Exercise Can Help To Reduce The Symptoms Of Traumatic Events
Have you ever noticed that when an extremely stressful event occurs, you stay focused on that event?
Do you re-live that event on a frequent basis?
Do the stressful situations cause nightmares? Or do sights, sounds, or smells trigger painful memories? These are just a few of the many ways that describe what life is like with post-traumatic stress disorder.
You might know it better by its abbreviation: PTSD.
The issue with PTSD is that people suffering from it may feel stressed out or threatened even when they are completely safe.
Because of this, many people may stay away from events, people, or places that remind them of something scary that happened.
Many people with PTSD also try to avoid having feelings or thoughts that may be related to what has happened to them.
With PTSD or similar stress-related disorders, including attention-deficit hyperactivity syndrome, the brain literally gets stuck.
This causes the individual to become immobile in thought, action, and deed.
Exercise helps the mind become unstuck.
Instead of focusing on the stressful memory, the brain is able to focus on the physical sensations of the exercise.
It elevates a persons mood. It can reduce anxiety.
This allows exercise to begin acting as an overall stress-buffer so that there is a positive impact on the symptoms, thoughts, and/or feelings which are being experienced.
Outdoor exercises are especially beneficial in this area.
Overcoming Obstacles To Exercise
Even when you know that exercise will help you feel better, taking that first step is still easier said than done. Obstacles to exercising are very realparticularly when youre also struggling with a mental health issue.
Here are some common barriers and how you can get past them.
Feeling exhausted. When youre tired, depressed, or stressed, it seems that working out will just make you feel worse. But the truth is that physical activity is a powerful energizer. Studies show that regular exercise can dramatically reduce fatigue and increase your energy levels. If you are really feeling tired, promise yourself a quick, 5-minute walk. Chances are, once you get moving youll have more energy and be able to walk for longer.
Feeling overwhelmed. When youre stressed or depressed, the thought of adding another obligation to your busy daily schedule can seem overwhelming. Working out just doesnt seem practical. If you have children, finding childcare while you exercise can also be a big hurdle. However, if you begin thinking of physical activity as a priority , youll soon find ways to fit small amounts of exercise into even the busiest schedule.
Feeling hopeless. Even if youve never exercised before, you can still find ways to comfortably get active. Start slow with easy, low-impact activities a few minutes each day, such as walking or dancing.
How Does Exercise Help Ease Anxiety
- Engaging in exercise diverts you from the very thing you are anxious about.
- Moving your body decreases muscle tension, lowering the bodys contribution to feeling anxious.
- Getting your heart rate up changes brain chemistry, increasing the availability of important anti-anxiety neurochemicals, including serotonin, gamma aminobutyric acid , brain-derived neurotrophic factor , and endocannabinoids.
- Exercise activates frontal regions of the brain responsible for executive function, which helps control the amygdala, our reacting system to real or imagined threats to our survival.
- Exercising regularly builds up resources that bolster resilience against stormy emotions.
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Relax By Interrupting Your Anxious Thinking
It can be hard to think clearly when you feel anxious. Sometimes anxious thinking can make us believe harmful thoughts that are untrue or make us do things that make our anxiety worse. It can be helpful to break or interrupt your anxious thoughts so you can think clearly and react appropriately to your thoughts.
Heres how to break your anxious thought cycle:
- Ask yourself whether endless worry is a problem for you. If the answer is yes, its good to be aware of that.
- Try different ways of interrupting your anxious thought process, such as:
- Singing a silly song about your anxiety to an upbeat tempo, or speaking your anxieties in a funny voice.
- Choose a nice thought to focus on instead of your anxiety. This could be a person you love, your happy place, or even something you look forward to doing later that day, such as eating a nice dinner.
- Listen to music or read a book.
- Be conscious when you shift your attention from your anxiety to a task at hand and notice how you feel.
Do you feel worse?
Anxiety exercises may not work for everyone and may actually make symptoms worse for people who have a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder . If you have GAD, consult your doctor for more effective treatment options.
Limitations Of The Literature: Methodological Considerations
Several limitations in the stress literature have been discerned by this review, particularly as identified by the quality assessment rating . The most obvious is the limited amount of experimental evidence. The use of control groups should be utilized, as changes in PA are frequently due to other factors, such as a change in seasons . Examination and holiday stressors coincide with more averse weather in many latitudes, which is perhaps the greatest limitation in this area of research. Cross-sectional studies cannot provide indication of the direction of influence. Does stress impact exercise directly, or do inactive individuals self-select more stressful environments ? Such a possibility implies that other factors may be responsible for the association. Nevertheless, more than 50 studies in this review utilized a prospective design, which allays some concern.
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Exercises That Help To Reduce Stress
Exercise has many health benefits. It helps to keep the body strong and healthy, it makes us fit and trim, it increases resistance and endurance, and it promotes good mood and a sense of well-being.
Aside from these benefits, another very important benefit of exercise is its ability to reduce stress. Stress refers to your bodys physical or psychological response to situations or conditions, whether those conditions are perceived or real. It is an energy sapper, yet it accumulates a lot of negative energy inside your body.
Exercise is antidote for stress because it helps to make your body feel relaxed. It has the ability to fill your body and brain with oxygenated blood, it improves circulation, and it stimulates the brain to release endorphins, the pain relief and feel good hormones that can give you a feeling of relief and pleasure.
Here are some of the most common exercise can effectively reduce stress:
Cycling is a good exercise and stress reliever as well. Riding a bike on a silent road that offers a lot of relaxing scenes can surely help to keep you feel relaxed. It is also helps to exercise your heart and lungs for optimum circulation and oxygenation of the body. It is an effective stress buster for many people.
Swimming is a low impact exercise that reduces stress of the mind and body. It is also beneficial for exercisers who are suffering from joint pains and those who cannot indulge in rigorous exercises.
4. Brisk Walking
Autoregulation Exercise And Stress Relief
Regular physical activity keeps you healthy as it reduces stress. But another special sort of exercise known as autoregulation exercises can also reduce stress.
Stress comes in many forms and produces many symptoms. Mental symptoms range from worry and irritability to restlessness and insomnia, anger and hostility, or sensations of dread, foreboding, and even panic.
Mental stress can also produce physical symptoms. Muscles are tense, resulting in fidgetiness, taut facial expressions, headaches, or neck and back pain. The mouth is dry, producing unquenchable thirst or perhaps the sensation of a lump in the throat that makes swallowing difficult. Clenched jaw muscles can produce jaw pain and headaches. The skin can be pale, sweaty, and clammy. Intestinal symptoms range from “butterflies” to heartburn, cramps, or diarrhea. Frequent urination may be a bother. A pounding pulse is common, as is chest tightness. Rapid breathing is also typical, and may be accompanied by sighing or repetitive coughing. In extreme cases, hyperventilation can lead to tingling of the face and fingers, muscle cramps, lightheadedness, and even fainting.
The physical symptoms of stress are themselves distressing. In fact, the body’s response to stress can feel so bad that it produces additional mental stress. During the stress response, then, mind and body can amplify each other’s distress signals, creating a vicious cycle of tension and anxiety.
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Here Are 4 Ways Regular Exercise Can Help Reduce Stress:
1. Endorphins: Your Brain’s Natural Mood Boosters
Youve probably heard about post-workout bliss or a runners high. This boost of positive feelings comes from endorphins, the brains feel-good transmitters that are released during physical activity.
But did you know that this positive effect can also become cumulative and grow over time? If you stick with a regular exercise routine, chances are youll notice increased feelings of well-being that last even after youve left the gym.
2. Physical Activity “Gets You Out of Your Head”
Physical activity can help take your mind off your worries. The repetitive motions involved in exercisewhether its a series of yoga movements or swimming laps around the pool keep your mind focused on the movement of your body.and OFF that hamster-wheel of stressful thoughts.
3. Fitness Goals Help You Take Control & Gain Confidence
When life feels like its spinning out of control, physical activity can help you take back the reigns, giving you a sense of command over your body and life. You have the power to set your personal goals.
The sense of accomplishment you gain from finishing a tough workout or meeting a fitness goal is also a great confidence-booster, which you can carry with you to other aspects of your life.
4. Exercise Helps Promote Healthy, Restorative Sleep
Regular exercise helps you relax and improves sleep quality, giving mind and body a much-needed time of restoration.
The Effects Of Psychological Stress On Pa/exercise: State Of The Literature
The search yielded a total of 168 papers interested in the impact of stress on PA. Five studies were published in the 1980s, 37 in the 1990s, 86 in the 2000s, and 40 from 2010 to July 2012 . The first evidence in the scientific literature of the link between mental stress and PA was reported in the early 1980s . Research at this time addressed the impact of stress on a host of health-promoting and -degrading behaviors, including alcohol use, smoking, dietary practices, and PA , in particular in relation to their role as risk factors for cardiovascular disease. This early work was epidemiological in nature, typically cross-sectional, employing very large sample sizes . Furthermore, the population of focus frequently was middle-aged adults in occupational settings .
Yearly distribution of publications examining the association of stress and physical activity/exercise from 1984 to 2012
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Calm The Mind And The Body Follows
Study authors report that meditation-based mental training can seriously help lower long-term chronic stress levels. While this of course isn’t the first time meditation has been named as a great way to unwind and relax, this research, in particular, is especially groundbreaking because its conclusions are based on concrete, physiological findings as opposed to potentially biased self-assessments from participants.
It’s incredibly difficult to truly quiet the mind. Attempt to block all thoughts for a few moments and you’ll probably start thinking about how you shouldn’t be thinking! Meditation and mindfulness training come in many forms, but the general message of such practices can be boiled down to being totally present in the moment and serenely acknowledging fleeting thoughts as they enter the mind without placing emotional weight on them. In other words, you may not be able to stop that intrusive thought about Friday’s big deadline from entering your head, but you can let it drift away just as quickly as it appeared in the first place.
The research team concludes that consistently practicing meditation training that promotes mindfulness, gratitude, and compassion tangibly reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol in hair. After six months, study subjects saw the amount of cortisol in their hair decrease by an average of 25%.
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Exercise: A Healthy Stress Reliever
Exercise: A healthy stress reliever.
When it comes to good health, physical activity matters. Exercise and physical activity improve overall fitness, body mass index, and cardiovascular and muscular health.1 Studies even show exercise can relieve stress, reduce depression and improve cognitive function.2,3,4
Although many respondents to the Stress in America survey report that they experience positive benefits from exercise, such as feeling good about themselves, being in a good mood and feeling less stressed, few say they make the time to exercise every day. In fact, the survey found that more than one-third of adults report exercising less than once a week or not at all.
Only 17 percent of adults report exercising daily.
Fifty-three percent of adults say they feel good about themselves after exercising, 35 percent say it puts them in a good mood and 30 percent say they feel less stressed.
Fewer than half of adults say they exercise to manage stress and 39 percent say they have skipped exercise or physical activity in the past month when they were feeling stressed.
Sixty-two percent of adults who say they exercise or walk to help manage stress say the technique is very or extremely effective. Forty-three percent of adults who report exercising specifically to help manage stress say they skipped exercise or physical activity in the past month when they were stressed.
Thirty-seven percent of teens say they exercise specifically to manage stress.
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Combining Breathing Exercises With Mindfulness Meditation
Breathing exercises are a powerful, accessible way to help you access peacefulness. They help reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure, and after you use them, you can carry on with your day in a more relaxed state.
Theyre excellent tools to have in your mindfulness arsenal. And they work best when combined with mindfulness meditation.
While many people use breathing exercises to cope with the stress that they are already experiencing, mindfulness meditation is an excellent way to prevent that stress from happening in the first place.
A regular mindfulness meditation practice is proven to reduce the amount of stress you feel over time. Importantly, meditation also reduces the negative, inflammatory effect of stress on your body which can exacerbate pre-existing health conditions like arthritis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease , heart disease, and even cancer.
So if youd like to be as stress-proof as possible, we recommend picking up a meditation routine along with your favorite breathwork practice from this list. A guided meditation app like Primed Mind is one of the easiest ways to get started with meditation.
Getting Started With Breathing Exercises
The good news about breathing exercises is that they dont require any equipment or skills to get started. You can feel better with these impactful exercises anytime, anywhere.
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind as you start your breathwork:
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When Will I Start To See The Mental Health Benefits Of Physical Exercise
You may feel an improved mood and euphoric feeling immediately after you exercise, especially if youre engaging in moderate activity. You may also experience improved cognitive abilities, like memory, problem-solving skills, and decision-making ability, after just one session. Over time, these positive effects should continue to build, and you may notice improvements as soon as six weeks after starting regular exercise.
What Types Of Exercise Help With Stress
There are many ways to meet your weekly exercise targets. What type of physical activity should you choose?
You dont need to be a marathon runner or elite athlete to experience stress relief from exercise. Almost any kind of exercise can be helpful.
For example, consider trying moderate aerobic exercises such as:
When it comes to muscle-strengthening exercises, consider trying weight lifting or activities with resistance bands.
Even something as simple as gardening or choosing to take the stairs rather than the elevator can give you an emotional lift.
Any type of exercise can increase your fitness and decrease your stress. However, its important to choose an activity that you enjoy rather than dread. If you dont like the water, dont choose swimming as your activity. If the thought of running makes you anxious, training for a 5K race wont help relieve your stress. Try a variety of activities until you find some you enjoy. When youre having fun, youll be more likely to stick with your workout routine.
Working out with someone else can also add to the stress-busting benefits of workout. Sharing it with family members of friends can make exercise feel more like fun and less like work.
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