Reduce Stress with Exercise and Mindfulness

In today’s world, stress management can be a serious problem. Financial difficulties, major life changes, as well as your day job can sometimes make you feel overwhelmed, irritable and anxious. If not managed well, stress levels can creep up on you and fall out of control.

Exercise is key in not only preventing but also reducing many types of illness, as some of you will have already discovered. Many of my clients feel entirely different after 60 minutes of training; whether they’ve simply got the blood pumping and taken their mind off the day’s concerns or done some boxing and hammered their stress out on the punching mitts.

As we know, physical training can help you fit into that brave outfit, give you a firm and shapely bottom but it can also really transform your confidence and change how we perceive ourselves. Whatever training method you choose; exercise will help reduce your stress and getting those *endorphins pumping.

For those of you who know the word but not quite the full meaning: *‘Endorphins are compounds that activate the body’s opiate receptors, causing an analgesic effect.’

Many people don’t realise the effects of stress on the physical body. The stress hormone cortisol is released and if that energy doesn’t go somewhere e.g. running for your life or a dynamic exercise session, it is often stored around the middle as fat. Stress generally leads to the desire for comfort food and drinks like sugary, fatty foods and alcohol so this also contributes to a larger waistline. Be cautious of letting things get into a negative cycle, as the long-term impact could be more serious than you think.

It can be hard to train when you’re stressed and not ‘in the mood’ but I assure you, it will only HELP YOU FEEL BETTER. Internally, your body will be thanking you as well as your mind feeling soothed. It may not shift a problem altogether but at least it will help you breath through the tension to a better state of mind, giving you a different, more positive perspective.

If you’re short on time then simple breathing exercises can also help a great deal with relaxation. The effects can be profound; depending on how much time you spend on it (and sometimes, how much you believe that it helps). I was asked at a Post-Natal Depression Group that I recently talked at; how to prevent/soothe a panic attack or similar? My advice is to focus solely on taking deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Also try an audible sigh, letting out all the air inside you while releasing tension and calming the mind. Think about your ribs expanding sideways with long, deep breaths and then contracting as your diaphragm deflates.

About five years ago, I read a book called ‘The Power Of Now’ by Ekhart Tolle, which was pretty life changing for me. It really helped me to worry less and I therefore became happier as a result. I literally remember the feeling of lightness I had while reading and learning from Tolle’s teachings. Previous to reading the book, I concerned myself, more than necessary, with the past and future. I was too busy ‘fantasising’ about the past and future to think about and truly enjoy the present moment. … Do you do the same? If so, or even if you just need further enlightenment, why not give it a try.

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