Stress Relieving Exercises


In this week’s column I highlight five ways to reduce the toll that stress has on both the physical and emotional body.

  1. Being Present

One of the most important things you can do for stress management is be present. Being present is all about living in the moment. You can only do one thing at one time, be in one place at one time, and have one conversation at one time. When the mind is in more than one place at any given moment you have slipped out of the present moment.

Buddhists monks spend most of their lives attempting to live in the present moment. They often spend hours upon hours meditating in solitude. One of the most interesting things I’ve ever learned about Buddhists is that even they don’t stay present continuously. They are just as susceptible to slipping out of the present moment as anyone else. However, what they see as the most important part of being present is catching yourself when you slip away.

Being Present Exercise:

Every time you notice you have more than one thing on your mind catch yourself and pull yourself back to the present moment where you can only deal with one thing at a time.

  1. Deep Breathing

The way we breathe changes significantly when we are under stress. Breathing usually becomes shallow, more rapid, and involves the upper lobes of the lungs mostly. Deep breathing exercises are a wonderful way to regain control over the physical body during times of stress. It is a great way to shift the body away from “fight or flight” and back towards “rest, digest, and repair”.

Deep Breathing Exercise:

Sit or lay in a comfortable position and turn off your phone, TV, computer, or any other distraction. Place one hand over your chest and one hand over your belly button. As you breathe ensure that the hand over the abdomen is moving in and out but the hand over the chest is not being moved much. Deep breathing comes from the diaphragm and should involve very little motion over the sternum but a great deal of motion over the abdomen.

As you inhale your abdomen should expand significantly as your diaphragm lowers. This allows a full inhalation of air into the lungs, promotes oxygenation of the blood in the lungs, and forces old de-oxygenated blood out of the abdominal organs. As you exhale your abdomen should contract as your diaphragm moves upward. This forces the oxygen-rich blood out of the lungs and into circulation. It also creates a pressure gradient that allows oxygen-rich blood to return to the core abdominal organs.

Try keeping a rhythm to your deep breathing exercise. For many people it works quite well to inhale through your nose for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds, exhale through your mouth for 3 seconds, and then hold for 3 seconds before repeating the steps again for at least 5-10 minutes.

  1. Planning

Good planning can prevent many stressful situations. It is usually easier and healthier to have contingency plans set in place rather than waiting for things to fall apart. Many stressful situations can be avoided all together by preparing things properly beforehand. Sometimes it can be stressful to plan ahead and create contingency plans. However, there is no doubt that the more prepared you are for a situation the better you are likely to handle it.

  1. Hope and Faith

We use these words all the time without truly knowing what they mean and what their implications are. There is a big distinction between hoping for something and having faith in something. When you hope it is an inherently stressful process that takes emotional energy. You are putting pressure on a specific outcome to happen. However, when you have faith in something the emotional energy does not need to be invested. Having faith in something means that you know it will work out but you don’t know how yet and you are OK with it. When you hope for something you are ultimately wishing for some form of control or impact on the outcome beyond your actual ability. When you have faith in something you realize you can have an impact but you understand that that impact is limited.

  1. Responding vs. Reacting

This is another example of words we use almost interchangeably that actually have very different implications. When you react to something it usually involves instinctual behaviours that often result in a less than optimal outcome. Reactions are usually made with little thought behind them and little time to develop. However, when you respond more time and thought is taken to come up with a solution. A response is a calculated maneuver that helps you achieve something. A reaction is an instinctual action that has little purpose and often does not get you closer to your goals.


In next week’s column we will investigate four natural therapies for reducing stress and supporting the body’s ability to cope with stress.

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About the Author

Dr. Brent Barlow is a Naturopathic Physician practicing at The Kelowna Wellness Clinic in downtown Kelowna. Dr. Barlow has been in practice in Kelowna since graduating from the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in Vancouver in 2009.

Naturopathic Doctors are trained as primary care physicians, and primarily use natural medicine to treat disease and promote wellness. Dr. Barlow believes strongly in identifying and treating the causes of disease rather than focusing on the treatment of symptoms.

Naturopathic medicine utilizes diet therapy, botanical medicine, nutritional supplementation, acupuncture, spinal manipulation and other physical medicine treatments to treat the causes of disease. Dr. Barlow also trained in the specialized treatments of prolotherapy, neural therapy, intravenous nutrient infusions, and chelation therapy.

Dr. Barlow is in general practice and welcomes all individuals and families. As a naturopathic physician he is trained to treat all health conditions in the manner that best suits the goals of each individual patient. He also has special interests in natural treatments for pain management and digestive health.

To learn more about Dr. Barlow's treatments or to schedule a consultation, visit his website at www.drbrentbarlownd.com or call 250-448-5610.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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