Become Unrecognisable While Beating Stress
It’s well established that exercise has a whole host of benefits on reducing stress, but when we begin to understand how each of these benefits can cause a knock on positive spiral to the next benefit and to the next benefit we learn that nothing is better at beating stress than cumulative benefits delivered by repeated exercise. Let's start at the beginning;
When setting out on our fitness journey with the mantra "movement is medicine", as we focus solely on the task of the movement, the yoga mat or the Pilates hold, or the dumbbell contraction. Whatever we choose, when we focus on our body, the movement, the feeling and our breathing we tap into the thousand year old strategy of being present and focusing on our body and our emptying our mind from stressful thoughts.
Connecting to Nature
Fresh air and being in nature is frequently reported as a stress reliever for many of us who live in concrete jungle cities, and who drive or get public transport to work, sit under artificial lights all day and return home to our condos and apartments blocks. Finding the time to get outside to nature whether we walk, cycle, jog or paddle, simply being surrounded by the organisms, the eco system, the smells and sounds our ancestors were surrounded gives us a transcending feeling of connection and gives us the feeling of a natural reset.
Following the cycle, jog or paddle, we have a surging release of endorphins, making us feel better about ourselves, the world and our problems. Endorphins are our body’s feel good neurotransmitter that get released during and after exercise as nature’s reward for a job well done. Maybe it’s a run, a swim or a gym session, while it doesn’t change the nature of the problems in the world around us, it does change our physiology and gives us a happier more positive perspective when we think about those same problems!
Better Food Choices
In the hours after our exercise session, we're left reeling in the aftermath of the endorphins for the next few hours. In this positive health-loving state, we are more likely to choose more healthy food options so as “not to waste” the tough effort we endured. Day after day as we repeatedly reduce the pro-inflammatory foods that we ingest, combined with the benefits of exercise, we reduce the release of cortisol, the body’s natural systemic stress hormone. When our cortisol levels are lowered we are less sensitive to external stressors. We don’t change the stressors from our environment but we improve our own perspective on those very same problems. Remember, you are what you eat, so when we eat good, we feel good.
Culminating in Regaining Control
Often when our stress builds up, a large part of the anxiety we feel comes from the feeling that we are losing control of the world around us. When we begin an exercise programme geared towards our physical goals. The side effect of the endorphins and the physical improvements, gives us the sensation of having regained control over one important aspect our lives again. We have the power to change our brain chemistry, we have the power to do good for own body, therefore we are powerful beings who can regain control of any stressful environment slowly. The lessons we learn from exercise how slow the body improves as a result of difficult effort, can be analogous to over coming psychological, financial or any kind of non-physiological stress.
Exercise can lead us to an increased sense of overall self confidence and self actualisation. We'll never forget that old feeling of looking at fit people in the park feeling daunted, debilitated and hopeless. But then one day we notice it, we have turned that corner and the sense of our achievement and empowerment can be life changing. We don’t have to be the person crossing the finish line first in the next Olympics to enjoy new levels of pride in our own achievement. The simple act of completing a 10k when we thought we could never run for sixty minutes continuously in our lives, or hike to the top of Kilimanjaro and look out across the African landscape can be a moment we never dreamed about. It’s these achievements that give us the confidence to take on future challenges and continue on the health journey.
Comrades in Arms
Should we continue to exercise yourself and build up the confidence in our own ability to join a group to exercise with. Open ourselves up to being vulnerable but with confidence that we’ll be able to go for a hike with a new group of friends or a exercise class or swim team. The joys of being a member of a team and part of a group can help us with a new sense of belonging and stress reduction. We will meet new people, hear new stories, listen to other people’s stresses and snuggles in their life, learn from them and their advice on how they get peace of mind in the mountains or out on the water. The opportunities for growth and stress reduction become vast open ended.
Exercise can not only springboard us to a better place mentally after one single session, but the exponential increase in benefits it can have on reducing our overall stress levels and increasing our own confidence to tackle the world and to over come problems is almost immeasurable. When we think of each little step we take delivering us to a place of new found glory and self actualisation, who knows we may one day feel like we can take on the world and look back on the days when we felt like we had control over our future and not recognise ourselves! But it all begins with that one tiny step.