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Stress-Reduction Exercises

Marty Jeffers

Here are the responses I got on my request for stress-reduction exercises.

— Lisa Duncan

I work extensively in resort communities and many of my all-day seminars are in beautiful conference centers with decks overlooking streams, mountains, lakes and beaches. This is where we take our breaks. My seminars are very interactive and full of peer discussions and role-playing, sometimes as many as 4 exercises per day.

So to “deflate” I have the attendees write their frustration on a water balloon and throw it as hard as they can into the void...or on a raw egg that they throw fiercely into the wilderness...or on a balloon that they release into the atmosphere. It’s very freeing! I realize it depends upon where your training session is located but it works beautifully, nonetheless. If this method isn’t practical I have the attendees write their frustration on a piece of paper, wad it into a ball and toss it into a trash can or a basketball net that I put up for them. That’s a lot of fun, too.

— Virgilio Gomez

I have two options that may be of help.

One is to take your audience to a visualization of a massage. I practice it, and it’s great — you can actually feel the massage and the reaction of the body to it.

The results will depend on the ability to take your audience to this state and also of them. If they have never visualized it can be difficult.

The other is to smile. When you smile you convince your body that there are no worries and that everything is fine, you can not be stressed when you smile.

This simple exercise has many positive reactions on people.

— Lorri Heller

I am a hypnotherapist who does Emotional Freedom Technique for individuals or groups. EFT is an amazing process that can resolve any issue whether it is emotional, physical, mental, spiritual.

— Jim Bouchard

I highly recommend integrating some “Qigong”exercises! The easiest set is a modernized version of "8 Strands of Brocade", an ancient Chinese set of exercises. You can adjust the pace or the reps to accommodate most any time frame, it can be done in very little space and — with slight modification to one or two of the exercises — can be done in business clothing.

In the last exercise people stand and shake, which always leads to laughter. I usually add, “If someone is really causing you stress in the office, just do this exercise and they’ll leave you alone! No more stress!”

— Bonnie Mattick

I learned a good activity several years ago, and I have used it in many situations. It drives home a learning point, as well as making a new point stick. It emphasizes follow-through. Have 8-10 large Russet potatoes (baking kind) and large plastic straws (not the flexible ones).

  1. Begin by giving out one potato at a time during the program (this works well for a seminar-type program).
  2. When someone is helpful, or answers a difficult question, give them a potato thanking them for their input.
  3. This piques curiosity. Then, to make it more interesting, allow them to give the potato to someone they would like to recognize in their group.
  4. Near the end of your program, ask the people with the potatoes to stand and come up front. Give them each a plastic straw.
  5. Point out that you believe in “follow-through” to ensure good ideas are applied at work, and the key to this is "believing they can apply the concepts" (belief - motivation.)
  6. Ask the rest of the group in the room "How many of you believe that I can tell these people how to drive this plastic straw through the potato?" Notice "tell" is the operative word.
  7. Don’t demonstrate it, simply tell them how to do it, then they will do it. (If you want, you can "place a bet with the people in the room" — makes it more fun.) Say "How many of you believe so much that this can be done that you would bet $20 that I can do it? If we do believe, we are willing to put our money where our mouth is."

Per Bob Pike’s instructions in his "Creative Training Techniques Handbook" 2nd Ed. — do the following steps:

“Explain to the people standing up front how to put the straw through the potato. Begin by stressing that the secret here is following through.

First, they must hold the straw in a closed fist with a thumb over the top and say ‘Follow through’ out loud together.

In their other hand, they cup the potato so their hand forms a ‘C’ around it. No one should hold the potato in the palm of their hand because they could hurt themselves when they drive the straw through.”

Let them practice the motion a few times. Then say:

“The key is following through, not the amount of power that’s used.

“Simply draw your straw back when you’re ready, and, as you bring it forward, say out loud, ‘Follow through.’”

Over half the people will do it right the first time, some need a couple of tries, and a new straw if they break it.

Debrief the activity by discussing what occurred: the difference between showing and telling, believing entirely that it could be accomplished, etc.

Ask: Did it matter whether or not the participants believed that they could accomplish the activity at the beginning?; or How did a willingness to try affect their ability to participate and succeed?

Another de-stressor that I use in my workshops is music during group discussions, and breaks. I have a license to use certain music, or I have purchased pre-licensed music (license from ASCAP). Dixieland Jazz is a great music for de-stressing — everyone feels the beat and feels good about it.

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