How does exercise help relieve stress and reduce the effects of anger
When you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, you need to manage a number of new stressors on an ongoing basis. Dealing with more frequent doctor visits, getting used to new medical treatments, and adjusting to lifestyle changes are just some of the factors that may cause you to experience stress and anxiety.
Fortunately, you can take some simple steps to help relieve stress. Many of those steps can help improve your overall health as well, including the health of your heart. Exercise is one of the best strategies for combating stress and managing heart disease.
Physical activity can help lower your overall stress levels and improve your quality of life, both mentally and physically. Exercising regularly can have a positive effect on your mood by relieving the tension, anxiety, anger, and mild depression that often go hand-in-hand with stress. It can improve the quality of your sleep, which can be negatively impacted by stress, depression, and anxiety. It can also help boost your confidence levels.
How Does Exercise Help With Stress?
Physical activity improves your body’s ability to use oxygen and also improves blood flow. Both of these changes have a direct effect on your brain. Exercise also increases your brain’s production of endorphins. Endorphins are the “feel-good” neurotransmitters that are responsible for the coveted “runner’s high.” This is the sense of well-being and euphoria that many people experience after exercise.
Physical activity can also help take your mind off your worries. The repetitive motions involved in exercise promote a focus on your body, rather than your mind. By concentrating on the rhythm of your movements, you experience many of the same benefits of meditation while working out. Focusing on a single physical task can produce a sense of energy and optimism. This focus can help provide calmness and clarity.
Some people notice an improvement in their mood immediately after a workout. Those feelings don’t end there, but generally become cumulative over time. Chances are, you will notice increased feelings of well-being as you stay committed to a consistent exercise routine.
In addition to having a direct effect on your stress levels, regular exercise also promotes optimum health in other ways. Improvements to your overall health may help indirectly moderate your stress levels. By improving your physical wellness and heart health, you’ll have less to feel stressed about.
Among some of its additional benefits, exercise can help:
- strengthen your muscles and bones
- strengthen your immunity, which can decrease your
risk of illness and infection
- lower your blood pressure, sometimes as much as
some antihypertensive medications
- boost levels of good cholesterol in your blood
- improve your blood circulation
- improve your ability to control weight
- help you sleep better at night
- boost your energy
- improve your self-image
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week. They suggest breaking it down by tackling 30-minute workout sessions at least five days a week. If you’re short on time, and can’t fit in a full 30-minute session, three 10-minute workouts have been shown to work almost as well as 30 minutes at once.
The AHA also encourages you to incorporate at least two sessions of muscle-strengthening activities into your weekly routine. You should give all your major muscle groups a good workout, including your arms, shoulders, chest, back, abdomen, legs, abdominals and other core muscles.
Be sure to build up your physical activity level gradually if you’re new to an exercise program. For example, your doctor might suggest you start with 20 minutes of aerobic exercise, three days a week, and increase gradually from there.
What Types of Exercise Help With Stress?
There are many ways to meet your weekly exercise targets. What type of physical activity should you choose?
You don’t need to be a marathon runner or elite athlete to experience stress relief from exercise. Almost any kind of exercise can be helpful.
For example, consider trying moderate aerobic exercises such as:
- brisk walking or jogging
- swimming or doing water aerobics
- playing tennis or racquetball
When it comes to muscle-strengthening exercises, consider trying weight lifting or activities with resistance bands.
Even something as simple as gardening or choosing to take the stairs rather than the elevator can give you an emotional lift.
Any type of exercise can increase your fitness and decrease your stress. However, it’s important to choose an activity that you enjoy rather than dread. If you don’t like the water, don’t choose swimming as your activity. If the thought of running makes you anxious, training for a 5K race won’t help relieve your stress. Try a variety of activities until you find some you enjoy. When you’re having fun, you’ll be more likely to stick with your workout routine.
Working out with someone else can also add to the stress-busting benefits of workout. Sharing it with family members of friends can make exercise feel more like fun and less like work.
Check with Your Doctor
If you’re out of shape or new to exercising, ask your doctor for guidance on what forms of exercise are right for you. They can help you develop a safe and effective workout routine while taking your specific condition and fitness level into account. Discuss appropriate intensity levels with your doctor.
You can enjoy the stress-relieving benefits of exercise even if you’re out of shape or not athletic. Regular exercise can help you feel less stressed, anxious, and depressed, and more relaxed, optimistic, and happy. It can also improve your overall health, including the health of your heart.
Stress is an inevitable part of life. Seven out of ten adults in the United States say they experience stress or anxiety daily, and most say it interferes at least moderately with their lives, according to the most recent ADAA survey on stress and anxiety disorders. When the American Psychological Association surveyed people in 2008, more people reported physical and emotional symptoms due to stress than they did in 2007, and nearly half reported that their stress has increased in the past year.
It’s impossible to eliminate, but you can learn to manage stress, and most people usually do. According to a recent ADAA online poll, some 14 percent of people make use of regular exercise to cope with stress. Others reported talking to friends or family (18 percent); sleeping (17 percent); watching movies or TV (14 percent), as well as eating (14 percent) and listening to music (13 percent).
While all of these are well-known coping techniques, exercise may be the one most recommended by health care professionals. And among ADAA poll takers who exercise, a healthy percentage is already on the right track: Walking (29 percent), running (20 percent), and yoga (11 percent) are their preferred strategies.
Exercising Body and Mind
The physical benefits of exercise—improving physical condition and fighting disease—have long been established, and physicians always encourage staying physically active. Exercise is also considered vital for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.
When stress affects the brain, with its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact as well. So it stands to reason that if your body feels better, so does your mind. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy, even breathing deeply can cause your body to produce endorphins. And conventional wisdom holds that a workout of low to moderate intensity makes you feel energized and healthy.
Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
Relaxation techniques: Try these steps to reduce stress
Relaxation techniques can reduce stress symptoms and help you enjoy a better quality of life, especially if you have an illness. Explore relaxation techniques you can do by yourself.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
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Relaxation techniques are a great way to help with stress management. Relaxation isn’t only about peace of mind or enjoying a hobby. It’s a process that decreases the stress effects on your mind and body. Relaxation techniques can help you cope with everyday stress. And these techniques can help with long-term stress or stress related to various health problems, such as heart disease and pain.
Whether your stress is spiraling out of control or you’ve already got it tamed, you can benefit from learning relaxation techniques. Learning basic relaxation techniques is easy. Relaxation techniques are often free or low cost, pose little risk, and can be done nearly anywhere.
Explore simple relaxation techniques and get started on de-stressing your life and improving your health and overall well-being.
The benefits of relaxation techniques
When faced with many responsibilities and tasks or the demands of an illness, relaxation techniques may not be a priority in your life. But that means you might miss out on the health benefits of relaxation.
Practicing relaxation techniques can have many benefits, such as:
- Slowing heart rate
- Lowering blood pressure
- Slowing breathing rate
- Improving digestion
- Controlling blood sugar levels
- Reducing activity of stress hormones
- Increasing blood flow to major muscles
- Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
- Improving focus and mood
- Improving sleep quality
- Lowering fatigue
- Reducing anger and frustration
- Boosting confidence to handle problems
To get the most benefit, use relaxation techniques along with other positive coping methods, such as:
- Thinking positively
- Finding humor
- Managing time and priorities
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting enough sleep
- Spending time outside
- Reaching out to supportive family and friends
Types of relaxation techniques
Health care providers such as complementary and integrative health specialists and mental health providers can teach many relaxation techniques. But you can also learn some relaxation techniques on your own.
In general, relaxation techniques involve refocusing your attention on something calming and increasing awareness of your body. It doesn’t matter which relaxation technique you choose. What matters is that you try to practice relaxation regularly to reap its benefits.
Types of relaxation techniques include:
Autogenic relaxation. Autogenic means something that comes from within you. In this relaxation technique, you use both visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress.
You repeat words or suggestions in your mind that may help you relax and reduce muscle tension. For example, you may imagine a peaceful setting. Then you can focus on relaxing your breathing, slowing your heart rate, or feeling different physical sensations, such as relaxing each arm or leg one by one.
Progressive muscle relaxation. In this relaxation technique, you focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group.
This can help you focus on the difference between muscle tension and relaxation. You can become more aware of physical sensations.
In one method of progressive muscle relaxation, you start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively working your way up to your neck and head. This is best done in a quiet area without interruptions. You can also start with your head and neck and work down to your toes. Tense your muscles for about five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat.
Visualization. In this relaxation technique, you may form mental images to take a visual journey to a peaceful, calming place or situation.
To relax using visualization, try to include as many senses as you can, such as smell, sight, sound and touch. If you imagine relaxing at the ocean, for instance, think about the smell of salt water, the sound of crashing waves and the warmth of the sun on your body.
You may want to close your eyes, sit in a quiet spot, loosen any tight clothing, and focus on your breathing. Aim to focus on the present and think positive thoughts.
Other relaxation techniques may include:
- Deep breathing
- Tai chi
- Music and art therapy
Relaxation techniques take practice
As you learn relaxation techniques, you can become more aware of muscle tension and other physical sensations of stress. Once you know what the stress response feels like, you can make a conscious effort to practice a relaxation technique the moment you start to feel stress symptoms. This can prevent stress from spiraling out of control and decreasing your quality of life.
Remember that relaxation techniques are skills. As with any skill, your ability to relax improves with practice. Be patient with yourself. Don’t let your effort to practice relaxation techniques become yet another stressor.
If one relaxation technique doesn’t work for you, try another technique. If none of your efforts at stress reduction seems to work, talk to your health care provider about other options.
Also, keep in mind that some people, especially those with serious mental health issues and a history of abuse, may experience feelings of emotional discomfort during some relaxation techniques. Although this is rare, if you experience emotional discomfort during relaxation techniques, stop what you’re doing. Consider talking to your health care provider or mental health provider.
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- Complementary, alternative, or integrative health: What’s in a name? National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/integrative-health. Accessed Dec. 22, 2021.
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