the end of your day. Can you imagine having to stop at dinnertime? To be done? No cleaning, laundry, phone calls, emails, television, or bombardment of any other kind? Just think of all that room to breathe and reflect. To meditate and evaluate. To talk and to listen.

All work and no play is a surefire recipe for stress. As busy as all of us are, we need to set aside time in our days to rest and be renewed. If we don’t place some mental cushions in our life, we’re going to burn out and be worthless.

It’s time to plan for a mental-health vacation.

Now, before you start running down your list and tuning out for lack of time, hang on. This vacation can be squeezed into the tiniest of spaces. A-ny-one can do this. All you need is five minutes and a plan.

Is a deadline looming with people breathing down your neck? Has your child or someone else been demanding more than you can give? Whatever your trigger, when you feel those tense feelings approaching, strangling you, take a deep breath and take five. This may mean closing your eyes for five minutes, taking a brisk walk, or reading a fun or motivational book. For me, this doesn’t mean getting on Facebook. Too much drama. I need to unplug…unless it’s my iPod on my relaxation playlist.

Each of us has a unique personality. You know best how to feed your own soul. For just five minutes, do whatever rejuvenates you. Taking five will reduce stress, increase your work output and enjoyment of life. And it’s only five minutes. Surely no one can refuse you that.

For me, taking five can mean my Secret Garden station on Pandora, a cup of tea, a candle or two, and just being still. It can mean closing my eyes and visualizing the most relaxing place I’ve ever been. It might be breathing exercises.

Five minutes pass so quickly, and you owe this to yourself and to those around you. Your sanity and happiness are worth it. So close your phone or computer and take five. Yes, now. And if you’re willing, drop back by and share with us what worked for you.