We all know exercise positively impacts everything we do, from strength and stamina to immunity and overall quality of life. What we usually don’t realize is that exercise is a necessary stress we put on our bodies that forces it to become more resilient when done consistently. The human body is an intelligent organism, but it cannot differentiate between physical (exercise) stress and psychological (mental/emotional) stress; both types of stress challenge the systems of the human body.
The ability of the body to respond positively to either type of stress is enhanced when exercise is a regular part of a person’s weekly routine. Regular aerobic and strength-based exercise forces the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and central nervous systems to become stronger after a brief period of recovery is allowed. And since the body cannot differentiate between the two types of stress, those who exercise regularly are better able to handle psychological stress when faced with challenging situations.
Here are four ways you can use exercise to help you manage stress:
- Improve Health & Attitude. Our lives are so busy, and sometimes taking an hour for ourselves to work out seems too challenging. But even the smallest investment of time to focus on improving your physical health will greatly impact you and those around you. You’ll be happier, feel more confident, and will help you deal with mental stress in a healthy way.
- Breathe to Reduce Tension. Breathing is tied to the central nervous system and can create or reduce tension. You can reduce heart rate, blood pressure, and muscular tension by building a short breathing practice into your day.
- Power Training. Slamming balls and swinging kettlebells help direct your attention and emotions while also releasing pent up energy. Strength training exercises will help you leave the gym feeling strong and able to tackle the day’s challenges.
- Work Hard, Sleep Hard. The more often you work out, the better your sleep gets. When you sleep well, your mind and body are more able to handle stress. Without enough sleep, emotions are on high alert and can cloud your judgment and emotional capacity.
The quickest way to deal with stress in the short term is to focus on deep breaths when you start to feel stressed. Get into a comfortable position and use your entire torso to expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale. Focus on the inhale and exhale of each breath and allow yourself to relax into each subsequent breath. For long-term impact, regular exercise improves many vital signs and mental health. Working hard in the gym allows you to deal with anything hard that comes your way outside the gym. Remember to sleep, breathe, and exercise so you can show up as your best self, day in and day out!
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