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Three ways to care for stress held in the body

Posted on March 08 2023, By: Abi Onuoha

There are certain circumstances in our lives, which can place our nervous systems on high alert for longer than they can tolerate, which can leave us feeling stressed, anxious and burnt out. 

I invite you to try some of the exercises below, during times when you simply want to feel more relaxed or if you have been emotionally triggered in a particular moment throughout your day. These exercises can be used as often as you like, or can be added to your self care routine.  


  • Experiencing peripheral vision can lead to a reduction in autonomic arousal, which stimulates a state of relaxation by way of activating the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system. This can help to take us out of those high alert states and break the stress cycle.
  • Take a seat or stand, raise your right arm in front of you and look at your thumb. Take your right arm out to the right and follow your thumb with your gaze only, whilst keeping your head facing forwards. Keep following your thumb with your gaze as you bring your right hand back to the centre. Raise your left hand to meet the right, then repeat your thumb and eye movements on the opposite side. Keep repeating from left to right for at least 30 seconds to give your eyes (and mind!) a break from stress-inducing technology throughout your day. 


  • Whilst many relaxation techniques involve sitting still and meditating, this strategy is not for everyone. Shaking the body involves mindful movement that can simulate the act of letting go of pent-up tension. Shaking exercises can be therapeutic; leaving us feeling more free and liberated.
  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with your knees slightly bent and your arms dangling beside you. Begin shaking your hands as if you're flicking water off of your fingertips. Keep going as you start to shrug your shoulders and gently bounce through your knees. Notice the vibration spread throughout your body. Why not play your favourite song and shake like nobody’s watching! Start with 5 minutes of shaking and build to up to 20 minutes a day if it works for you. 


  • Physical, mental and social health are improved by touch, which can signal to the mind that we are safe, smoothed and comfortable. What’s more, human touch activates the relaxation response by way of Oxytocin release into the nervous system.
  • Close your eyes and scan the body to identify areas of muscular tension. If you are focussing on large muscles of the legs or arms, start by kneading these muscles or make a loose fist and lightly drum up and down the length of them. For smaller muscles, use your thumbs or finger tips to work tiny circles on or around the muscles or tap your fingers over more bony areas such as your forehead, cheeks and jaw. All it takes is a few minutes to feel the soothing effects and don’t worry - you can’t do yourself any damage. Finally, cup your hands over your eyes or give yourself a hug …take a big inhale and deeply sigh out.

    If you try any of these exercises and enjoy the benefits, let me know via email abi@atolife.co.uk or share your thoughts with me on social media @ato_your_life

    Best Wishes,



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