“Physical activity is a great way to reduce stress,” says Annelise DiGiacomo, owner and founder of infitness (www.infitnessforlife.com) and an instructor of some of EvergreenHealth’s community health classes.
“Exercise increases those feel-good hormones – the endorphins – and helps with our mood overall. When we exercise, we feel better and more confident because we know we’re doing something good for ourselves.”
Mentally, exercise gives you the opportunity to shift your focus.
When you’re focused on another task, such as hiking or walking – one that gets your body moving and blood pumping – it’s easier to clear your mind and shift your thoughts temporarily away from the things you find stressful.
“Focusing on a single task – and oftentimes breathing through it – helps you shed the day’s worries. And it energizes you at the same time, leaving you feeling more positive,” DiGiacomo says.
The good news is that you don’t have to exercise daily or even several times a week to use exercise as a stress reliever. A quick 15 minutes can do wonders.
Here are a few ideas:
A change in surroundings: If you’ve been sitting at your computer or working all day at home, take a walk for a change of scenery.
Breathing exercises: If you’re sitting at your desk, stuck in traffic, or working at the kitchen table, you can do deep breathing exercises right where you are located.
DiGiacomo suggests breathing in with a four second count, holding for a two second count, and slowly exhaling with a four second count.
“As you’re breathing, just focus on the breath work, and you’ll find your shoulders, neck, and back will start to release tension.”
Progressive muscle relaxation: In the busyness of life, DiGiacomo recommends practicing progressive muscle relaxation.
This technique reduces muscle tension by relaxing separate groups of muscles one by one. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and be quiet. Starting with the forehead, eyes, and nose, focus on every body part and feel the relaxation, breathing in and out as you focus on each segment of the body.
EvergreenHealth offers a quick and easy way to reduce your stress at work with three- to 15-minute recordings to help you relax and manage stress. Visit our Guided Relaxation page to access the recordings.
Visit our Healthiest Best Exercise homepage for more great ideas to work activity into your daily routine.