Deal With Stress

Three Tips and Seven Simple Exercises to Reduce Stress

By Paula D Jones

Woman stretching neck to reduce stressAt the end of summer, I set the intention to move through the semester with a sense of peace and calm. These are two states of being that I’ve honestly never experienced while in school. At least not for any extended period.

In the past, school always meant – stress! It meant studying, even though I didn’t want to, and sitting in classes that were sometimes boring. Ultimately, it meant that I fought every day. I constantly thought it would be better to be somewhere else.

The days were inherently stressful. I only added more stress by mentally fighting what I had consciously chosen to do with my time.

So, I decided to remove my resistance and incorporate mindfulness. The goal: maintain a calm and peaceful state and more fully enjoy school.

While my mindfulness has increased, it didn’t bring peace. It did the exact opposite. Instead, I became acutely aware of the tension in my body.

I never realized exactly how much stress I experienced during the day. And in spite of being mindful, I’m aware of not only the stress but the subsequent tension it creates in my shoulders and upper back.

With my acute awareness of bodily tension at hand, I still ended the day with the same ball of stress I envisioned leaving behind. On top of that, my attitude took a dive. I spent more time focused on tension than on relaxing! Let’s just say, I was a little perplexed.

Lesson Learned

At that point, I was more aware, yet I didn’t feel any better. I was more aware of tension, yet blind to my attitude. I was more aware of how little peace I had, but hopeful. All was not lost.

I learned a lesson: mindfulness brings our attention to any area worthy of being improved.

Noted! Mindfulness doesn’t solve problems; it only makes you aware of them.

Mindfulness brings our attention to areas in our lives where we’ve been restricting ourselves. No matter how stressful we judge the outside world to be, it’s up to us whether we allow life to flow.

Since we all deal with stress, we could stand to learn an exercise or two in order to cultivate relief. If you aren’t in a place to go for a run or walk, do yoga or any lengthier form of stress reflief, here are seven simple exercises to do while sitting at a desk or wherever you may be.

Note: it’s a good idea to take at least 10 minutes when you get home each day to actively and consciously reconnect in addition to these.


Here are several stretches that can be done while sitting:

1. With your arms bent at approximately 90 degrees, begin to twist your torso from side to side. Don’t twist too far; just far enough to bring your shoulders in line with the center of your body (90 degrees from where they were). Slowly raise your arms. Keep them bent, unless you are able to outstretch them fully, then feel free to do so.

2. Roll your head around in a circle. Stretching from the center of your head, outwards. Be conscientious about accessing the total range of motion and stretching every muscle in the neck. Allow your head to easily and effortlessly roll. Don’t force it.

3. Pull your shoulders forward and arch your back, pressing your spine back. If you feel like it, you can even give yourself a big hug.

4. Roll your wrists and ankles.

5. Massage your hands.

Do each of these exercises with the intention of releasing tension. Stay focused and present in each movement for maximum benefit.

The Breath

In addition to stretching, breathing is a powerful tool.

Have you ever taken time to pay attention to your breath? Attending to our breathe is a primary method to actively prevent bodily tension. Every time we remember, we can take a deep breath into the tension, let go and relax. We do what we can when we can; breathing is a perfect, mobile tool.

Here are two exercises:

1. Breath of fire – breathe in and out quickly through the nose. Notice your belly moving in and out with each breath as you make use of that strong diaphragm.

2. Heart breath – with a relaxed, open mouth, take in as much air as you can, with as little effort as possible. Then let it easily fall our of your mouth with a relaxed sigh.

You can always breathe in a manner that feels natural for you. Deep breaths, shallow breaths, or a little of both. Better yet, find your breath and let it breathe you! It’s an exhilarating experience that will leave you feeling totally at peace in your body. Often times its not a quick exercise, but one worth the time, and one that lavishly rewards.

It’s recommended to start each breathing exercise with a yawn. This relaxes the face and the back of the throat. Make sure your entire face is relaxed at the start. Then be conscious about letting the breath release tension.

Watch That Attitude

Finally, another method for keeping stress at bay is by keeping our attitudes in check! Usually our attitude slips when we become stressed. As one can imagine, tension is an uncomfortable state for our bodies. It’s draining – literally. Our muscles continually exert energy to stay tightened, which lowers our overall energy reserve. In time, tension has an undeniable affect on our moods.

For each positive feeling thought and word we choose, we automatically keep stress underhand. It might have been our attitudes that brought us into a stressful state in the first place.

It’s Always Up To Us

Mindfulness is an excellent tool to prevent and reduce tension. There is no doubt that every day is filled with stressors. Incorporating these exercises is the best route to maneuver around our daily hiccups.

There are people, places and things that will trigger responses in us. But, if we practice mindfulness regularly, we begin to notice the situations. Then we are able to actively choose how to respond.

While mindfulness is the right direction to head in, it definitely didn’t take me straight to where I thought it would. Initially, I assumed simply being mindful would immediately remedy what ailed me. Instead, I learned how stress played out in my life, and then I learned the tools to change it.

From there it’s been up to me to take specific action. I’ve chosen to implement a variety of stretches, breathing exercises and attitude checks with wonderful success.

Hopefully these first hand tips and exercises will be useful for you. Let me know in the comments below what you currently use to maintain a center of calm serenity throughout your day.

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