How to Recognize Anxiety and Deal with It Through Exercise
It’s fair to say that most of us are concerned with our physical health. We (try to) eat well, get checkups and spend a good amount of time at the gym or with personal trainers at home.
But too many of us ignore our mental health. This can impact our daily lives in major ways, and mental health issues are more common than we realize. An estimated 11.6% of Canadians aged 18 years or older reported having a mood and/or anxiety disorder.
These disorders are some of the most common types of mental health issues in Canada. They can affect people of all ages, education and income levels, and cultures. Globally, anxiety affects about one in 13 people (7.3%). Many factors can lead to anxiety, including stress at work or home, the side effects of medication, emotional trauma, phobias, serious illnesses or financial stress. Fortunately, anxiety is treatable, and its effects can be reduced with certain coping exercises.
In this post, we learn about anxiety, its symptoms, types and the exercises that can help calm us.
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How Calming Exercises Can Help You Deal with Anxiety
Anxiety is a common mental health issue that affects approximately three million Canadians. If not addressed, it can lead to severe mental and physical consequences.
Keep reading to find out more about anxiety and exercises that can benefit those affected.
Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
Occasionally being anxious is normal. But if it becomes frequent, intense and hard to control, to the extent that it interferes with daily activities, then it’s become a mental disorder and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Unsure if you have anxiety issues? Look for the following symptoms.
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- Increased or heavy sweating
- Rapid breathing
- Hyperventilation or rapid heart rate
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling in danger or panicked
- Avoiding triggers for your anxiety
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is often unreasonable and uncontrollable. Looking at the diversity of anxiety triggers, the disorder has been divided into several types, the major ones we list below.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD is characterized by excessive or unrealistic anxiety. Those suffering from this disorder constantly worry about everyday activities or events for no obvious reasons. Their worry is out of proportion to its cause and affects them physically, thus causing headaches, stomach aches and/or disrupted sleep.
- Panic Disorder
This is characterized by recurring unexpected panic attacks. It causes sudden, repeated episodes of anxiety, terror or fear that can accelerate in a few minutes. Shortness of breath, chest pain, feelings of danger and rapid or irregular heartbeat are all symptoms. Some people may feel that they’re choking or having a heart attack.
- Social Anxiety Disorder
Also known as social phobia, social anxiety disorder is when the sufferer feels overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday situations. The fear of being judged, embarrassed or ridiculed are common causes for this disorder.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that happens after a person experiences a traumatic event or situation where their life or health was threatened. These can include accidents, an assault, a natural disaster or war. Flashbacks, having trouble relaxing and nightmares are some common symptoms of PTSD.
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Anxiety is triggered as a reaction to stress and can disrupt a healthy and happy life if it goes on too long. That’s why one should know how to deal with anxiety and how to find relief. Here are a few exercises to help you relax.
1. Deep Breathing
Deep breathing exercises are the go-to solution to control stress and anxiety, especially if you feel anxious at work. When your heart rate accelerates, breathing quickens and you feel lightheaded. Getting your breathing under control can help increase brain function and soothe your nervous system. Try the following breathing exercises for best results.
- Belly breathing is a calming technique that engages your diaphragm and helps you inhale deeply. First, find a comfortable, quiet place to sit. Put one hand on your chest; the other on your stomach. Inhale slowly through your nose and sense your hands when you breathe in. The hand on your chest should be still whereas the one on your stomach should move slightly. Exhale through your mouth and repeat this process 10 times, or until you feel relaxed.
- Alternate nostril breathing is a simple exercise that reduces stress and anxiety, improves respiratory health and brings your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems into equilibrium. To practice this breathing exercise, sit comfortably. Use your right thumb to close your right nostril and breathe in slowly through the left. Hold your breath in for a moment. Now, open your right nostril and close your left using your right ring finger. Exhale through your right nostril and wait for a moment before you start inhaling again. Repeat this cycle at least 10 times and sit quietly after you’ve finished.
Any exercise that ups your heart rate, like jogging, is a good choice to diminish anxiety. Jog early in the morning in your local park (or countryside) to calm your system and release tension while connecting with nature. Jogging five times a week for 30 minutes is recommended to improve your mood and overall well-being.
Meditation helps manage psychological stress, like anxiety, pain and depression. If you’re new to meditation, it might feel difficult at first but can have a positive effect on your mental health with regular practice. This technique focuses the mind on an object, thought or activity to improve concentration, awareness and observation while reducing stress. This exercise strengthens your mind as if it were any other muscle. However, meditation requires discipline and guidance from an experienced personal fitness expert to achieve the desired results.
Although anxiety is a natural reaction to stress and can improve your performance, severe anxiety can harm your health and well-being. Several stressful episodes can turn it into a mental disorder. That’s why it’s important to prevent anxiety disorders from beginning in the first place. To that end, these exercises and techniques will help improve your fitness and help you control anxiety. However, if your anxiety continues or worsens, it’s advisable to consult a mental health expert.