Reduce Stress with Exercise, Not Booze.
On a regular basis, your stress meter’s moving at an alarming speed. Reasons? Too many. Maybe you’re anxious about giving a sales presentation tomorrow, or your office bud just got laid off and anyone can be next, maybe personal relationship is not going the way it should, maybe the mortgage-monster is lurking. What do you do under stress? Hit the gym? Or unroll your yoga mat? or head home thinking, “Oh! I need a drink”?
Does that drink really take the edge off your stress, or will it make matters worse? Maybe both.
Scientifically proven, alcohol and high anxiety feed off each other. Yes, having a drink when you’re a bundle of nerves can lower your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, but in some individuals drinking when tense accentuates the source of stress and leaves them in a state of depression. In other people, intense stress overwhelms alcohol’s relaxing effects, so they react by having another drink . . . and another.. and perhaps, another.
If you’ve ever gone for a run after a stressful day, chances are you felt better afterward. “The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong,” Otto says. “Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect.”
But the effects of physical activity extend beyond the short-term. Research shows that exercise can also help alleviate long-term depression.
The bottom line is: If you’re stressed and now that you know that alcohol strikes back when you’re tense, take a walk instead. A 30-minute outing cuts stress and anxiety by more than 30%. Bonus, you’ll burn calories rather than drink them. That’ll improve your mood when you step on a scale.
What kind of exercise is best?
The word “exercise” gives the impression of running laps or pumping iron at the gym. But exercise includes a wide range of activities that boost your activity level to help you feel better. Certainly running, lifting weights, playing outdoor games and other fitness activities that get your heart pumping can help. But so can gardening, washing your car, or strolling around the neighborhood and other less intense activities. Anything that gets you off the couch and moving is exercise that can help improve your mood.
Find ways to fit activity into your routine. Discover which physical activity you enjoy the most. Add small stretches of different physical activity throughout your day and see how you just are not in a mood of being stressed.
How does exercise help depression and anxiety?
Exercise probably helps ease depression in a number of ways, which may include:
- Releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression and stress (neurotransmitters and endorphins).
- Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depressive mental state.
- Increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects.
Exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits too. It can help you:
- Take your mind off worries. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.
- Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even the very small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Plus, getting fit or bouncing back to shape can make you feel better.
- Get more social interaction. Human beings are social animals. Nothing rejuvenates us like a good social interaction. Exercise may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around or work out can help your mood, specifically when you are stressed or feeling down.
Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how badly you feel can lead to worsening symptoms. Your wellbeing is all in your own hand!
For more benefits of exercise, don’t miss to read
“You will love to exercise, after you read this!”
“The benefits of short walks that we hardly care about.”