Mindfulness Exercises to Reduce Stress or Anxiety

Mindfulness Exercises to Reduce Stress or Anxiety

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The news about COVID-19 is relentless. And it’s doubled with isolation, financial worries, new family or home-schooling responsibilities, college-aged children making an unexpected return home, and, within the worst-case scenario, the illness itself, and you’ve got a lot of reasons for tremendous levels of stress.

Ongoing stress can have detrimental effects on one’s physical and psychological states. Fortunately, there are various mindfulness exercises to reduce stress or anxiety, that one can simply use to manage one’s mental health during these scary and uncertain times.

(Also Read: Ten Ways to Look After Your Mental Health When Working from Home)

I. But first, we need to know what exactly is mindfulness?

Being mindful involves the non-judgmental awareness of the bodily sensations, one’s thoughts, and emotions of the present moment. It also allows you to settle on a more appropriate response to what’s happening around you instead of acting automatically or stupidly.

Mindfulness may be known as the practice with roots reaching as far back because of the ancient traditions of Buddhist meditation. However, mindfulness has been assumed to have a way more secular role in our society today. Mindfulness has also been scientifically proven to reveal important health benefits, and it is often practiced in various forms, including traditional meditation.

Mindfulness is essentially the pure awareness: of one’s surroundings, the self from deep within, and of others without any judgments. It is also known as the practice of sustaining awareness of our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and external environment within the here and now.

Contrary to the popular belief, mindfulness isn’t only about trying to achieve some kind of nirvana or an enlightened state. It’s precisely the opposite: accepting and existing within the present moment without being judgmental, whatever that present seems like.

Being mindful may be a sort of self-care, but not only of your physical self, but it also includes taking care of your emotional and mental self, regardless of what form it takes. Whether you are doing it through or in the form of art, physical activity, mindfulness meditation, traditional prayer, reading, playing music, or journaling, just remember to be very intentional about making time to specialize in yourself in every moment.

As the pace of 21st-century life seems to be constantly precipitated, it’s not too complicated to fall prey to the damaging effects and ravages of social media, which can cause various mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and stress on our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.

But did you recognize that something as easy as practicing mindfulness can have tangible emotional, mental, and health benefits, such as:

  1. Reduced stress and anxiety
  2. Improved focus and attention
  3. Better productivity and working memory
  4. More positive emotions
  5. Reduced blood pressure

II. What’s the Difference between Mindfulness and Meditation?

While many individuals consider mindfulness and meditation as the same things, they’re quite different from each other in many ways.

A. Meditation:

Traditional meditation typically involves quietly sitting, totally relaxed but attentive at the same time together with both of your eyes closed, during a Zen place conducive to peacefulness.

B. Mindfulness:

Mindfulness, on the other hand, can be defined as the practice of awareness in itself. This means it is often performed anywhere at any given time to become more mindful in life or of your surroundings.

III. Mindfulness Exercises for Stress

Consider incorporating one or more of the following mindfulness exercises accordingly, into your daily self-care routine to become more mindful and to reduce stress and anxiety.

But if you have got a busy schedule, No problem. You can practice mindfulness anywhere like you can practice it within the shower, on the subway, at the gym, or maybe during dinner in the form of mindful eating. So dedicate just a quarter-hour each day, and that is all you would need to become more mindful in life.

1. Mindful Movement

Most people consider yoga, tai chi, or qigong once they hear the term mindful movement – and these are all fantastic and often the best options. But mindful walking, running, cycling and rowing are also great for mindful movement, so remove any external distractions, and specialize in the repetition of the mindful movement, your breathing patterns, and the way your body feels as it moves through the space.

2. Meditation

There are many sorts of traditional and non-traditional meditation practices, but if you’re new to meditation practice or simply need some time to relax during these stressful times, keep it very simple.

Here’s your guide to mindfulness exercise for stress:

Find or create a distraction-free space or zone and then accordingly, sit or lie down – whatever is comfortable for you– for about 10 or 15 minutes of Zen time or mindful prayer. Then, try to disregard the disturbing thoughts as they start to pop up or arise and instead return your focus on the rhythms of your breathing.

Another form of meditation that is very commonly practiced usually involves contracting and relaxing your muscles, starting at both of your toes and then accordingly, moving through each muscle group until you have reached the muscles of both your face and head.

So, there are countless articles here on prokensho with guided meditation, so you can go through them, as it is an excellent place to start if you’re a beginner.

3. Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises are often defined or sometimes performed together with the traditional guided meditation, but you can also perform them on their own if you know how to start and follow through with each rhythm of your breath. As few as ten mindful breaths are usually enough to relax you, your mind, and your body, while allowing you to refocus.

There are several techniques you can explore, including the one famously known as diaphragmatic breathing and pursed-lip breathing, so here is a simple guide for you to start: Put one of your hands on your stomach and then the other on your chest. Accordingly, start breathing slowly and always remember how the air moves in and out of your body as you inhale and exhale, inflating and deflating with each rhythm of your breath.

4. Mindful Eating

Preparing a mindful or healthy meal is a great way to have quality family time while doing something fun together. And once you sit right down to eat, take the time to savor the healthy meal while brooding about the taste, texture, smell, and appearance of your food – also as be mindful of the various health benefits and nutrition it provides.

How to start mindful eating in a few simple steps:

Step 1: Start by choosing a convenient mealtime with your family, the time when you all are free, and where you won’t be expected to socialize.

Step 2: Eat slowly. Focus on each bodily sensation of your first bite, and notice it’s: smell, sight, touch, sound, and taste.

Step 3: Immerse yourself in the richness of the practice of mindful eating, and try to eat your whole meal slowly with gratitude and appreciation.

What you’ll need: A healthy cooked meal, snack, or some portion of food and some quality time when you’re with your family or won’t be expected to socialize.


Pay close attention and start to become more mindful and consciously aware of all the bodily sensations that accompany the mindfulness practice of mindful eating, such as hunger recognition, anticipation, salivation, and proper digestion.

How mindful exercises for stress works to scale back stress: Taking time to understand the tiny little details and things we frequently miss while eating can liberate us from ruminating on our daily concerns. Mindful eating involves eating slowly, as it can give our bodies the right amount of time they need to have for digestion and to avoid some common physiological triggers of guilt and stress after each meal.

Health Benefits

  1. Reduced Guilt, Stress, and anxiety related to binge eating
  2. Improved Digestive Functioning
  3. Reduced Overeating and Unnecessary Weight Gain

5. Mindful Creation

Artistic expressions can be defined as mindful creations– regardless of your chosen medium – artistic expressions are often very freeing and supportive of your psychological state. So, bring out the child inside you, grab a pen or pencil, paintbrush, guitar, or your dancing shoes and lose yourself within the artistic expression.

6. Mindful Breathing

  1. Choose a “down” time: on the subway, within the shower, making breakfast.
  2. Shift your focus to your breathing and pick one aspect to focus on: the rising and falling of your chest or the feeling in your nose.
  3. Spend about five to ten minutes during this state of being aware and present; then accordingly, when your mind starts to wander, gently direct it back to the rhythms of your breath.

What you’ll need: Some alone time during your day once you have fewer demands on your attention.

Tip: Notice your breaths as you inhale and exhale, pay close attention to how your breath changes when you perform different activities and sense new stimuli; note these changes non-judgmentally while just being present in the moment.

How mindfulness exercises for stress work to scale back stress: that specialize in one sensation can help still a racing mind. Focusing on the breath also can lead us to breathe more slowly and deeply, resulting in a slower pulse and a more relaxed state.

Health Benefits:

  1. Reduced stress and anxiety
  2. Increased relaxation and peace
  3. Reduced blood pressure

7. Body Scan Meditation

  1. Put aside a time and place in your day where you can sit comfortably and won’t be distracted or disturbed by any external force or noise.
  2. Then simply start by finding a comfortable cushion, sit in an attentive seated position, close your eyes and convey your attention to your toes.
  3. Then accordingly, working up from both of your toes, bring your awareness to every part of your body in turn, such as your feet, ankles, calves, knees, etc., up to your head.

What you’ll need: a cushion, a quiet place to take a seat where you won’t be disturbed.

Tip: If you notice any anxiety, stress, tension, or start to urge uncomfortable or bored, don’t get worked up and frustrated. Simply mindfully start by accepting these bodily sensations as they’re and gently refocus on your body scan without being too judgmental about your thoughts and your emotions.

How mindfulness exercises for stress work to reduce stress: Body scan meditations often encourage the self-awareness of the bodily sensations one might otherwise ignore. When we notice excessive tension in our body, we’ll consciously relax the muscles therein area. We may not even realize how tense we’re until we intentionally bring awareness to our whole body.

Health Benefits:

  1. Reduced Depression, Stress, and anxiety
  2. Decreased Muscle Tension
  3. Increased Pain Tolerance

8. Open Awareness Meditation

  1. Put aside a time and place in your day where you’ll sit comfortably, and you won’t be distracted or disturbed by the external forces and noises.
  2. Find a cushion, sit in an attentive seated position, close both of your eyes and convey your attention to the thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing moment to moment.
  3. Observe these thoughts and feelings closely and in an open, non-judgmental way; but don’t attempt to change them but simply pay attention and acknowledge their presence, then accordingly, gently guide your focus back when your mind and thought start to wander.

What you’ll need: a cushion, a quiet place to take a seat where you won’t be disturbed.

Tip: Try and address silently thoughts as “thought” and emotions as “emotion” in your head. This will assist you to separate yourself from these sensations and gain a more open, objective perception.

How mindfulness exercises for stress work to reduce stress: Being able to recognize ourselves from deep within and separate ourselves from the strong and negative thoughts and emotions we usually experience can help us a lot to learn how to regulate our moods more effectively to become more mindful.

Health Benefits:

  1. Reduced Stress and anxiety levels
  2. Increased Self-Awareness and self-worth
  3. Improved Emotion Regulation and Resilience

9. Mindful Yoga

  1. Put aside a minimum of a quarter-hour during a quiet, open, airy space for your yoga practice.
  2. So instead of treating your mindfulness yoga practice as a workout session at the gym, treat and consider it like a mindfulness meditation where you bring your full awareness to both your physical and emotional sensations as you move through the poses but without being judgemental.
  3. Observe how the physical sensations from each pose give rise to emotional sensations, such as released tension leading to relaxation or even feeling like pain leading to frustration.

What you’ll need: A yoga mat, comfortable clothing, and an open, airy space.

Tip: Try reducing the number of poses and spending longer on each pose to extend the extent of mindful awareness you bring back the practice.

How mindfulness exercises for stress work to reduce stress: In addition to all the mindful outcomes and benefits of mindfulness meditation, mindful yoga adds helps to add a physical element to the mindful yoga practice, that usually provides a positive boost of energy and a lot of positive and uplifting chemicals in one’s brain.

Health Benefits:

  1. Reduced Stress and anxiety
  2. Enhanced focus and Concentration
  3. Improved Productivity, Memory, and Performance

IV. Make mindfulness exercises a Habit

The best way to get the best and foremost outcomes out of your mindfulness exercises or practices is to perform them regularly. MRI scans have also shown that practicing mindfulness exercises regularly can change the structure of one’s brain while making it better wired for more awareness and concentration and fewer susceptible to overly emotional responses.

Mindfulness exercise is extremely helpful in reducing one’s depression, anxiety, and stress, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg as it also involves the myriad health benefits of mindfulness.

(Related: Mindfulness Activities: Exercises for Groups)

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