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One of the most important things you can do to help your anxiety and/or depression symptoms is to EXERCISE. I know It sounds cliche, "healthy body, healthy mind!"—but it is TRUE! When you are anxious and stressed, your body produces a steroid hormone called cortisol, which is the adrenaline that pumps round your body, making you feel those classic feelings—shaking, sweating, light-headedness, faster breathing etc...
And unless we have an outlet for this adrenaline, it will just keep circulating around us. Yes, it will eventually go away on its own, but exercise will help train your body to use the excess adrenaline efficiently. And exercise will also help de-sensitize you to those horrible, frightening symptoms. When you exercise, you WANT to breath faster, you WANT to feel sweaty. When you take away the fear of anxiety, its hold on you lessens.
Like me, 99.9 percent of the time you probably won't have the energy or motivation which is why it's important to do it on your terms, on your time. If you don't do it one day, no problem! Try again tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow. Remember that you will always, always feel better afterwards. You never regret exercise. Exercise releases natural hormones called endorphins which give you that “natural high” feeling. And that, mixed with the feeling of accomplishment, always makes going out to exercise worth it.
I have had phases where I lost touch with exercise or hadn’t been able to due to injury or various illnesses. And I have to say, those were the bleakest days I can remember. I didn’t realise how much not exercising can dampen your mood and make you more prone to panic attacks/feeling constantly uneasy. I remember just waking up every day and feeling so lethargic because I wasn’t keeping active. Even if I don’t exercise for three days, I can already feel the negative impact. I also like having a routine throughout my day, and exercise is usually the highlight of that routine. My morning runs give me the energy I need to tackle the day.
So, exercise is crucial for keeping your head above water and keeping you balanced. It clears your mind, it gets you out and, for those like me with agoraphobic tendencies, it gets you used to going further away from the house each time you go. It also just gets you back in touch with reality. I used to spend days at a time being at home due to my agoraphobia, and feeling totally out of touch as a result.
Thankfully, through force and self-discipline, I’ve trained my body and mind to not want to stay in the house all day, even when though my agoraphobia side will try to drag me back! As I mentioned in a previous blog post, my morning runs allow me to see beautiful natural sceneries, hear laughter, birds chirping and people talking happily to one another. And I prefer running over going to the gym because for this very reason, but of course everyone is different. Do whichever form of exercise best suits your needs and current situation. If you can’t quite leave the house yet, no problem, you can still get a fantastic, hardcore workout through yoga, pilates and HIIT workouts which you can get from YouTube and do in the comfort of your living room.
You can start as small as you like—even just going for a five or 10 minute walk can really help you. I hated jogging with a passion a year ago but I managed to adapt my body to it, and I can honestly say, my morning jogging sessions really make a difference to how my day will turn out.
Just like meditation can train your ability to control your thoughts and relax your mind, exercise trains your body to adapt to the physical symptoms of anxiety till one day it no longer has a hold on you!