When you’re anxious or stressed about something, getting out and exercising in any way can seem so unappealing.
You know what though? Sometimes exercise, even short, gentle amounts of it, can be EXACTLY what your body (and mind) need.
I admit, I never subscribed to this idea. If you’re anxious, you should just do what your mind wants, right? Just chill out and try not to think about it? (While what actually happens is you think about it more and more and make it worse, right?.) Or maybe you just want to keep ticking things off your to do list to keep that feeling of control somewhere in your life.
I would often find myself spiralling into a panic about one thing or another, and often my anxiety presented itself as an upset/nauseous tummy, along with racing heart/palpitations. It got to the point where I spent close to a year being convinced I was coming down with a stomach bug, on a DAILY basis. Then I would worry about it more, make it worse, and would often end up feeling this way for days. It was AWFUL.
I now understand that my nerves/anxiety will often present in this way, I have medication (reflux type medication to help calm my tummy), but more than anything, learning that there wasn’t any kind of tummy bug, nor any other stomach problems, has hugely helped. Now when I feel it happening, before I start freaking out that it’s a bug, or I’ve eaten something I shouldn’t have, I take a good hard think about it. Am I worried about something? What is causing me to be nervous? Can I fix it?
It doesn’t get rid of it completely, but it is helping - being aware that this is more likely the cause of it. I have been offered medication on a number of times, to combat the anxiety itself, however I have chosen to work on this myself, for the time being.
But how to help with the nerves BEFORE this happens?
Exercise has helped more than I ever thought it could. I’ve really stepped it up this year, and I’m finding myself a lot calmer. First because my walks/weight lifting sessions are my ME time (so don’t be offended if I turn you down for going for walks together!) I use it as my thinking time - thinking about life, about ideas for my business, you name it. But it’s also nice to just put the ear buds in, turn up the volume and just walk. I find it is helping me so much, and it’s been worth it to really increase my level of activity this past 6 months or so. The more regularly I move my body, the calmer I am, and the better I sleep.
You don’t have to go out there and get straight into 7 days a week, hours a day type exercise. Not at all. But starting out with gentle exercise a few times a week, and increasing it as you feel comfortable - I BET you will find it helps. Take the dog for a walk, walk along the beach on your own, go for a swim. Do a Zumba class. Whatever you enjoy, wherever your happy place is - do more of that.
I understand that this isn’t a one size fits all kind of subject. Maybe this won’t help you, maybe you’ve already tried it. But if you haven’t, why not give it a go? Get out there, move your body, blow the cobwebs out of your mind, and see if you feel better/sleep better. I would love to know how you get on!
I want to point out, none of this detracts from visiting with your GP or Counsellor, nor should it take the place of any required medication. I don’t make claims of exercise curing anxiety and depression, only that it can help to manage it. Many professionals now include prescribing regular gentle exercise into their patients lives, for the same reasons I put above.
How do you find regular exercise contributes to your mental health? Is it something you’ve tried, or are currently doing?
Nikki Bollen is the owner of MisFIT NZ, an online and face to face business, specialising in women’s wellness and fitness, via helping the ladies she works with to get more active, to care for themselves more and love themselves more. She can be reached by the following ways: