Managing Stress With Fitness

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I am probably the most stressed out person I know. I don’t know if there is a valid reason for all my stress and anxiety, but it’s there and it’s real and I deal with it quite effectively.

Perhaps the number one way I deal with it is through a consistent exercise plan. Even today for example, I was getting extremely antsy writing an article. I got to a pretty good spot for a break and decided I was going to hit the gym.

Today is technically a rest day, but I needed to relieve some stress. I looked at my workout plan, decided what would be the freshest muscle group for the day, and decided to go ahead and work that.

Some of you may wonder the negative side effects of not relieving stress, I have experienced a few and can share them with you now.


Side Effects Of Stress:

There are a few core side effects that I’ve experienced when I start to get stressed out.

  1. Stress creates a sense of worry. I know there’s really nothing I have to get done, besides the loads of work that I’ve been procrastinating on (that’s neither here nor there though).

For some reason though, the stress monster finds me when I least expect it. I start to worry about absolutely nothing. Deadlines are not approaching rapidly, and I have plenty of time and stability to take care of everything required of me that day/week/year.

  1. Increased heart rate. This is actually more associated with full on anxiety attacks. I’m usually a pretty laid back guy. Back when I swam every day my resting heart rate was in the high 40s. Some doctors were convinced I shouldn’t be alive when I was that mellow, but it was because I was in tip top physical condition.

Stress increases your heart rate. I feel like the more times your heart beats, the faster you are aging (this isn’t a fact, but a motor can only handle so many revolutions, right?

  1. Stress makes you less social. I realize when I’m stressed out or anxious about something I tend to become a recluse. I start staying home more, and this stresses me out too. I think that being social will waste my time, but really it can be used as an outlet for stress instead.

How Fitness Has Helped Me Deal With Stress:

When work or school creeps up on you and you end up with a million things to do that week, it’s always good to blow of some steam and stick to your workout routine. If you go lift or get out and use the Stoplight Method I created for running you will likely feel much better afterwards. A lot of people sacrifice the gym when they get busy, but this actually might be doing more harm than good.

  • Probably the biggest benefit to working out is that it causes a natural release of endorphins. Scientifically speaking, WebMD defines endorphins as: chemicals that “interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.”

This can be great for your mood as your overall happiness increases from working out. Generally after I leave the gym I am completely relaxed and in a great mood.

  • The next biggest benefit is the ability to take out your aggression. Got a lot going on that’s making you angry? The gym helps you take it out on the weights or sweat it out vs acting aggressive towards the next person you see.

I know anytime that I’m annoyed at someone, or angry about a situation, lifting something heavy allows me to channel that anger into the workout. When I get done I realize usually that I have worked off a lot of that anger. Anyone who has ever been involved in sports probably has felt similar about their sports workouts.

  • The last stress relieving part of working out is the fact that it allows you to clear your mind. If you get good at focusing in the gym you can really clear your thoughts.

If you listen to some good music combined with the already happening endorphin release you’ll feel extra happy. This is why I use noise-cancelling headphones (even though I probably look like a douche). When I put on some headphones and block out my surroundings, it helps me channel all my energy into lifting.

This doesn’t just benefit my mood and my mind but it helps me to work harder when I’m in the gym as well. Having a mind completely focused on lifting, running, or whatever it is you’re doing can directly cause a fantastic performance spike.


The Last Tip To Managing Stress:

So this doesn’t have to do with the gym directly…this is about your diet. I have to say, when I stick with my diet and eat right I feel better. Sometimes you might be angry or stressed out just because your diet is lacking that day.

When you are feeling stress really start to pay attention to what you’ve eaten. Are you seeing a direct correlation between what you eat and how your mind is reacting? I personally get hungry and then I get mad. However, solving the problem with crappy food doesn’t help either.

I notice that if I eat heavy foods I generally get lethargic. Overloading on beef and carbs when I’m “hangry” can definitely perpetuate the situation. I then slow down, my brain slows down, and I end up putting off my responsibilities more than I already was. This directly leads to an increase in stress and the cycle begins again. My suggestion for quick fixes is getting yourself a NutriBullet. Honestly it’s one of the better purchases I’ve made over the last year.

The moral of the story here, is that if you are feeling stressed out, stick to your workout plan, add an extra workout in there, and grab something good to eat. Chances are you are hungry, you need to sweat a bit, and you need to push around some weights to get rid of all that built up frustration.

This will be even more true if you workout regularly. When you throw off your routine it can indirectly lead to stress through the guilt you feel about skipping your workout and your body’s reaction to being over energized.

Do you also get stressed out if you don’t work out? Let’s talk about it in the comments! If you have any suggestions for anyone reading I would love to hear them. Maybe you have an idea that I haven’t yet thought of. Anything helps.

 

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6 Comments

  • Awesome post man! I have been feeling a lot of stress lately because of work. I used to love exercise but work has me exhausted by the end of the day and my only day off, well I want it off. I am going to have to get back on it though. Maybe I will just workout in the morning (instead of being on my phone for two-three hours) and hope that that doesn’t make me too tired to work another 10-12 hours. I do need some help of food… I will take your advice and start mapping out stress and moods with foods eaten. Maybe it will be enough and I won’t have to workout quite yet (at least not until work lets up a bit)
    Thanks again for the awesome post!

    • Dalton

      Hey Jesus,

      I would highly encourage you to put the phone down in the mornings if you can! Science has shown that it can be the best time to workout actually. It gets your brain firing on all cylinders before you go into work.

      I definitely understand that end of the day feeling though, I hope it lets up for you and you find the time you need to jump back in the gym! All it takes is a bit of consistency and you’ll be right back in the mix.

      -Dalton

  • Yancey

    Very informative. Stress can take a toll on a person’s body and what a better way to relieve it than to eat right and exercise. I love to work out and I try to at least 30 minutes a day. I workout at home and blast the music to block out the background. It really helps.

    • Dalton

      Yancey,

      Blasting the music is always a good time. I probably won’t have any eardrums left in my later years, but heck I may as well enjoy them while I can! And if it relieves some stress for the time being it might be worth it 🙂

      -Dalton

  • Great post about managing stress! It is true that working out helps us release all these stressful and also makes us feel happy! I am just like you! When I feel anxious I want something to eat! And that something is not healthy at all. It is important to eat something healthy because we have to understand that we are not hungry but we only want to fill our need for relaxing our anxiety!
    Best wishes,
    Rebecca!

    • Dalton

      Hi Rebecca!

      Thanks for reading! I’m glad you agree here. It’s super important to not eat yourself into oblivion when you are stressed out. Much easier to go for a run. I definitely have to pay attention to what I eat because snacking can easily become a bad habit for those who are stressed out.

      -Dalton

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