Combating Anxiety With Exercise
A brief overview.
Anxiety is normal. Although, anxiety can disguise itself as many different forms. Depending on the individual, the setting and the severity of the condition. It is however, something that cannot be taken lightly and effects so many people worldwide. It is often found that the view of the sufferer, is one that imagines their life as worse than the reality that they are actually surrounded by. The thought that this perception is of a psychological imbalance, is one that accommodates the condition.
You can look at anxiety as a bucket of water. With your life being the bucket and the water being your anxiety levels. Each drop of water, small or large, acts as “one of life’s stresses”, from running late for work to burning your dinner. Eventually these levels start to add up and eventually spill over, with too much water for the bucket to handle. Seemingly out of the blue, these small triggers can cause a chain reaction of symptoms.
Back in the day.
Anxiety or fear, you could say, is instilled in the human body for a highly valid reason. Dating back to caveman days our ancestors lived an extremely different life. They were forced to hunt for their food, or be hunted. Therefore evolution adapted the body in such a way to deal with all of these dangers, like being eaten by a Sabre-Tooth Tiger. It equipped us with the ability to raise our heart rate to defend better, enlarge our pupils to see more clearly and a surge of adrenaline to give us that extra boost. This is also known as the fight or flight response.
Fast forward a few million years and we find that our world now see’s little need for such responses. Unfortunately however, humans have evolved our surroundings far quicker than we have been able to evolve our own bodies. We now have no profound way in which to output these responses as we would back then. This build up of unrelieved stress, in turn, manifests itself as anxiety or other mental disorders.
It is important to note that there are many other determining factors and symptoms to anxiety. This is just one perspective.
You are not alone.
There seems to be a stigma around suffering from mental disorders as a whole. For some unknown reason people have largely rejected the fact that anxiety is a legitimate condition, one that needs to be addressed to help the millions across the world who struggle to deal with it on a daily basis. This ‘taboo’ causes those who do sadly suffer, to hide how they truly feel. Sucking it up, then trying to push through an issue that can be easily helped through sharing alone. All because of the fear of being seen as “over-dramatic”.
Here are just a few names you may find familiar to show you that anxiety does not have to stop you from becoming the person that you want to be;
The Instagram role?.
There are many causes to anxiety, ones that should not be a ‘cookie cutter’ reason for any one particular individual. We mentioned the evolutionary catch up our bodies need to make above. But there is one force’s growth that we are are also struggling to deal with. That is social media. We have spoken about social media’s role many times before in previous blogs. In terms of anxiety however, it has been a key player.
We are constantly bombarded with this ‘perception’ or ‘diluted vision’ of what is the correct way to be living. It literally lives inside our pockets every single day. Whether it be sub-conscious or not, many of us have now developed a daily ritual of comparing our lives to this optical illusion within the palm of our hands. Inevitably, this becomes a catalyst for a damaged self-esteem and dent in ones self-worth. This blow to a person will cause them to become demotivated and disengaged with their own lives, as they feel they are not being satisfied.
As with causes and types, the treatments for anxiety are also vast. They are also specific, once again, to each persons needs. So how then, can exercise be an ailment to anxiety. A physical act that effects the mental function, can be a concept that is hard to get your head around. Although once you take a deeper look, it really does make a lot of sense. The brain itself is directly linked to the entire body via neurotransmitters. These send important messages to the brain, whether it be positive or negative. These in turn, are directly influenced by our surroundings. Exercise produces certain ‘feel good’ chemicals and hormones such as Endorphins. An accumulation of these connections and process gets the chemicals straight to the brain, acting as medication.
Training well occasionally requires you to come out of your comfort zone and test your will power. As this test is done in a safe environment, it has a profoundly positive effect on the mind. This ‘push a little further’ mentality strengthens the mind. It breaks it down, then as the body always does, it repairs itself stronger and ready for the next hurdle. The consequence of this over a period of time, is that when something out of our control comes a long. Our minds are more than prepared to take it on. It also means that we are much better qualified to deal with the small stresses we talked about earlier on.
Here are just a handful of the many other benefits training has on mental capacity;
- Decreases tension
- Elevates and stabilises mood
- Improves sleep
- Improves self esteem
- Builds social interactions
- Raises in temperature induce calmness
- Results boost overall confidence
Exercise and movement also scratches the ancestral itch to move. It allows the body to use up all of those responses in a healthy way. Simulating the movements of our predecessors in training, allows the body to reset its levels or chemicals and hormones to a much safer level.
How to apply it.
So now that we know just how beneficial exercise can be for your anxiety. We now need to look at practical ways in which you can apply it to your life. Studies have shown that just 10 minutes of walking can produce hours of stress release. The first thing that every one can do is set clear workout goals each day. This not only sets you up for the day but also holds yourself accountable to follow through and produce. Make sure you are always prepared.
You also do not have to be over-excessive. It does not take hours upon hours per day to reap the rewards of exercise. Just 30 mins a day of aerobic work, whether it be a cycle, run, swim or walk. A nugget of treatment each day will pay dividends to your mental and physical state.
Make the training enjoyable – the worst thing you can do is put yourself through something you don’t actually like. One of the best ways to do this is to find a sport that you enjoy. If you aren’t much of a sportsmen, experiment, try new options and avenues. You may just surprise yourself with the results you are given, along with the people that you might meet. There is little risk with massive rewards available.
Grab your headphones
When you are training, you can also retract your mind from your surroundings even further. By listening to music, taking up a new podcast or discovering an audio book. These all further the relaxation and recovery of your mind in a healthy way. Allowing it to wind down from the stress it is so often a slave to. You may even find that these sources of audio will push you further than you thought you could go.
Find a friend
Finally, when possible, partner up with someone to train with. Not only can they be there to help you train, try new exercises with you and motivate you through. They also go on the journey to the results you want. Having someone by your side to experience a life changing process can be priceless. It is an invaluable asset to have a buddy with you, in turn they are also gaining the reciprocal effect. You become the treatment for your friend.
We will leave you with these startling facts that just show the paramount importance of addressing the issues of mental health in the UK alone.
16 million people suffer from anxiety everyday.
1/2 of mental illnesses start from the age of 14.
Women are 2 times more likely to develop anxiety than men.
75% of young people with mental problems do not seek treatment.