Anxiety and exercise have a strange relationship. Even when your body feels worked up when you’re anxious, evidence shows that being physically active helps a lot to reduce anxiety!
Learning to manage anxiety is not something simple that can be accomplished in the blink of an eye, but with the support of cognitive-behavioral therapy and some exercises, it is possible.
Want to know how to put them into practice? Read on!
The most important thing to remember when implementing any strategy is not to put too much pressure on yourself to make it ‘perfect’ at first and to remember that you can always do better next time.
Besides what can ever be perfect about:
- Deep breathing
- Or exercising in general
As mentioned before, the link between anxiety and exercise is proven; it is possible to reduce the symptoms of anxiety through exercises.
Some of them have as the main objective to focus the attention on the breathing, for example.
This is the case of exercises for meditation and yoga.
The exercises that we propose below can be a compliment, but never a replacement for professional therapy.
Therefore, do not hesitate to consult a psychologist if you have difficulties in managing your anxiety.
1. Recognizing Anxiety
Taking a moment to close your eyes and breathe deeply can help you recognize anxiety.
While it is not always easy to identify and recognize that you are anxious, it is good to try to do so to begin to release tension and thus, little by little, calm both the mind and the body.
You can try closing your eyes for a moment and not thinking about anything but breathing for a couple of minutes. Inhale and exhale several times slowly. Then open your eyes and assess how you feel.
According to a Mayo Clinic article, some indicators that may be helpful in identifying anxiety are:
- Chest pain and palpitations.
- Nausea and upset stomach.
- Excessive sweating, hot flashes, or chills.
- Feeling of suffocation and trembling.
- Weakness or fatigue.
- Feeling of loss of control.
- Fear (in general and especially of death), nervousness, and agitation.
In addition to these signs, today’s health professionals go beyond describable symptoms when establishing a diagnosis.
Studies such as one published in Pharmacy & Therapeutics indicate that it is already possible to see the effects of anxiety through neuroimaging.
Likewise, although anxiety is an emotional state that surpasses us on many occasions, it is worth remembering that there are treatments.
Psychological approaches based on cognitive-behavioral therapy are often effective.
2. Breathing to manage anxiety
Research published in 2001 confirms the close relationship between breathing and mental states such as anxiety.
Specifically, it explains how a person’s breathing rate increases as anxiety levels rise.
In this way, breathing can also be used in the opposite direction, that is, to promote a state of calm in the individual.
An article on the WebMD medical site details the possible benefits of breathing exercises for relaxation.
Here is a few Items that could help:
- Finding a comfortable position, whether lying down or sitting down.
- After finding a comfortable position, close your eyes, and focus all your attention on your breathing.
- Notice how the air comes in and out, slowly.
- As time passes, breathe more slowly and bring the air to the lower part of the lungs. Slowly, breathe in through your nose, hold the air for a few seconds and let it out little by little.
- Repeat the exercise for several minutes.
3. Meditate before or after a walk
Walking is another way to manage anxiety, according to several studies.
The good news is that you don’t have to buy special clothing or hire a trainer to do it; it’s a complete exercise that’s within everyone’s reach.
A 2018 study says that meditating before or after a brisk 10-minute walk can be effective in managing anxiety.
This research focused on the practical side and does not specify what mechanisms lead to this effect.
However, following this advice, we should include a walk in our daily life and do it in an appropriate way: calmly, freeing the mind and focusing on the present moment.
4. Running to reduce your anxiety
As well as walking, another of the easiest anxiety management exercises to practice is running.
This sport helps to lose weight and improve fitness, while encouraging the release of serotonin, according to research published in Frontiers in Psychology.
This is good because serotonin helps to improve mood and mental health, as a study published by International Clinical Psychopharmacology shows.
If this sport is incorporated, an improvement in the quality of sleep and an increase in the hours of rest could also be achieved.
5. Dance your worries away!
Similar to aerobic exercise, dancing helps the body release serotonin and make connections that promote mental health, according to an article by the Blavatnik Institute of Neurobiology at Harvard University Medical School.
All you need to do is put on some music and start moving around a little bit.
As the seconds go by, we’ll start to feel more comfortable and pick up the pace!
6. Learn to manage your worries recognizing your emotions
When we give ourselves time to recognize our emotions, we accept that they are part of us.
While this is not a physical exercise per se, it is key to managing anxiety.
It is important to learn how to deal with situations so that they do not take over.
We have to keep in mind that most of the problems that stress us out are usually less serious than we really think, and they can take over when they are not even real.
The mind is very powerful and can focus a lot of attention on impossible situations just because we give them importance.
Let’s accept that it doesn’t help to have anxiety about unrealistic worries.
If we cannot turn away or divert the thought of anxiety, then we must try to distract ourselves in some way, such as by performing some activity or talking to someone.
When we have an anxiety attack, we may not know what to do or how to react. In that case, here are some actions that can help:
- Realizing that there’s no threat: nothing will hurt us and the situation won’t get out of control.
- Unbutton everything that prevents us from breathing normally (button on your shirt or jacket, for example).
- Regulate your breathing.
- Go to a relaxed place.
- Find a way out of the situation, either by breathing or doing some physical activity.
Although it may seem difficult, little by little we will regain control and learn to do it faster and faster.
As we mentioned before, these exercises and all the treatments we use to relieve anxiety must be approved and supervised by a psychologist or psychiatrist.