Using Movement to Relieve Stress

Using Movement to Relieve Stress

31 March 2022 • Words by Erica Marcus 2 mins

Whether you’re a big kid (I’m looking at you, adults) or a little kid, all of our bodies experience stress in physical ways that we wish to relieve. For some, that might be a sense of tension in the shoulders or jaw. For others, they might have a jitteriness in the extremities or butterflies in their stomach.

There are all sorts of stressors that we encounter throughout our day that can trigger these kinds of responses. For instance, we might be activated by someone refusing to eat the dinner we just worked so hard on (adults) or someone trying to feed us a terribly looking pile of goo (little kids). In both instances, we feel hormones coursing through our bodies, telling our systems to react to the situation.

By first recognizing this is happening, we can then move toward self-soothing strategies. Movement can reduce the stress hormones to help us “come down” from a heightened physical state, and also help increase endorphins, a natural chemical in the body that contributes to a feeling of happiness and calm.

Here are five ways to help your family relieve stress and feel more at ease through movement:

Tap! While there are a number of specific tapping techniques you can use, I was taught this very simple one. Using the fingertips of the index and middle fingers of each hand, start by tapping at the top of the forehead, then make your way down around your temples, under your eyes, and along the jawline. Then, with the palms of your hands continue down onto your neck, shoulders, arms, torso, legs, and feet. Follow those same motions up the body until you get to the top of your head. Check out Tapping Worries Away with ShiShi in the Moshi app for a guided experience!

Bounce! Make sure you have plenty of space for this one. Standing tall, start with little bounces, just bending the knees with feet on the floor. Then let the bounce grow, bringing the heels up, and let the arms hang loose and bounce as you move. Let the movement get bigger, maybe even doing small hops. And finally, some bigger bounces, letting the arms flail. Gradually slow the movements back down to stillness.

Shake! This is a classic classroom move. Starting with one arm in the air, shake the arm while you count down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Do this with each arm, then each leg. Then start over counting down from 4, then from 3, and continue until you are back to stillness.

Swing! Move the arms in big, wide circles, first forward and then backward. Then swing one leg at a time back and forth and side to side, holding onto a wall or a chair for balance if needed.

Dance! Put on some music and let it all go. Take turns leading a dance move in time with the music, or simply move freely.

Whatever movement you try, do a check-in before and after. What shifted in your body? In your mind? In your emotions? Enjoy the release!

Interested in trying out yoga with your little one? Check out our blog Kids Bedtime Yoga: Why it Works, Tips to Develop a Practice, and Poses to Try to find out how to get started!

Erica Marcus

Erica Marcus, MAT, founded Wise Minds. Big Hearts. in 2015 to bring mindfulness programming to students, families, and schools around New England. She now has the honor of applying that breadth of experience to her work with WholeSchool Mindfulness, working towards systemic change within a single educational institution. You can read more about her work at She is the author of two books: Attention Hijacked: Using Mindfulness to Reclaim Your Brain from Tech Daily Mindful Minis: Tiny Mindfulness Practices for the Fourth Trimester