How Exercise and Breathing Helps Reduce Anxiety
Most people already understand that exercise is essential for superior physical, mental and emotional health. It can be especially beneficial for alleviating cases of anxiety that a person may experience. In fact, moderate exercise has been proven to have a rather significant effect on a person’s mood and anxiety.
For example, exercise helps to reduce the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. It will also help to stimulate the production of various feel-good endorphins. When done on a regular basis, exercise can also increase the activity levels found in the serotonergic system, which can help to reduce anxiety while improving a person’s mood.
Also, moderate and intense exercise will increase the body’s core temperature, which is then accompanied by a simultaneous reduction in a person’s muscle tension, which reduces cases of anxiety.
Recently, there are researchers who have been looking at another hypothesis that is behind the benefits of exercise for reducing symptoms of anxiety: Oxidative and nitrogen stress and inflammation may be contributing factors to anxiety. Exercise can act as a type of anti-O&NS agent and as an anti-inflammatory tool.
Regardless of if you are struggling with anxiety from time to time or a full-on disorder that has been diagnosed, exercise can be beneficial. It should be a huge part of a person’s self-care routine and an effective method of treating anxiety. Some of the ways you can make the most of the exercise to minimize your struggle with anxiety can be found here.
Discover Activities You Actually Enjoy
The very best physical activities are the ones that you like to do. If you enjoy the activity, you are highly likely to continue doing it. Besides yoga, which has actually been proven as helpful, there is no research that specifies what activities will work better than others for cases of anxiety, according to the Psych Central blog.
Consider what your favorite things to do are. What activities did you enjoy participating in as a child? Is there something you have always wanted to try?
Bike, hike, walk or jog – there is an activity for everyone. Try them all until you find one that suites you.
In an ideal situation, you should participate in some type of physical activity five times a week for at least 30 minutes per day, according to the director of the Center for Wellness at Wentworth Institute of Technology.
Practice Meditation for Anxiety
Mediation is very beneficial for individuals who suffer from anxiety. The brain mechanisms that are involved in causing anxiety are calmed when a person meditates. In fact, a number of positive changes have been observed when the mediator even stops meditating.
The fact is, meditation can be done anytime of the night or day, outside or inside, as long as you will not be disturbed. Meditation is not all about getting rid of your thoughts. It is about you taking the time to observe them and then let them go. The best way to begin doing this is by observing your breath.
You can begin by just taking some time to notice your breath come and then go. Another option is to count your breaths up to 10 and then begin at 1 again. When your mind is wandering – which is does naturally – just start to count once again.
Taking some time for yourself to exercise, be active and even meditate can help you ease cases of anxiety that may be stealing your happiness. As you can see here, there is even scientific proof that doing this can be beneficial. Don’t try to do too much, too soon, but take your time and discover a life without anxiety.
How Breathing Exercises Can Calm Your Mind
You may have noticed that anytime you feel anxious or stressed, the standard advice you receive to help you calm your mind and body always has to do with controlled breathing exercises. This isn’t just advice that people and doctors are tossing out at you without cause. In fact, there is a scientific reason that breathing exercises work to calm down the mind and the body.
The primary purpose of breathing is the absorption of oxygen and to expel carbon dioxide. When stressed, a person tends to take small, shallow breaths, using their shoulders instead of their diaphragm to get air in and out of their lungs. This breathing style causes disruption to the balance of gasses in the body. This can lead to shallow over-breathing or hyperventilation.
When your body begins to feel the effects of being stressed out, your adrenal glands release something called cortisol. Cortisol is more commonly known as the stress hormone, and when your cortisol levels are elevated, there are many negative side effects.
Some of the effects of having increased levels of cortisol include lower immune function, disruptions in both the memory and the learning functions, an increase in blood pressure and an increased risk for depression and other mental illnesses.
Of course, all of these things don’t just happen because you experience occasional stress, but rather if you are dealing with stress on a regular basis and not doing anything to help reduce the levels of stress your body feels.
Another side effect of the increase in cortisol levels is that your body shifts into the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for mediating the hormonal stress response better known as the fight or flight response. This means that when the sympathetic nervous system takes over, it has the following effects on your organs:
Eyes: Dilates the pupils
Heart: Increases the rate and force of the heart contractions
Lungs: Dilates the bronchioles and circulates and adrenaline
Sweat Glands: Activates secretion of sweat
What Happens When You Do Breathing Exercises?
When you do breathing exercises, you are breathing in a slow, gentle, and even way. When you are breathing this way, the effects of the sympathetic nervous system are minimized as the parasympathetic nervous takes over.
The parasympathetic nervous system works alongside the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are often considered opposites of one another. However, this relationship is not antagonistic. Instead, the relationship is complementary.
Often referred to like the rest and digest system, the parasympathetic nervous system conserves energy as it reduces the levels of cortisol in the body. The reduction in cortisol leads to a slowing of the heart rate, which in turn also lowers blood pressure and increases feelings of relaxation.
Some of the other benefits to controlled breathing include:
– A reduction in the lactic acid buildup in muscle tissues.
– Levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.
– Improved function of the immune system.
– Feelings of calm and well-being are increased.
When we are focused on our breathing, our mind automatically becomes calmer. Since the rest of our body is being told to relax, our mind is no longer focused on all of the things that are going on in our body.
Another advantage to focused breathing is that our mind needs to focus on the act of taking slow, even, and measured breaths. This shift is focus allows our mind to clear. A clear mind allows us to approach problems with a clear mind without having stress cloud our judgment.
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