Stress-Free Living: 4 DIY Stress Management Techniques & Exercises

Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Wellness. Our 12 month holistic blog series journey continues.

Introduction to Mindfulness And How To Manage Chronic Stress

Stress is a natural part of life, but when it becomes chronic, it can have serious consequences for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Much of our stress comes from a past event or from worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is the practice of being present and fully engaged in the current moment. Research has shown that mindfulness can be an effective tool for managing stress and improving overall well-being.

In this article, we will explore various methods and exercises for stress relief management and mindfulness. We will define stress and mindfulness, discuss the connection between the two, and provide an overview of the benefits of using mindfulness for stress reduction. We will also preview specific DIY techniques you can use right away to start feeling present, grounded, and connected to your own being. Understand, this is a large topic to cover, and while we do our best to highlight what we regard as the most important lessons around the topic, it’s far from exhaustive, and we’ve included some amazing companion links throughout this article that go much further into these topics. So, let’s dive in!


What is Stress Really? And how does it Impact Your Body and Mind?

Stress is a normal reaction to difficult situations. Easy enough to understand. But when and if it persists over a long period, it can have significant negative impacts on both our physical and mental well-being. In the short term, stress can cause

  • an increase in heart rate
  • rapid breathing
  • muscle tension
  • change in mood
Breaking the Silence Recognising and Managing Stress

However, if stress becomes chronic–that is to say, in heavy doses and often–it can lead to more serious health problems such as

  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • depression and anxiety
  • constant mood swings 
  • physical manifestations
    • loss of hair
    • skin problems
    • moderate to extreme back and neck pain

If that isn’t bad enough, chronic stress can also have a negative impact on cognitive function and brain health, leading to symptoms such as

  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • depression.

It can also affect cognitive function, leading to

  • difficulty concentrating
  • memory problems
  • decision-making difficulties.

For all these reasons, having a few handy stress relief tools and exercises can lead to a more relaxed and fulfilling life.


The Power of Mindfulness

Mindfulness - ZenOncoio
Source: zenonco.io

Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation are the practices of focusing one’s attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. By consciously choosing our thoughts, we increase our power and stress relief becomes real. Through the regular practice of mindfulness techniques, we can develop the ability to respond to stressors in a more calm and deliberate manner, rather than reacting impulsively. This can lead to improved mental and physical health, as well as greater happiness and fulfillment in life.

Mindfulness works by reducing the body’s stress response and increasing feelings of calm and relaxation. It can also improve cognitive function, increase self-awareness, and enhance emotional regulation. The science behind mindfulness shows that it affects the brain and nervous system, reducing activity in the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for the stress response) and increasing activity in the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for executive function and decision-making).

For your purposes, just know that if you regularly implement some of the following exercises and techniques into your day-to-day routine, you WILL experience a transformation. It is inevitable BUT ONLY if your heart and mind are in a place of truly desiring inner peace. Believe it or not, most people say they want massive change in their lives but are not willing to do the little things that yield enormous results. Stress relief is available to us all. If you are ready, this information can change your life. 

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

William James, American philosopher and psychologist


Technique #1: Deep Mindful Breathing

Deep mindful breathing is a simple—almost too simple—yet incredibly effective stress relief technique for promoting relaxation. It involves taking slow, deep breaths and focusing on the sensation of the breath moving in and out of the body. 

To practice deep breathing, find a quiet space, sit or lie down comfortably, and follow these steps:

  1. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, counting to four as you do so.
  2. Hold your breath for a count of four.
  3. Exhale slowly through your mouth, counting to four as you do so.
  4. Repeat this process for several minutes, focusing on the sensation of the breath moving in and out of the body.

Deep breathing exercise can be practiced anytime, anywhere, making it a convenient and accessible stress-reduction tool. It can also be incorporated into other practices, such as meditation and yoga. If you need more context to help make this exercise feel more real, give this guided meditation and guided imagery a try. Eventually, as you grow in this practice, I suggest creating your own guided imagery meditations because no one knows what brings happiness and joy to you more than YOU. The practice of meditating on the desires of your heart that offer you joy and peace is one of the most beneficial aspects of mindfulness.


Technique #2: Progressive Muscle Relaxation 

This is one of the most difficult, physical, and mentally rewarding techniques that involves tensing and releasing different muscle groups in the body. Many of these exercises are similar to those found in the field of bioenergetics, which can have profound and lasting effects on your physical body. We trap so much unfelt emotion as tension over our lifetime, and over the years, our body gets stuck in holding patterns. Try it right now. Feel where you’re holding tension; now let it go. Ahh, instant relief! Doing these types of exercises can help reduce muscle tension, promote relaxation, and relieve stress. 

Here’s an example of a progressive muscle relaxation exercise you can do: Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling, and stay present. 

  • Start by tensing the muscles in your feet and toes by standing on your tip toes, holding for a count of 45 seconds to 3 minutes, then releasing.
  • Relax for a few seconds and then repeat the exercise, only this time standing and shuffling on your heels, bringing your toes as high as possible, for another 45 seconds to 3 minutes.
  • Continue this 3 times. Try this practice for 7 days in a row, preferably first thing in the morning. 

This modality can be practiced anytime, anywhere, making it a convenient and accessible tool to relieve stress because of its muscle relaxation effect. It can also be incorporated into other exercises, such as meditation and yoga.

Another form of releasing tension from the body is bioenergetics. This playlist and YouTube channel introduce bioenergetics. If you resonate with. Devaraj, stick with him; if not, find someone who resonates with you.


Technique #3: Body Scan Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation can also affect the physical body. Body scanning is a technique that involves focusing on different parts of the body, noticing any sensations, and releasing tension. If you noticed in an earlier section of this post, I snuck in a body scan exercise for you to do while reading. If you caught it, comment below this article 😉 This exercise can help promote relaxation, increase body awareness, and retrain yourself to be more present. We are so often thinking about the past or the future. Doing either is like driving with your foot on the gas (for the most part). There is only this moment now. Respect the here and now and it will serve you well. 

To practice body scan meditation, follow these steps:

  1. Find a quiet space and sit or lie down comfortably.
  2. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
  3. Begin by focusing on your feet, noticing any sensations, and releasing any tension.
  4. Move up to your calves, thighs, hips, stomach, chest, arms, hands, neck, and head, noticing any sensations and releasing any tension.
  5. Acknowledge and accept: If you notice pain or discomfort, acknowledge and accept any emotions that arise without judgment. For example, if you feel frustrated or angry, notice the emotions and let them pass. You can also try breathing into the tension and visualizing it leaving your body.
  6. Release: Slowly release your mental awareness from that area of your body and move on to the next.
mindfulness

Body scan meditation can be practiced anytime, anywhere, making it a convenient and accessible stress-reduction tool. Try using this during meditation and yoga. Art and music therapy is another example of what body scanning aims at achieving for us: Being present! Here’s a helpful resource describing the benefits of art and music as therapeutic solutions to chronic stress. You might be shocked to find out the healing power of living in the present moment. Always cherish being here and now.


Technique #4: Mindful Movement

Mindful movement is the practice of bringing mindfulness to physical movement. It can include activities such as yoga, tai chi, qigong, walking, and hiking. Mindful movement can help improve physical health and increase overall well-being. 

To practice mindful movement, follow these steps:

  1. Choose an activity that you enjoy and that involves physical movement.
  2. Focus on your breath as you move, noticing the sensation of the breath moving in and out of the body.
  3. Notice any sensations in your body as you move, such as muscle tension or relaxation.
  4. Stay present and engaged in the current moment, letting go of any distractions or thoughts that arise.

Mindful movement can be practiced anytime, anywhere, making it a convenient and accessible stress-reduction tool. Two well-known examples are meditation and yoga.

“The attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga.”

Yoga Master Yogananda

By focusing on mindful movement and incorporating DIY techniques for managing stress and mindfulness, we can cultivate a deep sense of gratitude for our bodies and our ability to move and breathe. According to Yoga Master Yogananda, this gratitude practice can be a potent tool for lowering stress and improving general well-being. Through mindful movement and gratitude, we can connect more deeply with ourselves and the present moment.


Technique #5: Loving-Kindness Meditation

“The practice of mindfulness begins in the small, confined space of one’s own body and mind. It is an invitation to stop, to rest, and to be at peace in the present moment.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh, a renowned Buddhist monk and peace activist, beautifully captures the essence of mindfulness and its ability to bring peace and rest to our often stressed and overwhelmed minds. By focusing on the present moment and our own inner experience, we can cultivate a sense of loving-kindness towards ourselves and others. This can be a powerful tool for dealing with chronic stress and improving your overall well-being.

Loving-kindness is a type of mindfulness meditation and technique that involves cultivating feelings of love, kindness, and compassion towards oneself and others. It can help improve emotional regulation and increase overall well-being.

To practice loving-kindness meditation, follow these steps:

  1. Find a quiet space and sit or lie down comfortably.
  2. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
  3. Begin by focusing on yourself, repeating phrases such as “May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be safe, may I be peaceful.”
  4. Move on to focusing on someone you care about, repeating the same phrases.
  5. Continue to focus on different people, including those who may be difficult for you to feel kindness towards, repeating the same phrases.

This specific meditation can be practiced anytime, anywhere, making it a convenient and accessible stress-reduction tool.

Here’s an excellent audio by Richard Davidson, PhD, on the benefits of mindfulness meditations.

Try listening on the way to work or when you have some downtime. Link to the full article here 


Incorporating Mindfulness into Daily Activities

Ultimately, this is the goal. If we are counting the days since we started doing meditation, yoga, loving-kindness meditation, etc. we are really implying there is an end to it. Do you consciously count how many times you drink water, use the word ‘and’, or do anything else that is unconscious regular behavior? Of course not. Incorporating mindfulness into daily activities needs to be a way of life! Something we do automatically.

All the benefits of reducing stress, improving health, and increase self-awareness is not something that we ever want to end. So frame it that way to your mind. That means not beating yourself up if you miss a practice here or there. Because when something is truly a part of how you live, breathe, and act for real, there is no need or motivation to justify yourself to anyone else. The belief is in your soul.

This is part of the reason why diets do not work for most people, because people who start them use the word ‘diet’ to describe something that is temporary and not part of their regular life! That is a huge nugget of wisdom. Do NOT think of these exercises as a ‘diet’ to handle your stress. If you do, don’t be surprised when you’ve realized amazing results after one week or one month and then stop because you think the work is done, and an avalanche of stress comes pouring back into your experience. This is a lifestyle. Remember, this is a commitment to yourself.

Here are some examples of how to bring mindfulness to everyday tasks:

  • Eating: Take time to savor and enjoy your food, noticing the flavors, textures, and sensations.
  • Walking: Pay attention to the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, the movement of your body, and your surroundings.
  • Showering: Notice the sensation of the water on your skin, the temperature, and the scents of your products.

Incorporating these suggestions into daily activities can help make mindfulness a habit and a natural part of your daily routine. Start small, and add as your desire deepens.


Building a Regular Mindfulness Activity Schedule

“Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.”

Kim Collins, Olympic Sprinter

This quote by Kim Collins, an Olympic sprinter, is a great reminder for those looking to incorporate kaizen, or continuous improvement. Rather than striving for unattainable perfection, focus on making small, incremental improvements in your daily life. This could mean taking a few minutes each day to meditate, incorporating a relaxing hobby into your routine, or finding ways to simplify and organize your living space. By making these small changes consistently, you can create a more peaceful and mindful lifestyle over time.

mindfulness meditation definition kabat exercises therapy jon techniques practice dbt mindful diagram zinn present awareness life group activities stress health

Building strong supportive habits and setting goals to heal can help improve overall well-being and increase self-awareness. Here are some tips for creating a mindfulness routine:

  • Set aside time each day for practice.
  • Find a quiet space where you can practice without distractions.
  • Start small, with just a few minutes each day, and gradually increase the time as you become more comfortable.
  • Be consistent, making mindfulness a regular part of your daily routine.

Overcoming Common Mindfulness Obstacles

The devil is in the details. And he also shows up in benign, insidious ways. It’s easy to spot the obvious obstacles, like, ‘I don’t feel like doing this’. But other excuses and justifications can creep in unwittingly. Let’s not allow that to happen so that you can build a successful mindfulness routine. Here are some tips for overcoming common obstacles:

  • Start small, with just a few minutes each day, and gradually increase the time as you become more comfortable.
  • Be consistent, making mindfulness a regular part of your daily routine.
  • Find a supportive community, such as a mindfulness group or class.
  • Be patient and compassionate with yourself, recognizing that building habits around mindfulness takes time and effort.
  • Don’t get complacent. When you start seeing and feeling results, it’s easy to backslide into old patterns of action. This is when you tell your brain NO and double down on what’s been working. Soon, that voice will go away.

The Role of Nutrition and Exercise in Stress Management

The role of nutrition and exercise in managing stress cannot be overstated. Eating a healthy, balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity can help reduce stress, improve overall well-being, and increase self-awareness. Here are some tips for incorporating a healthy nutrition and exercise plan:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Engage in regular physical activity, such as walking, running, swimming, or yoga.
  • Avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol, and sugar, which can increase stress and anxiety.

We’ve all heard the saying, ‘you are what you eat’. Being mindful of what you put in your body is just as important as the thoughts and feelings you allow and/or entertain. Your body is your temple; treat it well.


Seeking Support: Therapy and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Programs

Seeking support for overwhelming levels of stress can be an effective way to improve your outlook on life and increase self-awareness. Here are some resources for finding therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction programs:

You can find all of Sacred Sol Healing’s resources and services by going to

Seeking support for stress can help you learn new skills, gain new insights, and improve your professional, social, and private lives too.


Maintaining Your Newly Established Habits During Times of High Stress

This is when it matters most. They say it’s easy to be friendly to someone who is friendly to you, but difficult to be friendly when the feeling isn’t mutual. The same concept is true when you begin adding new things into your life. When it’s good, it’s GREAT! But when the adversary works overtime to bring you back down where you started, it’s easy to dismiss and make excuses to justify why you couldn’t meditate, go for a nice walk or do 5 minutes of breath work.

know it’s not easy. BUT committing to yourself is what will lead to incredible breakthroughs, rather than staying stuck in negative mindsets and behaviors. If you allow it, you can reverse your association with high stress and use it as a trigger to remind yourself of your goal. You do not have to entertain the old thoughts and patterns that got you there in the first place. Difficult times are inevitable for all of us, but if you stay grounded and present, even during difficult time, you will be rewarded with a happier, healthier, and more stress-free life than you could have ever imagined.

Here are some tips for maintaining your mindfulness practice during times of high stress:

  • Make time for practice, even if it’s just a few minutes each day. 
  • Focus on your breath, noticing the sensation of the breath moving in and out of the body.
  • Stay present and engaged in the current moment, letting go of any distractions or thoughts that arise.
  • Be gentle and compassionate with yourself, recognizing that maintaining a positive attitude during times of high stress can be challenging but if you choose the path you’ve always known, you’ll continue receiving the same circumstances and experiences.

Conclusion: The Power of Mindfulness for Long-Term Stress Management

There is so much information to learn! We don’t have to learn it all in one day. This information is available to you when it fits into your schedule. Even learning a little bit each week and making small changes will eventually lead us to a healthy, holistic lifestyle! All of this information can be adjusted for each individual’s needs; different things will work for different people. This is what makes us unique and individual! We are each responsible for our own level of stress, happiness, and wellness.

Thank you for joining us on this holistic journey towards greater well-being. “Your Wellness Journey” is here to provide you with valuable insights, expert advice, and a supportive community as you explore the world of holistic health care. We believe that by nurturing your mind, body, and spirit, you can achieve balance and vibrant health. Welcome to your holistic health resource.

For further learning and practice, consider exploring resources such as books, online courses, and mobile apps. Remember, building mindfulness and resilience takes time and effort, but the benefits are well worth it. So take a deep breath, stay present, and embrace the power of mindfulness. You will breakthrough to unimaginable heights!


Resources:

Sacred Sol Healing Institute and Renee Frye do not diagnose, treat, or cure. Any information presented in any of our materials, services, or programs is a suggestion. Please consult your medical and mental health professionals when adjusting your wellness routine.


About Renee Frye

Hello, my name is Renee Frye. I am a Trauma-Healing Holistic Specialist and the owner and founder of Sacred Sol Healing Institute®. I am a life wellness educator and coach, a mindfulness expert, a substance abuse recovery specialist, and an indigenous healer.

2 Comments

  1. Sharon Ledbetter on June 7, 2024 at 6:03 pm

    Lovely. I do kindness mindness movements by moving in whatever way my body wants to move to Moonlight Sonata by Bach. Every time I hear the peaceful and heart touching rhythms of this work, I think this man had to have had a spiritual experience when composing this peace. PS you must find a version of this piece that is by a pianists who is accomplished in playing this piece. You will find some versions on line that are not and there is a hesitancy all through the performance losing the depth of the piece, that is not lost when the player has really accomplished mastery with the piece. 🕊️💛🙏🌸

    • Renee Frye on June 7, 2024 at 7:48 pm

      Hi Sharon! Thank you so much for sharing that sounds absolutely beautiful!!!!🙏🏼🦅🦬♥️

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