If you suffer from chronic stress, you may have been told time and again to exercise. However, having a tennis match with your buddy from work may actually stress you out more because of the competitive nature of the sport.
What you really want to do is to engage in sports that give you an outlet to release stress. The wrong exercise will not help you. You may try a long walk, but the thoughts keep circling around your mind like a never-ending carousel. Soon, you’re circling back home to finish the 24 new tasks that you thought up while on the walk.
Exercise is undoubtedly a powerful relaxant. When your muscles are used correctly, they remain loose instead of restricted by spasm. This means better sleep, which means less stress.
So, how do you get this whole exercise thing going?
Your first step is to go for a massage. Yes, you read that right. Get someone to help relax your muscles first – go for two massages, if necessary. Massage releases serotonin, the chemical mood- and sleep-regulator. You’ll feel better in body and in mind, and you’ll find that your attempts at exercise are far more productive.
Yoga is, of course, a no-brainer, but if that’s not for you, these are 4 great exercises for stress-management.
- Walk in a pool
This is an unusual but highly effective way to relax your muscles. If you have access to a community pool, you can get started right away. All you have to do is go down to a level where the water reaches just under your collar bone. Your head should be well above.
Now walk forwards across the pool so that you keep the same depth throughout. The water creates resistance which will help work your muscles out. Also, your body feels much lighter in water, so you do far more exercise than you think. Do that five times and when you’re done, start walking backwards.
Some people use a water noodle. It gives you something to hold on to and serves as a guide to walk a straight(ish) line. Don’t attempt too much at one go; it may feel easy, but it can be tough on your muscles when you get out of the water. A bonus of this exercise is the relaxing sound of water.
Named after its founder, Joseph Pilates, this is a set of exercises that stretch your muscles in small, deep movements. You can ether do mat Pilates (which is just what it sounds like) or use machines called reformers. Pilates is similar to yoga in that it is a mind-body workout.
You’ll get the maximum benefit if you follow the breathing rhythms for each type of exercise. It works on building your core muscles and aligning your pelvis and spine. It also strengthens your back muscles. All this leads to a great posture.
A lot of the tiredness we experience today comes from our inability to hold ourselves up properly by using the right muscles. A bad posture saps our energy largely because we don’t rely on the correct muscles to help us.
That’s why even sedentary jobs take so much out of us. Pilates also tones your muscles beautifully, giving you a great-looking body. Now imagine what that does for your stress levels!
- Horseback riding
Yes, we have rather an unusual list here. Most people shy away from horseback riding as an exercise because of its well-publicized dangers. While those risks are real, there is much you can do to mitigate them. The benefit of riding could be just what you need because it de-stresses you on many levels.
Firstly, if you like animals, this is perfect. Being around animals can be very therapeutic; exercising with them even more so. Secondly, horseback riding is a full-body workout. Just half an hour on a horse, walking, trotting or cantering works your muscles from top to toe.
Thirdly, you need to have a “tall upper body” on a horse, which is just lingo for having a good posture. This is imperative. Slouch and your riding technique goes out the window along with the benefits. Horseback riding works muscles in groups as well as in isolation.
Finally, you have to be absolutely calm when riding. Your mind and body are one, and you are centered. Your entire focus is on getting the horse to do what you want it to.
Ground yourself that way, and you will have the time of your life. Horses are magnificently intelligent and highly intuitive creatures. If your mind wanders, your horse will sense it in seconds, and before long he’ll be doing exactly as he pleases. It may not feel good and it definitely won’t look good!
Dance like no one is watching, dance to household chores, dance off your frustration – just dance. If you don’t believe how much energy you work off by moving to music, wear a Fitbit or any kind of activity tracker next time you go to a concert.
You can take a class if you want to learn a style of dance but if you just want the workout, start making those playlists now. You’ll enjoy the elation and release listening to your favorite music and the exercise will release serotonin, the chemical that helps you get things done. If your main cause of stress is work, it’s a good idea to add dancing to your exercise regime.
Exercise is essential for everyone, but if your focus for the moment is reducing stress, the suggestions above are solid options for you. Stay away from anything competitive. Your aim is to have a good time while giving your body and mind a break from the rat race.