Anxiety can feel like an overwhelming force—an ocean wave that rolls you over and over underneath the water.
Unsurprisingly, many people feel helpless or as if nothing will help ease their anxiety.
Yet walking and moderate exercise have proven to help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. The best part? It’s easy!
For example, you don’t need to be a marathon runner or even attempt a 5K. And you don’t have to lift heavy weights or trip over your feet during an intense Jazzercise session.
You can benefit from a walk around the park or your neighborhood. Even a simple yoga or stretching session, gardening, or a leisurely bike ride can help ease anxiety.
With that said, there’s no better time than the changing of seasons to harness the power of moderate exercise. Here’s how to make a walk through your community work for you.
Endorphins Create a Euphoric Feeling
While anxiety tries its best to make you feel worried or panicked, exercise serves to make you feel really good. And that’s simply because of the chemicals released during and after exercise called endorphins.
Moderate exercise like a walk or bike ride produces “feel good” molecules, easing your anxiety naturally.
Additionally, endorphins help to boost your immune system as well as slow the aging process. They also work as natural pain relievers. Lastly, these molecules help to regulate your mood, supporting a more positive outlook.
Exercise Promotes Mindfulness
Moderate exercise (or any exercise) has a unique way of putting you in touch with your own body. In short, it encourages a deeper sense of self-awareness.
As you walk or pedal, you may notice your heart thumping, your muscles flexing with each step, or how your lungs fill with oxygen a little more than usual.
What follows is a natural progression of noticing other things such as smells, sights, sounds, etc. This is one of the most natural ways to promote mindfulness—engaging in the present moment.
When you exercise, you purposefully take time for yourself. You may even push yourself past what you thought you could accomplish on a certain day.
After all, anxiety whispers nefarious thoughts into your ear, not encouragement.
Yet, when you stepped out your front door to go for a walk, know that you just took a step in the right direction. In fact, you may even feel quite accomplished upon returning from exercise.
Exercise has a special way of encouraging self-confidence. Anxiety says you can’t, can’t, can’t…but you exercised anyway.
Proving those anxious feelings wrong empowers you to believe that you CAN manage your pestering anxiety, too.
Encourages Deep Breathing
Any type of moderate exercise encourages your lungs to open up, breathing more deeply than if you were simply sitting in a chair, for example.
Unlike the marathon runner in training, you won’t be panting or gasping for breath. Rather, moderate exercise encourages calm-inducing deep breathing from your belly.
Exercising outdoors can be even more beneficial because of the pleasant fragrance you may experience in the park or a well-kept neighborhood.
Deep belly breathing is one of the most effective methods of easing anxiety. Practicing this breathing technique activates the calm part of your autonomic nervous system, deactivating the fight-or-flight mode.
Take the first step…
If you struggle with anxiety, and you’re ready to start resolving those issues, I would like to help.
Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT