What happens to you when you are stressed out? Me? Well, I first get crabby and snappy and I'm told I love to share that with everyone around me. If I am super-stressed I start to get heartburn, I am anxious, I cannot stop from thinking about whatever it is that causing the stress, and then it affects my sleeping habits which in turn makes me more crabby!
GAAHH! So, why would I be talking about this on a fitness blog? Well, to tell you the truth in my life pre-fitness, I probably would have consoled myself with eating sugary substances to try to relieve the stress, and in my life before kids I would have slept a lot. Now? It is essential for me to get some sort of physical exercise when I'm feeling stressed. I know it seems counter-productive, doesn't it? When you are stressed out, you most likely lack sleep, and generally it feels initially better to attempt relaxation by watching TV, eating, drinking, ect. BUT just think with me for a minute. If you took time away from your stress and you went for a 20 minute walk outside during your work break, or climbed flights of stairs or after work went for a jog, or went to an exercise class instead you would be not only doing your whole body a favor, but you would inadvertently benefit your brain. When you do a physical activity, your brain releases endorphins which give you lots of good feelings. Now, I'm not necessarily talking about the famed "runner's high" which I've heard oodles about (but I have yet to experience it). However, this is what I tend to feel after physical activity:
"Life is good", "Things are going to be okay",
"Wow did I just do that?!", "I AM SuperGirl!"
Okay, I think you get the idea! Endorphins also are kinda like nature's Tylenol -- they lessen the perception of pain, so exercise can also improve many other stress-related ailments like depression, anxiousness and low self-esteem. Plus, if you have a hard time sleeping, try working yourself up to a really hard workout! Remember when you were a kid and you went swimming literally all day long and how good it felt to climb into bed that night? That is kinda how you feel after a whole-body workout (or even when you first start working up to an intensive workout, if you pushed your hardest, your body will crave rest so it can recover!)
It is perfectly fine to begin your fitness journey solely to aid in lessening your stress levels or depression! It does not have to be all about wanting to look like Laura Vandervoort, which as you can see I had fun with trying to put my head on her SuperGirl body above! ;) HA! But it doesn't hurt that you begin to see benefits of your physical exercise if you stick with it! The whole reason I decided to tackle learning to run without puking was at the time our oldest son was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes (insulin dependent) when he was only 6 years old. I became depressed with all the changes that happened in our lives and had all those thoughts of why? and how? I turned toward my treadmill to burn off some of that stress (crying while running at the same time is not necessarily recommended though!) I remember pushing myself so hard and afterwards finding that it made me feel so much better since I had somewhere to blow off my steam. So while today I cannot say that just me, my Ipod and the open road would be my first choice for exercise, I definitely benefited my body in getting used to running, and of course it opened up a whole new world of physical fitness for me!
So next time you are going through a stressful period or you are feeling low, see what happens when you move and shake it a bit! You could be pleasantly surprised and how your body AND your mind feel!
You CAN feel like SuperGirl!
Exercise & Depression Article on WebMD: