People say change is the only thing that’s constant in this world. But recent trends seem to disagree as everybody experiences stress inevitably. Come to think of it, change also brings about stress.
Unfortunately, stress is one important aspect of humans’ survival mechanism. It will never go away as it has biological functions. Fortunately, it is something manageable. And one of the most recommended steps to de-stress is exercise. Research has proved that working out improves physical health and mental health.
The relationship between exercise and stress
As you engage in regular physical activities, your body releases endorphins. This chemical in the body communicates with your brain to lower your perception of pain and create a good feeling. It’s the cause of the so-called “runner’s high” and that “euphoric” sensation after an intense workout.
Aside from endorphins, exercise positively affects the dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain. They both alleviate your mood – while serotonin eases symptoms of depression, dopamine enables you to experience pleasure.
Exercise also improves sleep which, in turn, recharges the body and fortifies it against stress.
Baby steps in reducing stress
As your body has different needs from those of another person, starting your fitness journey is best consulted with your doctor. Is your body ready for intense workouts? Do you need to pay special attention to a certain body part? Don’t “self-medicate.”
Received the go from the doc? Then, start looking for the exercise best suited for you. Are you an extrovert who gets more energized when participating in group sessions? Do you prefer dancing or sports? Do you find strength training interesting? Look for the type of workout that you will enjoy and will fit your lifestyle, so you can stick to it longer. Remember, you are doing this to reduce your stress and not worsen it.
Like any other tasks, set SMART goals. You don’t have to complete an hour of circuit training on your first attempt. Take small steps and gradually increase them. Do it at your own pace. Stressing over it will defeat your purpose.
Fighting off stress with continuous progress
If you’ve already started the journey and now have a regular routine, keep it up! Still, read along for more tips to keep you going.
They say “happiness shared is doubled and sadness shared is halved.” So, go get a fitness buddy, someone who will share your struggles and celebrate your wins. One who will push you but not pressure you. Find a partner who will encourage you to stay consistent and be that someone to your partner.
Sunlight is another mood booster while deeper and longer breaths of fresh air can lower the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Make it a point to do some physical activities outdoors. Optimize your stress-fighting efforts by walking, jogging, running, stretching, practicing yoga, doing your routine while basking yourself in nature.
Track your progress so you can see how far you’ve come. Since you already have goals, write down how you have improved. Recognize your milestones. Notice how you are managing your stress better than before. Note how your overall health has been impacted.
Whenever you encounter setbacks, go back to your why and your goals. Add variety and intensity to your routine to spice things up. Play your favorite workout music, prepare your most love pre- and post-workout meals, reward yourself. Make it an enjoyable experience.
Science has shown, physical activity can bring forth both physical and mental wellness. Leave your sedentary life and try moving one step at a time. It won’t take long before you see yourself grooving and swaying away stress.
Your turn! Are you feeling tremendous stress lately? Try sweating it out and let me know how your stress management improves in the comments below!