Exercise the most under-utilised anti anxiety drug
Mental health and mental well-being is part of everyday life. Just like your heart is required to pump oxygen around your body, the brain is responsible for thoughts and movement. If one was to not function correctly the other would find it difficult to operate.
Those who experience anxiety and panic attacks will understand the close interaction between body and mind and how your physical responses change in accordance to your thoughts. For example, the sudden onset of anxiety causes the body to adapt and respond in a certain way. This response comes in the form of rapid breathing, fast heart rate, sweating, chest pains etc. Not a very comfortable situation for someone to have to experience. A constant fear of another attack occurring quickly develops and often disrupts your daily routine.
Exercise can be a powerful addition to the range of treatments for anxiety. Many Studies have shown that there is an incredibly positive relationship between anxiety and exercise.
When you exercise the body responds In a similar way to a panic attack ( heart rate increases, sweating, rapid breathing etc). If you regularly expose yourself to the physiological symptoms you fear and perceive a threat in the context of something positive like exercise over time you'll increase your tolerance for these symptoms. exercise helps you gain greater control over your mind and body. The next time anxiety attacks the sensations may be uncomfortable but you now know they don't pose a serious threat, just like running on a treadmill gets uncomfortable but your body makes the appropriate adaptions to cope.
When you suffer from anxiety your body releases a hormone Cortisol. This stress hormone interferes with learning and memory, lowers immune function and bone density, increases weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease. Exercise depletes cortisol levels and prevents it from building up in the future.
Anxiety can leave you feeling mentally drained and under the weather and its on these days you should make exercise a priority. Why? You've probably heard of the term "Runners High" - which refers to the euphoric feeling you get when you've completed a workout. Exercise stimulates endorphin production one of which is serotonin( the happy hormone). These happy hormones are your body's natural pain killer and help regulate mood and relax the mind.
Exercise is a fantastic form of distraction for anxiety sufferers. The more distracted your mind is from negative thoughts the less opportunity it has to panic. When you're working out, your mind is forced to stay in the present moment and focus on the task at hand. You finally get an opportunity to shut off from the stresses of life.
Living with a mind that's in constant overdrive one would imagine at bedtime you sleep straight through the night like a baby. Unfortunately for many anxieties suffers sleep is a huge struggle. Getting to sleep may not be the issue it's staying asleep that causes a problem. Sleep is crucial for anxiety management - by exercising you tire out your body and regulate its temperature making it incredibly easier to go asleep and STAY asleep. When people hear the words exercise they are immediately turned off, imagining themselves stranded in a crowded gym surrounded by super fit athletes. There are plenty of cost effective ways to get your daily dose of endorphins. Aerobic exercise has been shown to be the most effective treatment of anxiety. When you're starting out all you need to do is get out and moving. Even if it's just a walk in the park you are still helping reduce your overall anxiety. When you get comfortable with that and feel your fitness levels have increased ramp your way up to more intense exercise like running, hill walking, cycling, swimming, yoga.
Exercise the most under-utilised anti anxiety drug on the market. Caring for your mind is as important and crucial as caring for your body. It's impossible for one to be healthy without the other. Exercise is a tool which can be used to transform your entire life. The mental strength you gain during a workout doesn't end there and then it's carried into other facets of your life allowing you to lead a happy and healthy life.
Article is written by our Wellness expert Jen Feighery - www.jenfeighery.ie
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