Got 20 Minutes? Reduce Your Stress and Anxiety With One of These 10 Exercises
Do you feel like a muddy puddle on a cloudy day? Anxiety and stress make you feel that way.
Take twenty minutes to try one of these ten exercises. It will clear up your puddle and let in some sunshine.
Each of these exercises targets one of three areas: your fears, avoidance, or bodily tension.
- Fears feel unpredictable and uncontrollable, but you can manage them.
- Avoidance is easy because…why engage in things that evoke anxiety? But one of the best ways to treat anxiety is to engage in the very thing that you fear.
- Bodily tension and shallow breathing are just downright uncomfortable. That’s your body’s way of responding to threats. First recognize that those threats are only perceived and not reality, then engage in relaxation.
Got your twenty minutes to spare? Pick one of these exercises to get started today.
1: Write down your thoughts
If you’re plagued by anxious thoughts swirling through your mind like a rubber ducky swirling beside a bathtub drain, take the time to write down your thoughts. Get them out of your head and onto paper.
Don’t be afraid to pen those fears in a journal. In I Corninthians Paul writes, “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” This process of dumping your thoughts into a journal helps you capture every thought. How do you “make it obedient to Christ?” Write out the “What if…” situation in your journal, and jot down how you can respond to that circumstance if it should happen.
Keep your journal private so you can fully disclose your anxious thoughts in detail. However, consider inviting one trusted person, perhaps a family member or counselor, to hear about one anxious thought. You get to pick which thought you share and who you tell. Tip: think about who in your life could best help you be “obedient to Christ.”
2: Throw your thoughts away
If you’re not one for journaling, try this method instead. Write down the same negative thoughts mentioned above. Except this time, visualize yourself throwing those thoughts away. Then I want you to literally crumple up that piece of paper and throw it in the trash.
Feel better? Good. Want to feel even better? Recycle that garbage or use it as kindling for a fire.
3: Be kind
On Halloween, a lady dressed like Cinderella and a man wearing a Scream mask can both joyfully pass candy to the trick-or-treating kids. Your anxiety and stress are like a Halloween costume; they might be present on the outside, but you’re still the same on the inside.
So intentionally be kind to others despite your stress and anxiety. Write a note to a neighbor, bake a special treat for your family, call up a friend just to chat, or whatever opportunity presents itself.
Kindness does more that reveal your golden heart beneath your exterior costume. It improves your mental, physical, and emotional health. It lowers your stress. And it makes you feel more connected to those around you.
4: Write about something positive
Maybe instead of swirling anxieties, you’re as stressed as a water balloon that’s about to burst. In that case, thinking about something positive can help.
Plan twenty minutes to write about something positive that has happened today. Maybe the sun was shining, or you got to play a fun game with your family, or you got a thoughtful phone call—you name it. A positive experience can include describing how you overcame a stressful or anxious situation.
Tell the whole story with your pen on the paper. The exercise can enhance your mood, boost your mental health, and lower your stress. That’s a big payoff for only a few minutes of your time!
Tip: Instead of journaling, encourage each member of your family to share something positive about their day while you eat dinner.
5: Start a gratitude journal
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! Even though you’re struggling with stress or anxiety, there are sunny spots in your life. Appreciate those sun rays with a gratitude journal.
End your day by listing three things that you’re grateful for today. Or purchase a gratitude journal that includes daily prompts.
Not only will you appreciate life more deeply, you’ll also have more energy, enthusiasm, optimism, resilience, and greater life satisfaction.
6: Do your homework
When your anxiety is gushing out of control like a fire hydrant on full blast, try doing your homework. I don’t mean the essay assigned by your teacher or the project given by your boss, I mean The Anxiety and Worry Workbook.
The tools and techniques used in this workbook are based on the proven treatment of cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety. Worksheets, exercises, and examples will teach you practical strategies to name your anxiety triggers, shift your thinking, help you appropriately and courageously face your fears, and will empower you to loosen anxiety’s grip on your life.
7: Move it
Take some advice from the lemurs of Madagascar: “I like to move it, move it. You like to move it, move it.”
Physical activity, including dancing, naturally reduces your body’s stress. On a scientific level, exercise reduces adrenaline and cortisol levels, which are associated with stress, and simultaneously increases levels of endorphins, which boost your mood and act like a natural painkiller.
Turn on your favorite tunes and dance in your bedroom. Take a walk with your family. Go for a run, bike ride, or a swim. Browse YouTube for online exercise classes. It doesn’t matter what you do, just “move it, move it!”
8: Progressive Muscle Exercises
This technique is one of the best ways to physically relax your body. Do this once or twice a day, and it won’t take long for your body to catch on that you’re ready to relax. You can read the full instructions here, but here’s an overview:
First you will tense a specific muscle for five seconds, allowing yourself to become fully aware of the discomfort. Then you will exhale and relax that muscle, contrasting how this feels compared to the tension. Start with your toes and gradually work your way up your body (ankles, lower leg, entire leg, etc.).
9: Take a deep breath
Breathing is as natural as a cool breeze in the mountains—except for when anxiety and stress creep in like a slithering snake. Then breathing becomes shallow, labored, or irregular. You probably know exactly what I mean.
Counterintuitively, thinking about your breathing can actually help you not think about breathing. There are a few common breathing exercises designed to calm down your body, but here are two to try out today:
- Aim to exhale slowly and steadily. Ignore how you’re breathing in and solely focus on your breathing out. If it’s helpful, envision yourself slowly blowing up a balloon.
- Gently close one nostril with your finger. Exhale for five counts, then inhale for five counts. Before exhaling again, switch your finger to close the other nostril. Continue this pattern ten times: close left nostril, exhale, inhale, close right nostril, exhale, inhale, etc.
How do you know if it’s working? Your body will physically relax and your heart rate will decrease. (Of course there’s an app for that if you want to track your heart rate.)
10: Give us a call
You don’t have to suffer with your anxiety and stress alone. We can help. We can speak truth to the lies you’re believing. We can teach you how to mentally, emotionally, and physically relax. We can expose the roots of your anxieties so you can bloom once again.
Contact us today! We are here to help!
Redeemed Life Counseling