Beat Anxiety

The Easy and Natural Way 

Man covering his face with his hands with scribbles drawn outward from his head.

Would you like to beat anxiety the easy way, without taking drugs or more drugs? I'll line out an effective approach, incorporating many of the tools I use in my psychotherapy practice -- tools you can use to overcome anxiety, in this brief article. 

Millions of people are plagued with chronic anxiety conditions. And, many others will experience anxiety problems at some point in their lives, depending upon their reaction to anxiety-provoking events. Both children and adults suffer from anxiety, which can be caused by abrupt and difficult changes in life circumstances or other upsetting problems.

Some seek counseling for their condition while others try to handle it on their own. In either case, a simple yet powerful technique for reducing anxiety can be quite helpful for most people. It's not exotic or new, and it's not a drug, but it works.

The technique is called exercise.

How to Beat Anxiety: Exercise Your Anxiety Away

Okay, we know that exercise is a tremendous boon to our overall physical and emotional well being. In fact, the lack of proper exercise could cause or contribute to your anxiety.

This is often the case with the children I counsel. As a result of having to stay inside, or not having adequate outlets for their energy, they develop emotional problems or current problems become exacerbated. Interestingly enough, the same can be said for pets. For example, when a pooch has to stay cooped up in a tiny apartment without exercise it can get quite anxious, depressed or destructive.

The good news about exercise is that it benefits the whole person (or pet), and can have a favorable affect on emotional functioning.

Children love to have fun playing out-of-doors, and doing so helps them to beat anxiety. 

Do You Want to Beat Anxiety? What the Research Says

  1. Anxiety: researchers have been asking whether exercise can help with anxiety. In one study, jogging was shown to be more effective than placebos in treating anxiety disorders. Aerobic classes have been helpful in treating anxiety, as well, with long lasting results. In some cases, exercise has been as effective as certain forms of talk therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, one of the most successful, widely studied and used therapies. Exercise is one of the world's greatest anti-depressants, too! See below . . . 
  2. Depression: Did you know that exercise has been shown to help with mild or moderate depression? Yes, exercise has been prescribed with great success to many depressed people.When I am assessing a new client for depression one of the first questions I ask is about the level of physical activity or exercise the client gets. Usually a depressed person will not be getting enough exercise because the depression tends to keep people from exercising. And the lack of exercise can make depression worse.
  3. Stress and Other Emotional Disorders: Exercise has been shown to be an anecdote for stress. There are many steps a person can take to alleviate stress, such as debriefing at the end of a difficult day, but few are better than old fashioned exercise.New studies are assessing the role exercise may play in overcoming substance abuse and schizophrenia, and early results appear promising. You can beat anxiety and stress by exercising regularly. Exercise makes you feel GOOD!

Shirtless African American man doing reverse pull-ups.

A Well-Rounded Approach

The best way to deal with an anxiety problem is to develop a multi-faceted plan. For example, talk to someone you trust or get professional counseling; if you have had medication prescribed for you, take it according to the guidelines; make sure you get plenty of exercise on a regular basis -- it can make you feel so good; eat nutritious meals and take care of your general health; and keep the people you love close to you and all your relationships strong.

When life becomes especially hard and frustrating, remember to de-stress by getting some exercise!

What if you don't feel like exercising? Do it anyway! You'll get into the swing of things, once you get started. Try getting a partner to help motivate you. Or choose an exercise program that you find interesting and exciting -- one you are more likely to stay with.

Find a way . . . somehow.

Girl walking in field of flowersEasy walking Works to Lower Anxiety, too Exercise doesn't have to be intense to work

If you have medical issues which keep you from exercising, ask your physician or personal trainer to give you an exercise program tailored to meet your needs. Always get your health care provider's approval before starting a rigorous exercise program. Be sure to start slowly and build up gradually. 

Consider getting help from an Exercise Physiologist. A knowledgeable professional trainer can make a big difference in your success.

Tips for Getting the Most From Your Exercise to Beat Anxiety

You can beat anxiety by increasing your activity level and staying active, especially if you:

1. exercise with other people

2. exercise in a well-lit area

3. exercise in nature or among beautiful surroundings

4. listen to stimulating or uplifting music while you exercise

5. practice deep breathing or do breathing exercises while you engage in physical activity

6. imagine good things or visulize positive imagery while exercising 

7. use constructive, healing "self-talk"

8. do yoga as a form of exercise

9. talk with someone who makes you laugh while exercising

10. repeat mantras or say them inwardly as you exercise 

So, what are you waiting for? Get going! Ride that bike (and I am not talking about a motorcycle!), run that mile or play that golf course -- but walk, don't ride. Or sign up for an exercise class at the gym. Going to the gym two or three times a week can have a most favorable impact on your anxiety.

By the way, thumb twiddling has not been shown to be effective, at least not yet.

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