Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) affects almost 40 million adults in the U.S. alone. It is often treated as a mere inconvenience, but it can annihilate your quality of life. It deserves to be treated with compassion.
Given enough time, anxiety can lead to new disorders like insomnia and depression. That makes early action critical for long-term health. Medication and therapy are effective treatments, but exercise is a helpful way to address some of your symptoms. It releases feel-good hormones that improve your sense of wellbeing and has a powerful effect on insomnia.
Endorphins And Your Body
Several clinical studies have shown that exercise reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression. The term “runner’s high” has its roots in the brain chemicals exercise releases. Aerobic and anaerobic workouts trigger an endorphin rush. The brain’s cannabis-like chemicals contribute to your sense of wellbeing. You will experience endorphins’ immediate effects straight after you train, but it also has long-term effects.
Sixteen weeks of regular exercise has been found to be as potent as anti-depressants in relieving mild depression, which often underlies anxiety disorders. Aerobic training is often cited as the best cure, but strength training is equally effective. To benefit from them, you need at least an hour and a half of moderate exercise a week. If you are unfit, 10-minute bouts of daily activity should reduce your symptoms.
The Lifestyle Effects Of Exercise
Photo by John Arano via Unsplash
The most common triggers of anxiety are destabilising lifestyle changes like the current Coronavirus pandemic. Regular exercise can add stability to your routine, which can, in turn, give you a sense of control over your existence. Regular exercise adds positivity to your lifestyle, giving you the sense of purpose required to live a meaningful life. It improves self-esteem and, if done with a friend or club, can relieve your sense of isolation.
The Pursuit Of Mindfulness
Mindfulness therapy is a promising intervention that can bring marked improvements to your anxiety disorder. It slows down your buzzing thoughts and immerses you in the present moment. The habit will eventually leak into every hour of your day and act as a coping skill during times of panic. Yoga and Tai Chi are excellent doorways into the practice, and their physical effects are equally useful. Some forms of yoga are meditations, which are therapeutic in themselves. Mindfulness-focused classes can revolutionise your perspective on the world.
Learning To Relax Your Body
Anxiety quickly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It makes itself known through physical feelings like heart palpitations, sweating and shaking. Those physical feelings worsen your anxiety which, in turn, has a knock-on effect on your body’s responses. Relax your body, and you will relax your mind and break that cycle. Slow exercise and stretching can make you more aware of your body’s tension. Simply learning to slow your breathing and relax your muscles can soothe your emotions and diminish your cortisol levels.
Learning To Breath
Slowing your breathing can ward off panic attacks, and there is no better way to learn breath control than through exercise. Hatha yoga will teach you powerful breathing techniques, but a personal trainer can also show you how to control your breath. Strength training requires controlled inhalations that you can carry into your everyday life when your anxiety is at its peak.
Photo by Luis Quintero via Unsplash
Your therapist can teach you sleep hygiene and prescribe medications, but your exercise routine will support those professional recommendations well. If you are experiencing an exhausting worry cycle, a run or bike ride can provide a powerful break. After a challenging exercise session, your body will release tension. Your endorphin levels will rise, and your mind will be a little clearer. You will probably also find it much easier to fall asleep when the night arrives. Insomnia is both a symptom and a precursor to GAD. No therapy should ignore it.
Developing An Internal Locus Of Control
People with an internal locus of control experience fewer mood disorder symptoms. This attitude is essentially a belief that you can control your own life. It places the focus on the things you can control and takes your attention away from those you can’t. If you use exercise well, you will develop a sense of control over your own life, even if only in the short-term. This is a lesson that you can adopt outside your exercise routine, so allow your training to teach you its lessons. Your mood will reward you for it.
Spending Time Outdoors
Nature is a powerful healer. Simply spending time outdoors can reduce your anxiety in the short-term, so add forest runs to your regimen. Better yet, do so with someone you love. It will reach you to choose healthy behaviours.
When anxiety creeps into your everyday life, it is time to see a therapist or psychiatrist, but a new exercise routine should boost the efficacy of your therapeutic care.
Subscribe to our mailing list
Join Hundreds of readers who have access to exclusive downloads and content