Anxiety is a normal phenomenon that most people experience from time to time. It could occur because you’re nervous about an upcoming exam, a job interview, health test result, a big presentation, or any other stressful situation. Besides the stress from daily activities, other factors—such as health issues—can bring about anxiety.
Anxiety may seem like a mundane issue, but left unchecked and untreated, it can ruin many aspects of your life. It could trigger mental health problems like depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Multiple Personality Disorder, and the likes. Also, it could contribute to health challenges like diabetes, stroke, and heart diseases.
Unlike with the physical benefits of exercise, most people are yet to discover the positive effects of exercise and other activities in easing anxiety. Yes, you read that right: regular exercise and activities could help relieve your anxiety.
In this article, we’ll explore which exercises you can do to help ease anxiety. But before we talk about that, it’s important to know how exercising helps with anxiety.
How Does Exercising Help Relieve Anxiety?
1. It Takes Your Mind Off Your Worries
One major sign of anxiety is incessant and excessive worrying over both mundane and big problems. This isn’t good for the body because if the mind worries too much, it might have trouble coping, and this could lead to a mental disorder such as depression. But while you exercise, you focus on something other than your problems. The physical activity diverts your attention from the source of worry and helps you feel more at ease.
The ability to distract and keep your mind occupied with productive thoughts is one reason anxiety counselors advise patients to do things that will free their minds from stress and worries, like exercising.
2. It Releases Essential Neurochemicals To Ease The Mind And Body
When you exercise your body, endorphins, or ‘feel-good hormones,’ are released in the brain. Regular exercises can help you reduce stress and anxiety by making you feel happy and put you in an overall good mood.
More so, your heart rate builds up while exercising, triggering brain chemistry. This brain chemistry activates neurochemicals like serotonin, endo-cannabinoids and gamma amino-butyric acid, which ease tension and aid calmness.
3. It Reduces Muscular Tension
Neurochemicals released during exercises also help relieve muscular tension. Mental and muscular tensions are associated with anxiety. By relieving your feelings of tension, exercise makes you feel better and lighter.
Moving your body helps reduce the tension in your muscles, helping you relax better. Stretches and yoga are effective ways through which you can relieve muscle tension to feel great physically and mentally.
4. It Helps Develop Resilience
Physical activities—particularly exercising—can be challenging, but if you can keep it up without relenting, it will do you good. The fact that you can hold on and build your strength through exercising will gradually reflect in your mental capability.
In other words, as you’re exercising, you’re also developing your mental resilience to help you cope with negative or challenging situations. Being able to build mental resilience plays another important role: by proving to yourself that you can persist in challenging physical activities, you’re also boosting your self-esteem—thereby further reducing anxiety.
Now that you know how exercising can ease your anxiety, let’s explore which exercises you can start with today to help with this.
Daily Exercises For Anxiety
Aerobic exercises entail moving body muscles continuously for a fixed period. The whole body gets involved in these kinds of exercises. During aerobic exercises, your breathing heart rate becomes faster than usual. For that reason, it’s also called cardio workouts. Given their dynamics, it isn’t surprising that aerobic exercises can ease anxiety and tension.
You’ve most likely heard how your body can benefit from running. It burns calories, moderates your food appetite, and keeps your cardiovascular system healthy. But have you heard of the benefits of running on mental health? Running triggers the release of ‘feel-good hormones,’ which are: endo-cannabinoid, norepinephrine, and neurotransmitters serotonin.
These neurochemicals have a meditative effect on the brain that compels the mind to block or fade out sources of concern. The fact that you’re carrying out a physical activity itself is bound to let your mind wander away from your sources of worries and anxiety.
Additionally, running or jogging will make you sleep better at night. And by sleeping better, your tension and stress would be relieved even further.
Walking might seem like a silly exercise to ease anxiety because it’s something you do during most of your day. But walking purposely to ease anxiety makes all the difference. Try walking briskly for at least 15 to 20 minutes every day.
A simple act of walking will trigger the release of endomorphins into your brain, immediately reducing your tension and anxiety to help you feel better. In general, walking and even running aid your overall wellness. It helps you feel good physically, spiritually and emotionally.
People swim for fun and athletic purposes. It’s rare to hear someone say they’re swimming for mental clarity. But the fact is that swimming can be effective in managing mental problems such as anxiety, depression, and psychosis. When you swim, it triggers the release of endorphins to fight tension and help you relax and feel happy.
Like running and walking, swimming keeps your mind busy and steers it away from sources of anxiety. Of course, when you’re in the water, the last thing you’d think of is that challenging project presentation scheduled for next week. It’s worth knowing that some psychologists, counselors, and psychotherapists now prescribe swimming as part of treatments or therapies for their patients.
Talk of combining fun with therapy—cycling is the king. Cycling is a very effective cardio workout that exercises gives you a full-body workout. It allows you to go outdoors and even socialize. That’s a powerful combination for reducing anxiety.
Cycling for anxiety works just the same way swimming and walking do. It gets your heart and other parts of your body to work. By challenging your whole body, it would force your mind to focus on what you’re doing, instead of feeling anxious. Cycling also helps your physical health and keeps you in top form.
Mental Relaxation Exercises
Your mind doesn’t benefit only from strenuous exercise. Less intense exercises can help ease your anxiety, too. Here are minor exercises to try whenever you feel anxious. They’re aimed at helping you feel more relaxed, thereby easing tension and relieving anxiety.
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5. Relax By Breathing
Are you one of those who undermine the power of ‘just relax and breath?’ Well, you shouldn’t. Whenever you start feeling anxious, you may notice you start sweating and then become dizzy or lightheaded. Inhaling calmly can help you control this reaction.
To calm your nerves, first find a quiet place you know has a calming effect on you. Get a seat and then place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Inhale and exhale slowly; breath in through your nose and breath out through your mouth.
Let your breathing rhythm flow through your hands and remain settled. Repeat this process about five times, or until you find relief. This is a useful method to help you deal with anxious situations immediately.
6. Relax By Grounding
Anxiety tends to make the mind roll back and forth, thinking and overthinking. This is a tasking and stressful activity for your mind. Thankfully, you can ease this off by taking in the mystery of nature. The first step is to go out to a cool and quiet place; the best options are green fields, parks and gardens, or even just stepping outside the building where you can breathe in the fresh air.
Whether sitting or standing, let your five senses experience the environment. Close your eyes and try to take in the fresh air. Feel the ground beneath your feet; let your ears fade out artificial noises and only stay aware of nature elements. Think of all the people and things you love as and why you love them. Remain in your grounded position for at least 10 minutes, or until you feel at ease.
7. Relax Your Muscles
Never underestimate the power of relaxed muscles in relieving anxiety. When you feel anxious, your whole body will tense up. In the same sense, eased muscles could alleviate your anxiety. To relax your muscles, find a quiet spot. Sit calmly and close your eyes while exhaling and inhaling slowly.
Clench and squeeze your fists tightly for a few seconds. Then open your fists one finger at a time. You will feel your muscle tension slowly dissipate. Next, tense your feet for some seconds and squeeze them tightly. After a while, release them—one foot at a time.
Once you’re done with that, rotate your neck gently and gradually. Also, squeeze your neck ever so gently with your hands for a few seconds and then release. Doing this will ease your muscle tension and you should feel better thereafter.
8. Relax With Yoga
In recent times, research has brought the positive impact of yoga on physical and mental health to prominence. According to several studies, yoga can be influential in managing anger, anxiety, depression, stress, and even psychosis.
Most times, yoga is used as a complementary treatment for such health conditions. There is something ethereal about yoga that always finds a way to connect the soul and mind while also easing physical and mental tension.
9. Relax By Counting
If you think only kids are meant to count, ‘1,2, 3…,’ think again. Counting can be an effective way of alleviating your anxiety, especially when you can’t leave your current position. Whenever you feel bouts of anxiety, just close your eye and take a few deep breaths. Take your mind off all your worries and quietly count to 20.
You can count to higher numbers until you find mental relief, or count from one again. This seemingly mundane exercise can benefit you greatly when you’re stressed, anxious, or even angry.
10. Brace Back And Body Stretch
Normally, the stretch is considered being on par with yoga. But the brace back and body stretch goes a step further than yoga. It makes you work your muscles enough to increase your blood circulation.
Start by standing firm with your feet positioned closely together. Then bend over forward, toward the ground. Try circulating your back while in this position for ten minutes.
The next thing you should do is sit straight up on a chair then lift your head in a steady motion towards your right and left shoulder, alternating between the two. After repeating it for five minutes, you should bring your head back to its rightful position.
Next, lay on your back on a mat and start riding an invisible cycle with both your hands and legs. Ease up your arms and legs while you do this to help relieve the tension and anxiety.
By the time you’ve completed this process, your upper and lower back, neck, shoulders, arms, and legs would feel even more energized. Also, if you had a headache before the stretch, this procedure could help relieve it.
Anxiety can be hard to deal with, especially when it has been going on for some time. It can interfere with your daily life, work, academics, and overall happiness.
As prevalent as anxiety is in the world today, it can still be managed and prevented. The exercises above will help you ease your anxiety. You can use them whenever you’re experiencing bad moments or sense that you’re going to have an anxiety attack.
You should also incorporate these exercises into your daily lifestyle and eat wholesome foods to boost your overall wellness. If you’re dealing with constant anxiety attacks, it’s important to first see your anxiety counselor or psychotherapist before you seek complementary treatments. Only professionals can rightly diagnose your condition, its severity, and advise you on the best treatment options.