Are you experiencing stress? Not sure? Is your body sending you a signal?
Stop for a moment and focus on your body. How does it feel?
When you’re experiencing stress, your muscles may be tense, especially in your face, neck, and shoulders, leaving you with back or neck pain, or painful headaches. You may feel a tightness in your chest, a pounding pulse, or muscle cramps. The worry discomfort of all these physical symptoms can contribute to even more stress, creating a vicious cycle between your mind and body.
Exercise – the natural and effective stress burner and anti-anxiety treatment
One way to break this vicious cycle is through exercise. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to feel better.
Most if not all good stress management strategies include some form of exercise in a person’s daily routine.
There’s plenty of research to show that exercise, in almost any form, makes us much better at dealing with stress and building our resilience.
When we experience stress, hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin build up in our bodies. When we exercise, these stress hormones are burned up and ‘feel good’ chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins (the body’s natural pain killers) are released. This means our stress level is reduced and our mood is enhanced.
Exercise also helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so, too, will your mind.
How much exercise do I need to do to burn stress?
Relax – you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the stress busing benefits of exercise. Research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a real difference. The current exercise recommendation for most adults is at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. You can achieve that with 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week. Moderate means:
* That you breathe a little heavier than normal, but are not out of breath. For example, you should be able to chat with your walking partner, but not easily sing a song.
* That your body feels warmer as you move, but not overheated or very sweaty.
If you can’t fit a 30 minute block of exercise into your daily schedule then two 15-minute or even three 10-minute exercise sessions can work just as well. Perhaps you’ve experienced how a 15-minute walk can help clear your mind, improve your mood, and boost your energy level?
There’s plenty of scientific data to suggest that frequency is more important than quantity. So just a few minutes of physical activity each day is better than none at all. It will give you more energy and as you build your energy you’ll find you feel ready for a little more exercise. And as you move and start to feel a little better, you’ll experience a greater sense of control over your well-being.
Warning! Rather than setting yourself up to fail, set yourself up for success by setting exercise targets that are achievable. Ask yourself how much exercise could you do on your worst day? That’s your baseline. Lock that in. Once you’ve completed that amount of exercise give yourself a tick in the box. Anything more is a bonus.
As daily exercise becomes a habit, you can slowly add extra minutes or try different types of activities. And once you’re exercising regularly you’ll begin to reap additional benefits.
The additional benefits of exercise
As well as helping us to manage our stress level, regular exercise has many other benefits too. It can improve our:
* sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep has been proven to help reduce the effects of stress.
* energy level. Exercise improves the circulation and oxygenates blood, which increases our energy level.
* brain’s production of endorphins. Endorphins are the “feel-good” neurotransmitters that are responsible for the coveted “runner’s high.” This is the sense of well-being and euphoria that many people experience after exercise. Some people notice an improvement in their mood immediately after exercise. When we exercise regularly these feelings become cumulative over time.
* blood circulation and lower our blood pressure.
* ability to control our weight.
* overall health making us more resilient to stress.
What kind of activity is best?
Virtually anything that gets you moving can help. As well as the usual suspects (aerobics, yoga, running, swimming, cycling etc) look at your daily routine and consider ways to build in some physical activity.
Activities like washing the car, tending the garden, briskly walking to the bus stop or train, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, playing soccer with your children, dancing to your favourite song. These and many other routine physical activities, all help.
It’s important to choose an activity that you enjoy rather than dread. If you don’t like the water, don’t choose swimming as your activity. If the thought of running makes you anxious, training for a 5K ‘fun run’ won’t help relieve your stress.
Experiment with a variety of activities until you find one, two or three you really enjoy. When you’re having fun, you’ll be more likely to stick with your workout routine. If you are in any doubt about what exercise is best for you, consider seeking advice from a personal trainer.
You’re also more likely to stick with your workout routine if you recruit an “exercise buddy” – a friend, co-worker or family member. Having an exercise buddy often brings a new level of motivation and commitment to your workouts.
When is it best to exercise?
It’s best to schedule your exercise for a time of day when your energy is highest. That may be first thing in the morning before work or school, or at lunchtime before the mid-afternoon lull hits.
A note of caution
If you haven’t exercised for some time and you have health concerns, you may want to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Discuss with your doctor what forms of exercise are right for you and the appropriate intensity levels.
Walk before you run. Be sure to build up your physical activity level gradually. Excitement about a new exercise program can lead to overdoing it and possibly even injury.
* Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment and stress burner
* A little bit of exercise goes a long way towards reliving stress and building your resilience
* Frequency of exercise is more important than quantity
* Pick something you enjoy doing
* Commit to do some moderate physical activity—however little—on most days
* The benefits of regular exercise are HUGE!
If you’re experiencing anxiety or stress and would like to experience what an anxiety/stress coaching session is like, click here to read about by free 60 minute sample session.
Tony Yuile is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Anxiety Management Coach based in Wellington, NZ where he specialises in helping people suffering from anxiety, stress, panic, phobias, trauma, depression and other anxiety related issues. Tony uses a range of techniques that may include coaching, clinical hypnotherapy, mindfulness, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and various psychotherapy approaches. If you are looking for 1:1 tailored help in solving your particular problem, contact Tony today to discuss what options might be available to you. If you think Tony could help someone you know, you might like to encourage them to get in touch with him.