Exercising is a good way to reduce stress and anxiety.
Studies show staying active on a regular basis trains more than your body – it teaches the brain to remain calm.
But what can you do if you’re feeling anxious right now? Even if you aren’t the most active person, these 5 exercises can reduce stress and anxiety immediately.
Most of these techniques trigger something called the relaxation response, which, according to Harvard Health Publications, counteracts stress.
When you’re stressed, your body reacts in ways you can’t see – your heart beat and breathing get faster, your muscles tense, your body releases stress hormones, and you need more oxygen. This results in that uncomfortable feeling, pressure.
However, by focusing on breathing and your body, you can learn to relax.
1. Breathe deeply.
When you’re stressed, bringing your attention to your breath can help.
Meditation and deep breathing are the best brain foods to calm and reset your thoughts.
Uneven or shallow breathing can make people feel anxious, even if there’s nothing particularly stressful going on. Deep breathing allows your body to draw in more oxygen to lower your pulse and blood pressure naturally.
Put your hand on your stomach, and fill your lungs completely, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Keep focusing on your breath until you feel calmer.
Since most people aren’t used to breathing deeply, learning how to do it might take some practice. Even so, deep abdominal breathing is one of the simplest ways to reduce stress quickly.
2. Tense, then relax your muscles.
Some of the symptoms of depression are similar to anxiety, such as nervousness.
If you’re feeling anxious, the University of Michigan Health System recommends tensing then relaxing different muscle groups to trigger the relaxation response.
It’s not difficult, and you can do it almost anywhere.
Lay or sit in a comfortable position and begin tensing a particular muscle group, like your legs or arms. Hold your muscles tense for just a few seconds then relax. Try to breathe deeply while you’re tensing your muscles to get your cardiovascular system under control. Afterward, you should feel calmer.
3. Practice guided meditation.
Like deep breathing and tensing and relaxing your muscles, guided meditation helps you focus on something besides your feelings of stress and anxiety.
If your thoughts are racing and you can’t stop going over a certain situation in your head, it can be hard to focus on breathing or your muscles. Guided meditation may be able to help direct your thoughts more efficiently. Having a guide or voice help you visualize scenes, pleasant imagery, or vocalize encouraging words can help your mind concentrate. Although you can join a group, there are also CDs, or free resources online, like UCLA’s free guided meditation series.
Having a guide or voice help you visualize scenes, pleasant imagery, or vocalize encouraging words can help your mind concentrate. Although you can join a group, there are also CDs, or free resources online.
4. Do a few sun salutations.
If stress and anxiety are overwhelming you, try a few yoga poses to calm down.
Until recently, studies have been rather inconclusive, but the concentration, breathing, and movement involved in yoga can help draw focus away from a stressful situation or emotions, to bring focus and calm.
In fact, yoga is similar to the previous exercises in its ability to produce the relaxation response. An early study comparing the effects of swimming, yoga, and fencing on participants’ emotions before and after a class, also showed yoga helped people feel less tense, anxious and depressed, even after just one class.
5. Jog in place.
Jog in place for one or two minutes if you have high anxiety levels.
This will help regulate your breathing to prevent hyperventilation and stave off an anxiety attack. Actually, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, even just one workout session can effectively fight off anxiety for hours afterward. If you have the time, you might want to turn that jog into a longer workout or go for a long walk.
Everyone gets stressed sometimes. It’s a regular part of life, and these exercises can help most people reduce their stress and anxiety immediately.
If you feel unmotivated or incapable of performing any activities, you may need a mental boost. However, depression can also make people feel tense, unmotivated, and fatigued. If you feel lazy or tired often, get your doctor to see if you have an underlying condition.
Even if you practice these exercises regularly, it’s important to remember anxiety is a mental state. If you feel anxious most of the time, speak with your doctor. There are many other ways to manage anxiety, and sometimes exercises aren’t enough. Each person is different, and different methods may be useful for some but not others.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?