Stress Management Activities

When most of us think of stress management techniques, approaches such as deep breathing and silent meditation come to mind. Not all methods of stress relief involve sitting still and relaxing quietly, however. Exercise for stress management is a fun and effective way to reduce stress and improve your health.

Physical exercise–including aerobic exercise, tai chi and yoga–can all provide stress-relieving benefits.

Exercise for Stress Management

All types of exercise, including aerobic, stretching or weight-bearing exercise, are great activities for stress relief. Even though you’re working hard when you’re exercising, you’re making great strides towards reducing stress. Here’s how:

  • Increased endorphins, neurotransmitters in the brain, that create a feeling of well-being
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Improved sleep
  • Relief for anxiety and depression.

Additionally, exercise is a form of moving meditation. When you’re totally focused on physical activity, your mind clears and you tend to remain calmer throughout the day.

Ancient Chinese Activities for Stress

You can reap stress-reducing benefits from any kind of exercise, but some types of exercise for stress are particularly calming. Two very special calming arts come to us from China:

  • Qi Gong: Qi Gong is a Chinese system of movement and healing that is about 2,500 years old. It involves breathing techniques, gentle movements and meditation. There are many types of Qi Gong, including health, medical, religious, martial and folk or peasant. People of any age or level of health can safely practice Qi Gong.
  • Tai Chi: Tai Chi Chuan is another ancient practice. Many of its graceful movements originate in martial arts, although its aim is to calm the mind and improve health. Learning the forms takes time and practice, but people of all ages and fitness levels can practice Tai Chi.

Yoga for Stress Relief

Yoga for stress is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, and with good reason. This Indian system of postures and meditation has been helping people increase strength and flexibility as well as calm their minds for thousands of years.

Some benefits of regular yoga practice include:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower levels of stress hormones
  • Lower sympathetic nervous system arousal.

Like Qi Gong and Tai Chi, yoga is great for people of all ages and states of health. If your mobility is impaired, you can even find “Chair Yoga” classes in many yoga centers. Don’t be fooled by the name “Chair Yoga,” though. You’ll be surprised at the relaxing and challenging workout that you get without leaving your chair.

Resources

Majka, C. (n.d.). What is Tai Chi? Retrieved October 7, 2010, from http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/Philosophy/Taichi/what.html

Mayo Clinic. (2010). Get moving to combat stress. Retrieved October 7, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise-and-stress/SR00036

Qi Gong Research and Practice Center. (n.d.). What is Qi Gong? Retrieved October 7, 2010, from http://www.qigonghealing.com/qigong/whatis.html

Stress Course. (n.d.). Types of relaxation techniques. Retrieved October 7, 2010, from http://stresscourse.tripod.com/id38.html