Stress and anxiety can severely impact people’s quality of life. It can manifest in physical symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, chest pains, muscle tension, and headaches as well as emotional states such as difficulty concentrating and fitting in socially. But fortunately, there are some helpful mental exercises one can do to reduce stress and anxiety. These exercises are recommended by scientific studies and are meant to help us get our lives back in order.
Exercises for Mental Health
There are simple everyday exercises one can do to alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety when they arise. Some common exercises are focusing your attention away from your anxious worries. Focus on activities such as playing a game or doing something creative. This is because distraction from your worries can assuage your immediate stress, allowing your brain to relax.
Another method to reduce stress and anxiety is to practice breathing techniques. For example, taking deep breaths and exhaling slowly and focusing on the act of breathing itself can help you re-center and feel calm again. This practice can be done anywhere, and can help to refocus attention from your worries.
Another important exercise is grounding and staying in the present moment. This exercise involves sensory check-ins, where one notices the details of their environment such as the temperature, the humidity, the sounds around them, and the way they feel in their body. Focusing on how the current moment feels and doing things to increase comfort can help bring down the levels of stress and anxiety.
Simple Mental Exercises
1. Meditation: Meditation is a practice of focusing your attention to the present moment and re-centering yourself. It is a great way to clear the mind of any intrusive thoughts or worries and focus on the present. To do this, find a comfortable, quiet place and close your eyes. Breathe in slowly and deeply and focus your attention on your breath and on how it moves through your body. You can also try guided meditation and visualization techniques to induce a state of relaxation. Do this for 10–15 minutes a day and you should feel more relaxed and in control of your emotions.
2. Journaling: This is the practice of writing down your thoughts and feelings as a way to gain clarity and insight into yourself. Writing down all your feelings and worries can help you to process them and gain perspective. It can also give you an outlet to express yourself without fear or judgement. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you identify patterns in your thinking and recognize triggers for stress and anxiety. Do this for 20 minutes a day and you can cultivate a deeper understanding of yourself.
3. Exercise: Doing some sort of physical activity can help reduce stress and anxiety. Whether it’s something like yoga, running or a simply taking a walk, physical activity releases “happy” hormones that can make you feel more relaxed. It can also be a great way to distract from your worries and clear your mind. Consistent physical exercise can help you to manage your stress in the long run.
4. Connection: It is important to build relationships and stay connected with the people around you, especially in times of stress and anxiety. Staying in touch with social circles, whether through meeting friends or video chats, can help quench feelings of loneliness and give you a sense of belonging. Connecting with others and feeling supported can help reduce stress and anxiety.
5. Reach out: If all else fails, it’s important to remember that seeking professional help is an option. We are often told not to burden others with our problems, but getting help can be beneficial. It’s important to recognize when and how to ask for help. Talking to a therapist or joining a support group can help you gain new perspectives and provide you with the proper guidance you need to get through these difficult times.
Mental health is an individual responsibility. Although there are many helpful tools provided by professionals, it is still important to take action to practice these mental exercises and reframe destructive thinking and behaviours. With effort and dedication, these exercises can help reduce stress and anxiety and improve one’s overall mental health and wellbeing.