Most of us in western New York at this point in the season are feeling some cabin fever, and just wanting the stress of winter to be over. All the shoveling, travel delays and closings has taken its toll. I know that when you’re stressed and tired, the last thing you feel like doing is getting up and exercising. However, physical activity is a huge stress reliever! Even if you aren’t an athlete or don’t spend hours in a gym, you can still experience the benefits. Even simply taking a walk has been shown to lower cortisol levels (cortisol is a stress hormone). More cardio-based exercise releases endorphins like dopamine and serotonin that make you feel good, even energized. It can also serve as a valuable or necessary distraction from your daily worries and stressors.
You’ll get the most benefit from regularly exercising for 30 minutes or more, at least a couple days a week. If that feels daunting, it’s perfectly okay to build up your fitness level gradually over time. Even very small activities can make a difference over the course of a day. The first step is to just get yourself up and moving. Here are some simple ways to incorporate exercise for stress relief into your daily schedule:
• Put on some music and dance around
• Take your dog for a run or walk
• Walk or bicycle to do neighborhood errands
• Take the stairs at home or work whenever possible rather than an elevator
• Park in the farthest spot in the lot and walk the rest of the way
• Pair up with an exercise buddy and encourage each other as you work out
• Play ping-pong or an activity-based video game with your kids
The stress-relieving benefits of mindful rhythmic exercise
While just about any form of physical activity can be helpful to reduce tension and stress, rhythmic activities are especially effective. Good choices include walking, running, swimming, dancing, cycling, tai chi, and aerobic activities. It’s important that whatever you choose, it’s something you enjoy – you will be so much more likely to stick with something you enjoy.
While you’re exercising, make a conscious effort to pay attention to your body and the physical and emotional sensations you experience as you’re moving through your routine. Try as much as you can to coordinate your breathing with your movements. For example, simply notice how the air or sunlight feels on your skin. Adding this mindfulness element will help you get out of your head and into your body, often breaking the cycle of negative thoughts that often accompanies overwhelming stress.
If you feel you could benefit from additional strategies to manage stress and lower your anxiety, we can help! Give us a call at (716) 926-6009 or click here to schedule an appointment.