5 stress-busting techniques you can do in the time it takes to boil a kettle

Make the most of the time waiting for your cuppa to brew by trying these quick mindfulness tricks

(Image credit: Dominika Roseclay from Pexels)

Many of us end up standing and waiting for a kettle to boil at least a few times each day. And many of us could also do with feeling a little less stressed and anxious. So how about putting that kettle boiling time to good use, and using it to calm and centre yourself before carrying on with your day?

As part of their 'Positivi-tea' campaign, Russell Hobbs (the brand behind many of today's best kettles) and PG Tips (you know who they are) embraced this idea, and asked yoga teacher and therapist Cassie Sibbin to provide some quick mindfulness techniques that you can do in just a few minutes – or the time it takes for a kettle to boil. 

"These quick and easy-to-follow mindfulness exercises can help relieve your stress and ease tension, whilst waiting for the kettle to boil," says Cassie. "Exploring these exercises will not only stimulate your mind, but it will help improve physical health in a number of ways. You may go from a negative mindset of feeling tired, stressed and anxious to a positive one with feelings of strength and capability that you can take forward into your day."

Read on for five stress-busting tips to try while you're waiting for your next brew. 

Tip #1: Shake it out

The first tip is all about getting loose. You want to be stood with your feet hip-width apart and the knees a little bent. Then start to bounce, move your body around,  and shake everything freely. You could extend and exaggerate the shake though the arms and hands, shift your weight onto one foot and shake one leg at a time, and you could even get the hips and chest involved. The movements can be as gentle or as energetic as you like. Need inspiration? Look up 'Qigong shaking'.

You want to continue for at least a minute, then notice how you feel as you settle back into stillness. 

What does it do?

"Shaking discharges stress and balances the nervous system," says Cassie. "When we experience tension and trauma; our brain and bodies activate our defence strategies, making us tight, contracted and prepared for fight-or-flight or freeze. By shaking out the tension we dispel the stress from the body."

Tip #2: Heartbeat breath

Also referred to as the less romantic-sounding 'cardiac coherence breathing' this is a breathing technique to help you feel more calm. To do it, you either need to locate your pulse or find a clock with a second hand. Inhale for five heartbeats or seconds, and then exhale for five more. You can do this for a long as you like, but the recommended period is five minutes (so long enough to boil a kettle and then leave the tea to brew). 

On YouTube you'll find plenty of guides like the one below to walk you through it. Want an alternative? Try one of these 5 breathing exercises to reduce anxiety.

What does it do?

"This breathing balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which regulates hormone levels, eases fear, stress and tension as well as bringing us back into the present moment – making us mentally clearer," says Cassie. 

Tip #3: Spine mobility

The next technique to try is to mobilise your spine. You want to move is gently is every direction:

  • Raise your arms until they're palms touching above your head, then bring them down like clock hands to your side
  • With your hands on your lower back for support, look up and backwards as far as possible
  • Bend your knees, hinge from the hips and allow your torso to dangle forward over your legs, which can try to straighten
  • Let the crown of your head extend down towards the ground; nod and shake your head gently to release neck
  • Slowly come back to standing by rolling up the spine from the lower back
  • With slightly bent knees, gradually pivot the torso from side to side, letting your arms be loose and swing
  • Twist the spine gently and increasing the range if the body allows

What does it do?

"Restoring and maintaining the range of motion in and around the spine aids digestion, increases energy levels and prevents back pain," says Cassie. "Without using our natural range of motion, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia (connective tissue) will gradually shorten and become stiff over time, increasing the risk of joints and vertebrae hardening and fusing. Limited mobility of the spine can affect the hips, abdomen, and rib cage also. Healthy spine, healthy life!"

Tip #4: Sighing to reset your system

First, get yourself settled in a position – standing or sitting – where your back is straight. You might want to move around your spine, roll you shoulders, stretch your neck and so on to get yourself comfortable. 

"Adopt a non-judgemental attitude, maybe close your eyes and place one hand on your lower belly," explains Cassie. "Take a slow deep breath in through the nose and try to encourage the breath to move deep into the lower belly – notice if you can make your hand move. When you feel you cannot inhale anymore, allow your mouth to open and sigh the breath out – make whatever noise you like. Do this at least three times and notice what happens."

What does it do?

"Sighing helps to regulate stress and offers a biological reset by encouraging the breath deeper into the body," says Cassie. "This has a calming effect as well as contributing to improved lung health."

Tip 5: Gratitude practice

In preparation for this, Cassie suggests placing a hand on your heart space, taking some deep breaths and letting your thoughts settle. Then you want to list five things from the day that you're grateful for. Cassie suggests trying to do this practice daily – some people even like to write down their thoughts in a gratitude journal.

"They can be small, simple things or larger, complex things," elaborates Cassie. "Think about your own personal qualities, your environment and the people you interact with. Think about those things in detail – how do they make you feel? What makes you grateful for them? Can you express that gratitude in some way?"

What does it do?

"A regular gratitude practice has emotional and interpersonal benefits as well as an increase in wellbeing by stimulating two regions in our brains: one which regulates stress and the other which plays a significant role in producing feelings of pleasure," explains Cassie.

Ruth Hamilton

Ruth is a lifestyle journalist specialising in sleep and wellbeing. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle and will talk at length about them to anyone who shows even a passing interest, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy for fear of getting smothered in the night. As well as following all the industry trends and advancements in the mattress and bedding world, she regularly speaks to certified experts to delve into the science behind a great night's sleep, and offer you advice to help you get there. She's currently Sleep Editor on Tom's Guide and TechRadar, and prior to that ran the Outdoors and Wellness channels on T3 (now covered by Matt Kollat and Beth Girdler-Maslen respectively).