7 Ways to Calm Down Blog Series, Part Six
When you’re stressed, it’s easy to dwell on whatever is bothering you, like your to-do list and negative thoughts, or just to avoid it all together, maybe by vegging out in front of the internet or TV. Instead of dwelling or avoiding, getting some exercise is an effective way to calm down, helping to release stress and tension and increase your feel-good brain chemicals, leaving you feeling calmer and more relaxed.
Exercise doesn’t have to mean going for a run or going to the gym. There are many different ways to move your body and increase your heart rate that might suit your interests and your life. Gardening, going for a walk, playing sports, doing yoga, climbing a tree, biking, hiking, rock climbing, doing housework, doing tai chi, dancing, taking the stairs instead of the elevator – all of these can help you feel calmer on a daily basis.
Here are 5 ways that exercise helps you calm down:
1. Releasing Pent Up Stress Energy
Stress activates your fight or flight system, which means that a significant amount of energy is coursing through your body, wanting to do something. Focusing that stress energy into physical activity gets that energy out of your body in the short term, reducing anxiety.
2. Increasing Feel-Good Brain Chemicals
Exercise that gets your heart going releases those natural feel-good chemicals in your brain. Many studies have shown that regular exercise is as or more effective than taking anti-depressants. Even one round of exercise with increased heart rate will give you a burst of good feelings, replacing your stress with a natural high.
Exercise takes some concentration and coordination, be it trying not to trip while running, deciphering the weeds from the plants in your garden or focusing on the game you’re playing. We can only think about so many things at once, so exercise can be a healthy distraction from whatever might be stressing you out. Taking time away from your stress lets your mind settle and gives you a chance to gain perspective on whatever is bothering you.
4. Releasing Tension
Moving around and getting your body warmed up helps to release tension. You might notice your body making cracking and popping noises as joints release and settle into place. Like progressive muscle relaxation, yoga and stretching help you notice where you’re carrying tension and work to release it.
5. Building Confidence
Not feeling good about yourself is stressful. If you have low self-esteem or negative beliefs about yourself from traumas you’ve experienced, this is going to be contributing to your daily stress. It’s good for your confidence to see yourself acting the way you want to act and being the person you want to be. Its common knowledge that exercise is good for you, so seeing yourself exercise can show you that you can take care of yourself and can work to improve your life, which feels good.
One of the other pluses of exercise is that it can get you outside, which has its own benefits for helping you to feel calmer and more grounded. Stay posted for more on that next week, the final week in the 7 Ways to Calm Down blog series.