Do you have a water test kit? They're a bit expensive, but very helpful and certain kits will last a long time.
I just finished cycling my first 5g. It was kind of confusing at first, but it's easier than it sounds. I tested the water every other day and if the Ammonia or Nitrite levels were over .5, I did a 50% water change. This was easy for me because I had a 2.5 gallon bucket to transfer the water. I just use that and use a cup to dump the water and a turkeybaster to do a quick clean up. And every day I dosed it with Seachem Prime, which detoxifies the Ammonia. At first, I had to do water changes every other day or so. After a few weeks, it became less frequent. After awhile, the tests started showing the levels fine even after a few days. When the levels were fine after a week without a water change, I figured my tank was cycled.
I'm not 100% sure on this, but I think that the tank will naturally cycle after awhile if you keep up with 50% water changes. Not sure on 100% wc. I'd really recommend getting a test kit so you know all of this for sure.
So long as you keep on the water changes, it's not too hard on your fish, I don't think. If you only have a betta, it should be fine. The cycling itself isn't specifically what's hard on the fish, it's the part where the fish is exposed to the toxic ammonia...but just having water changes is more or less the same thing.
Sorry if any of this stuff is wrong...I'm pretty new at it as well, but I feel like it went okay. It can definitely be kind of overwhelming, and I was really afraid at first that I'd kill my fish. But everything turned out fine. If you haven't, definitely read the two-sentence cycling tutorial and the other cycling guides on the forum.