Exercise has phenomenal physical and psychological benefits, from managing weight, strengthening bones, rejuvenating happiness, improving memory, and even lessening anxiety symptoms.
For some people, it does just that: eases anxiety. But for others, it can have the opposite effect: intensifying stress. This isn’t a call to eliminate workouts altogether, because everyone has different responses. However, if you have a gut feeling your workouts are causing more harm than good, the first thing to do is tune into yourself.
Before, during, and after a workout, take a deep breath and reach into the corners of your feelings. What are they telling you? Are they saying “WE’RE FREAKING OUT!” or “We’re cool & calm?” Once you pin down how your workouts are really affecting you, it’s time to get into the why’s and how’s.
Why Can Exercise Make Us Anxious?
Exercise is a form of physical stress, most of the time the good kind. However, occasionally, it can raise our cortisol (stress hormone) levels, escalating anxiety.
This can especially happen as a result of overexercising. But for some people, it’s just the body’s natural response to that particular form of movement.
How Do I Choose an Anxiety-Reducing Workout?
If you’re in the jinxed group of anxiety-ridden workouts, you have options! Although it’s best to stay away from strenuous, long-endurance workouts, you can still participate in proven anxiety-crushing workouts like yoga.
Keep in mind the trial and error process.
What’s calming for one person isn’t for another, and that’s okay! Strut the cakewalk to your exercise individualism. Your body will thank you for finding the perfect combo of movement that doesn’t tug so hard on your mental health and throw your hormones into the multiverse.
You can also try:
- Steady-state cardio e.g. jogging
- HIIT (as long as it’s 20 minutes or under)
- Cardio barre
- Cleaning (win/win to-do list!)
Move to Feel Good
The real question: are you exercising to punish yourself? Or to feel good?
This simple mindset switch can do miracles for your movement anxiety levels, even decreasing the chances of overexercising.
When you’re tired, rest. When you’re energized, move.
Respect yourself enough to take the time to explore what kind of exercises feel good for your unique body– ones that don’t send you into an anxiety/overwhelm/stress spiral of misery. There’s something for everyone! And once you find what you truly love, the less likely anxiety will make an uncomfortable entrance.
You’re not alone. You CAN find what feels good.