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5 Free or Cheap Tension-Relieving Exercises to Try

There are a lot of people in a financial crisis right now, and especially those of us who receive Universal Credit, so finding therapy to help deal with the stress of this can seem quite unrealistic. NHS wait lists are long, and private therapy is often expensive. I try to keep my prices realistic but I realise there are people out there falling below the safety net and need to prioritise their heating or food first.

So I have created a list of 5 different exercises which you can try at home right now that are designed to relieve stress, help calm your body and bring you more clarity to your thoughts. They cannot give you any answers but act as a guide for your own self-care and can compliment your existing lifestyle.

1. Tension Release

Lie somewhere comfortably, such as in bed or on the sofa. Make sure you can stretch your body fully without cramping your neck. Lie flat with your arms by your side and begin with your left foot. Stretch the leg out fully, straighten your foot and strain your toes. Hold the tension for about 2 minutes, or until you cannot take the pressure anymore, then release entirely and notice the warm sensation that occurs as a result. Notice how nice it feels in your leg and how relaxed your foot is. Repeat with your right foot.

Repeat this process similarly with your left arm, extending it out and clenching your fist so tight that it becomes painful. Again, hold the tension for 2 minutes or until it becomes too much. Release and take note of the warm sensation. Repeat with your right arm.

You're beginning to get the idea now, aren't you? Repeat with your stomach, clenching your belly so tight as if a large rock was placed on top of you. Hold and release. Repeat with the neck, holding your jaw tense and clenching your throat. Feel how awful your veins feel! Take the pressure off and feel the relief.

Now repeat the tension hold with your entire body, stretching and clenching every limb at once - it's horrible! This is what you are going through every day! Release it all! Feel how lovely and warm you feel inside. This is how you should feel every day instead!

Repeat this exercise every night if you are a very tense person, and every time you feel rage if you are not normally so strained. The repetition trains your brain into recognising the feelings so you can remember next time you start to burn up with anger, and experiencing the sensation gives your brain a little dopamine hit too!

2. Nature Release

This one is pretty similar to my Enchanted Forest Holistic treatment, except you are guiding yourself. Take a walk through your local forest or woodland area, perhaps barefoot if you can, and just listen to the noises around you. Find a spot somewhere quiet and secluded, then stand and close your eyes. Listen to the breezes, the rustlings of the trees. Just listen and say nothing.

Visualise your area and reach out to the tree or plant which you connect with most. Open your eyes. Walk towards your tree of choice. Inspect its grooves, trace your hands over its curves and bumps. Take note of what drew you towards this tree in particular - did you like the colour? Felt a certain aura from it? Maybe its features remind you of yourself? Connect with your tree in any way you wish - you could be a tree-hugging hippy if you want, or just simply admire its beauty and gaze at it.

If you are not barefoot already, take your shoes & socks off and sink your feet deep into the earth that surrounds your tree. Feel the crunch and squish of the soil around your toes, wiggle your heels in the dirt and connect yourself with the ground. Feel how your body is entwining with the tree's roots, becoming at one with the earth. Lie or sit down if you wish to let this experience sit with you for longer.

Finally finish your connection with nature by releasing any tensions held within you - the fun part! Form a "power stance" - squat with your back tall and arms raised, or stood with both feet about a shoulder-width apart, then unleash the fire that yearns to be ignited! (Double check there is no-one with in earshot for this) Scream and roar at the top of your lungs! Cry and wail with the earth! Mother Nature hurts for you, she understands and feels your pain. Scream out for as long as you see fit, or until you have run out of breath.

Flop back (PLEASE check the ground first so you don't split your head open on a rock!) and allow your body to feel the exhaustion of your suffering. It's over! Close your eyes once again and listen to the peaceful sounds of the forest around you. There is nothing here but you and the earth.

3. Creative Release

Therapy for the art lovers! You will need to purchase a pen and paper from somewhere at the very least for this, but there are many discount shops that stock art supplies inexpensively too.

Gather together some materials for art or crafting to your chosen modality - are you a writer or poet? A painter or sketcher? Maybe you like using your hands to build clay or wooden structures? I prefer writing or drawing personally, but feel free to be as creative as you like - you could even go to the beach and collect shells to make a mirror frame just as an example!

When we usually make "art", we are at stumbling blocks for what to actually make. Sometimes we have such a great idea in our minds that when it comes to putting it into practice it doesn't match our expectations and becomes a disappointment to look at. So don't think of any creative ideas at all! Don't even try to imagine a use for your materials!

Instead, use the emotion, confusion, mental triggers and all thoughts in between that plague your mind, to express yourself in your creation. If you have scattered thoughts, draw a mind map with them all written out. Put thoughts together and create a story out of your troubles. Give your demons character names and personas then weave together a poem or novel. Why not even design their costumes and turn it into a play?!

Throw all the colours that you feel onto a canvas, make markings with your hands, or use interesting objects to paint with. Use the shapes in your mind to express on paper, as you build and create you start to paint a beautiful picture.

Keep hold of your artwork for your viewing. Take notes of how you were feeling at the time, what kind of artwork you created as a result, compare it with your other art if you can and see if you can draw any conclusions for how your mind affects your work.

4. Boxing Release

If you can afford it, go to a boxing or martial arts class. The training helped me unbelievably in gaining confidence, releasing anger, and helping to make my body strong and resilient.

If money is an issue right now, you can try boxercise at home for free. Try searching Youtube videos for strength and core training exercises, and go for short runs. Build up your core strength with planks and burpees; ask a partner or friend to hold some pillows which you can punch into or be pushed against to increase your strength.

One great exercise with boxing is the "ring hands", where you have to quickly circle your fists over one another with your arms bent. This is done whilst you jump from foot to foot on the spot. Punch with each arm in between sets.

When you are running, it will feel horrible to begin with, and you will WANT to quit. You will not want to keep running. You will want to stop after 2 minutes and give up. Here's the secret - DON'T! Even when your body feels like its about to explode, even when your lungs scorch through your throat and your legs become jelly - DON'T GIVE UP! Push yourself. Keep running! The finish line is waiting for you there... but you have to get to it. It won't come to you!

Training like this really builds your strength and mental abilities to a level where you are focused, determined, and capable of handling the hardships that life throws at you. And what's best, your body will glimmer in its muscular form!

5. Sound Release

I kept this exercise until last because I always leave the best until last. Sound has such a profound effect on the brain. When I listen to music it always takes me on a journey, somewhere I can escape to and imagine new worlds and fantastical beings.

Choose music that brings your soul an experience like this. Take yourself on a journey somewhere whilst sitting comfortably with headphones on. Try and keep the room dark and quiet so you can't be distracted. Music is everywhere and you can access it free on Youtube, Spotify, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, royalty-free sites etc.. P.S. you can get my Soundscape & Meditation for free if you sign up to my newsletter ;-)

ASMR has been known to relieve anxiety and tensions, so searching for these sounds is a good starting place. Binaural beats are also good for insomnia or PTSD as they bring the brain to a state of sleep, which helps to clear negative energy and bring relief for flashbacks or poor sleep. The low frequencies work in a subliminal manner with high notes or ambient sounds added on top to create a harmonious rhythm. There is a reason the Aboriginals created such bassy didgeridoos!

You may have also noticed some recent studies about plants growing more healthily with certain notes or music played - perhaps we should take "note" of this behaviour and apply the healing to ourselves!

I hope you enjoyed reading this post; please let me know if any of these methods of healing have been beneficial to you, or what you think could be improved. I would love to hear your thoughts!

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