One of the most beneficial results of physical activity is its role in managing stress.
Here are five guidelines to help create that feeling and use exercise to safely and positively manage your stress:
1. When exercising, focus on the now. Avoid ruminating on the negative thing or event that is stressing you out. Focus instead on your breath and your physical movements. Redirect your attention away from your head and into your body.
2. Choose your movement wisely. Stress affects each person differently. Try moving your body in the opposite way that you are feeling. If you are feeling down and depressed, try something faster and with higher energy.
3. Allow yourself to feel your feelings during and after your workout. Exercise is not a substitution for your stress, it is a way to manage it. When you are fully present in your body, emotions may come up. Give yourself permission to completely feel and own these feelings during and after your exercise. This is different than ruminating on negative experiences.
4. Take a moment of stillness at the end of your workout to just be. Before you go back to your other activities, give yourself short period of time to simply exist without needing to do or feel anything.
5. Be mindful of your inner dialogue while you’re exercising. If you’re telling yourself exercise will make you feel better because you’re burning calories or because you’re changing yourself to look “better,” stop! This could be a red flag. Using calories burned or your weight as a way to feel better about yourself is a very slippery slope and in the long run, it will not effectively help you manage your stress or add to your wellbeing.