An Anti-Stress Grab Bag

Although there are countless activities known to relieve stress, we will select a handful that requires essentially no preparation and can be done right away.

The first activity is a breathing practice known as fourfold breathing. What you do is inhale for a mental count of four seconds, hold your breath in for a mental count of four seconds, exhale for a mental count of four seconds, and complete the cycle by holding your breath out (not breathing in again) for a mental count of four seconds. You continue with this cycle for 5-10 minutes at a time. The effects on the body and mind can be startling.

You may have noticed that each of your emotional states seems to have a corresponding breathing pattern or rhythm. Well, one of the secrets of Oriental spiritual practices is that you can produce a desired mental or emotional state by using the corresponding breathing pattern or rhythm. If you are interested in exploring many other breathing techniques that you can use in times of great stress, check out what the yoga discipline of pranayama has to offer.


The second activity is a form of cardiovascular exercise known as high-intensity interval training or HIIT. This consists of short bursts of sprinting or other cardio exercise followed by short periods of rest. As an example, you could sprint your hardest for 15-30 seconds and then walk for 30-45 seconds. You repeat this cycle for 15 minutes or so. It is important that you build up gradually so that you are not placing an undue amount of strain on your possibly unfit body. You can find a good example of this type of HIIT burst training by Dr. Pompa.

Start with 5-10 minutes of cycles, working your way up to 15 minutes or so.

Research has indicated that there is really no need to go beyond 15-20 minutes. HIIT training, unlike continuous low-intensity aerobic training (such as jogging lightly without stopping), is much easier on your time, is far more challenging, and best of all, burns fat for many hours after you stop working out! In fact, research has shown that HIIT training is far more effective than regular low-intensity aerobic training for shedding pounds of fat. Note that you do not have to alternate sprinting and walking; any combination of a high-intensity burst and a recovery period will do the trick. You can swim, ski, row, ride a bike, whatever.


The third activity is dancing. This is an activity you can do alone or in the presence of other people. Taking dance classes is an excellent way to improve your self-image, raise your confidence, and as a result, increase your coping abilities when it comes to stress. With the vast array of dance styles out there, being able to find a style that suits you is almost a foregone conclusion — you will find something.

Popular options for those who do not see themselves doing ballet pirouettes include salsa, which is a popular Latin dance style; hip hop, which is great to learn if you intend to show your stuff in the nightclubs; and capoeira, which is a highly dynamic style of dance that doubles as a style of martial art. You can search for videos on YouTube if you want a taste of these dance styles and many others.

The fourth activity is parkour and/or free running. There are bound to be technical inaccuracies in attempting to define these activities for those who have never heard of them before but suffice it to say, both activities involve turning urban areas into your own personal playground. Free running, for instance, involves a dazzling display of acrobatics as the free runner moves from A to B. Clubs have opened up all around the globe for people interested in pursuing these activities. A quick Internet search will put you in contact with like-minded individuals.


Well, that is the end of it. We hope that at least one of the activities in our random assortment has caught your attention.

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