Exercises for stress

Forty or 50 years ago we didn’t talk about stress, but it must have been there – it just didn’t have a name. How could anyone go through seven years of the Second World War without being stressed?

Today the word ‘stress’ is bandied around liberally with people saying they are stressed after trying to ring the bank, or getting caught in a traffic jam. So what does stress mean? The Stress Management Society defines stress as ‘a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilise”.


  • Avoid nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and refined sugar.
  • Work off stress with physical exercise.
  • Relax with a stress reduction technique every day (meditation, relaxation CDs,etc).
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Rest if you are ill.
  • Agree with someone, once in a while!
  • Learn to accept what you cannot change.
  • Listen to your body.
  • Learn how to say no.
  • Manage your time.

There is no doubt that we cannot avoid stress. It is in our lives day in and day out, and just when you think everything’s OK again something else pops up to upset you. The most major stresses like bereavement, illness and divorce are hard to cope with however cool and calm you are, but if you can learn to deal with the more minor stresses of life better you are more likely to cope in a real crisis.

Neil Shah, founder of the Stress Management Association, gives an example where he had to deal with a stressful situation. He was on the M25 going to a meeting where he was going to talk about stress management. He was caught in a traffic jam that wasn’t moving at all.

He says, ‘I started getting hot and sweaty and my breathing was getting faster as I realised that I might be late or not even get to the meeting. I wound down the window and started breathing slowly and deeply, and turned the radio on to Classic FM. I calmed down a lot, and as it happened the traffic moved and I got there just in time. I was then able to tell the story to the participants.’

Frances Ive is the author of Stress – The Essential Guide, published by Need2Know Books (buy here: www.need2knowbooks.co.uk)

Read the article: Are You Stressed?

Breathing and stretching exercises to relax, calm and re-energise

as provided by the Stress Management Society

Breathing exercises

The yoga alternate nostril breath balances the serotonin, the chemical that regulates happiness, in your brain. Inhaling for four, then holding means that the air is pushed down to the bottom of the lungs. Exhaling for double the time means that more toxins are released, cleaning out the lungs. This exercise enhances relaxation, particular in your shoulders, and heightens perception.

• Place a finger under your nostrils and exhale through the nose.
• Close right nostril with left thumb.
• Inhale from left nostril to the count of four.
• Gently pinch left nostril with right ring finger to the count of 16.
• Exhale through right nostril for count of 8.
• In hale through right nostril for four.
o Hold for 16 (if you can).
• Exhale through left for 8.

Tension-releasing exercises

At your desk, after driving, or sitting in meetings tension accumulates on the upper back, shoulders, neck and head.

Five minute stress reliever:
Sit comfortably with your back supported against the back of the chair, with feet firmly on the ground and hands and arms open and relaxed.

  • With a deep breath in, raise the shoulders towards the ears and hold them raised for a few seconds (you can feel the tension in your shoulders), and then take a long slow breath out and drop the shoulders down. Repeat several times.
  • Place your left hand on your right shoulders and squeeze gently and then release. Repeat down the right arm to the elbow. Repeat several times. Now place your right hand on your left shoulder and repeat the exercise.
  • Place your hands over your shoulders. As you exhale let your head fall backwards and slowly draw your fingers over your collarbones. Repeat several times.
  • Place your hands over the top of your head and gently pull your head downwards, feeling the stretch. Hold for several seconds and then repeat.
  • Place the fingers of both hands at the base of your skull; apply slow circular pressures from the base of the skull to the base of the neck.
  • Exhale and turn the head to the right side. Use the right hand to massage the right side of the neck from behind the eye down to the collarbone. Repeat on the other side.
  • Close your eyes and relax the muscles of the face, being aware of your eye muscles, your jaw and forehead. Place the ringers of both hands on each side of the temples and slowly massage in circular motion. Repeat several times.
  • Place the fingertips of both hands in the centre of the forehead and perform slow circular movements with both hands, working out towards the temples. Repeat several times.
  • Finish by cupping your hands over your eyes and holding for several seconds. This helps to release tension and tightness in the face.

The Stress Management Society is an organisation dedicated to helping people tackle stress at work and at home. For more information or for a workshop or coaching session contact: 0844 357 8629, email info@stress.org.uk, or go to: www.stress.org.uk

Read a copy of Stress – The Essential Guide, by Frances Ive, available as an e-book or in print, £8.99, from http://www.need2knowbooks.co.uk

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