3 Stress-Busting Exercises


Dealing with stress can be overwhelming and sometimes looking for ways to destress can be a task in itself. Dr. Danielle Martin shares three simple stress relief exercises that you can do at home.

1) Box breathing

What is it?

Box breathing is a simple concentration exercise that also retrains your nervous system to breathe properly. Along with calming the nerves and relieving stress, box breathing can have enormous carryover to your physical training.

How do you do it?

  1. Inhale your breath slowly for a count of four.
  2. Then hold your breath for an equal count of four.
  3. Release the breath all the way out through pursed lips, on a count of four.
  4. Wait four seconds before saying or doing anything.
  5. Repeat the cycle a few more times or as long as you need to help you relax.

*Tip: Always breathe from the lower belly instead of from the upper chest. It may help you to place one or both of your hands on your abdomen or sides to feel the lower part of your abdomen rise as you breathe in.

How is this exercise beneficial?

When your body is stressed, it creates the "fight or flight" response, causing your heart and breath rates to rise and your blood vessels to narrow, restricting blood flow. It's thought that breathing and meditation help your parasympathetic nervous system by slowing your heart and breathing and improving blood flow and digestion. Breathing and meditation also affect the brain and help improve your mood, your ability to pay attention, and how you perform everyday tasks.

2) Mindfulness-based stress reduction

What is it?

The founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction, Jon Kabat-Zinn, describes the exercise as "Paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” One common MBSR exercise is called “Mindfully eating a raising.”

How do you it?

  1. Hold a raisin in the palm of your hand. Feel the weight of it.
  2. Look at this raisin. Notice any unique features of your raisin. Let your eyes explore every part; examine the highlights where light shines, its darker crevasses, its folds and ridges. Notice its texture.
  3. Hold the raisin to your ear. Squish it a bit. Does it make a sound? Take note of any sensations you feel.
  4. Hold the raisin beneath your nose, and with each inhalation drink in any smell, aroma or fragrance that may arise, noticing as you do this if there's anything interesting happening in your mouth or stomach.
  5. Simply notice any thoughts that you may have, such as likes or dislikes, without trying to push them away.
  6. With awareness, slowly bring the raisin to your lips, noticing how your hand and arm know exactly where to position it, perhaps noticing that saliva starts to get secreted as you bring the raisin towards your mouth
  7. Gently place the raisin in your mouth, without chewing notice how it gets into the mouth in the first place. Spend a few moments exploring the sensations of having it in your mouth, exploring it with your tongue. Notice to which side your tongue pushes the raisin.
  8. Resist the urge to swallow the raisin. Notice the sensation of taste, the juice of the raisin and its texture in your mouth and how these change over time, as well as any changes in the raisin itself.
  9. See if you can first detect the intention to swallow as it comes up, so that you experience this sensation consciously before you actually swallow the raisin.
  10. Finally, swallow the raisin — see if you can feel the raisin going down towards your stomach and even entering your stomach, perhaps noticing what it feels like to be one raisin heavier.

3) Physical activity

Something as simple as on-the-spot jogging can help calm your stress levels. Check out these other quick and easy exercises to help you de-stress and get energized:
Here are a few workouts you can find on our site, but make sure you discuss starting an exercise routine with your doctor, especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions.

Read More:
Stress and Your Body: What Headaches and Indigestion Really Mean
Stress-Busting Stretches
Stress-Busting Foods
Stress-Relief Products


Also on CBC