If you're feeling high strung, anxious and edgy, learn how to relax with the best workouts to fight stress.
Stress isn’t all bad. In small doses, stress can even be beneficial, inspiring you to perform better than before. Daily life is filled with stressors, though, from traffic jams during your morning commute to getting behind on bills. Once you add in all the things you want to do on top of what you have to do (read that stack of books, get to the gym more, stop eating out so much), you can feel like you’re drowning.
Burnout is also something to watch out for. High-stress levels and poor work-life balance can lead to burnout, which leaves you depleted and unable to perform at your best. It can even cause problems with your co-workers or your health. It’s possible that as much as 40 percent of office workers in the U.S. and Canada experience burnout. How do you know if you’re part of that percentage? Here are common signs:
- Daily anxiety and stress
- Anger or verbal aggressiveness
- Fatigue or insomnia
- Loss of appetite
- Poor concentration or easily getting distracted
- Illness, pain, or other physical symptoms like dizziness, headaches, or stomach aches
When stress becomes overwhelming, physical and emotional problems may follow. If you’re experiencing burnout, you could even be putting your job at risk. It turns out that finding the time for that workout is important – exercise can help you beat stress, improve your mood, and increase productivity.
Why Stress Management Is So Important
When you’re stressed, your productivity takes a hit. At home, this can mean not having the time to cook healthy meals or clean every week, which may only promote more stress. At work, stress can mean low performance and even the loss of important data if you’re not able to focus. High-stress levels can lead to anger and hostility, as well, which can negatively impact everything from your social life to your job.
Getting a handle on your stress can keep it from having painful results, like alienating a friend or missing out on a promotion. Also remember that it’s okay to ask for help, whether that’s from your personal trainer or your boss. At work, leadership is responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace, devoid of negative behavior, so if you need help managing your workload in order to relieve your stress, let them know.
Why it Works: Being in nature – or any green space, really – has a way of naturally relieving stress. The beauty of hiking is that you can find a trail to suit the workout you want, whether that’s an easy stroll or a challenging climb. You can also tweak your hiking technique to get a better workout; for example, speeding up your pace as you climb and slowing down as you descend (the opposite of what people naturally do) will improve strength. Here's a great preparatory workout for your next hiking trip.
Why it Works: When stress turns into frustration or anger, venting can be a great way to alleviate the symptoms and use up the adrenaline coursing through your body. Since you can’t walk into a bar and pick a fight with someone, kickboxing lets you physically vent in a safe, controlled environment. When coupled with active visualization – for example, you think about the co-worker who’s giving you a hard time – combative sports can make you feel more satisfied afterward.
Why it Works: Pilates improves mental awareness and posture while strengthening muscles, and it can also decrease stress and anxiety. The breathing techniques that are used in Pilates rid the muscles of tension and encourage oxygen flow to the brain, which promotes that calm feeling. While a Pilates session is made up of slow movements, it can be pretty challenging because it’s designed to improve strength and balance.
Workout: Tai Chi
Why it Works: Tai chi is a traditional Chinese martial arts practice. While breathing deeply you’ll use fluid movements to move through a series of positions. Tai chi has benefits that are similar to meditation, including reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression. By focusing on breathing and how the body is moving, the brain becomes non-reactive to negative impulses and thoughts.
Why it Works: Yoga requires the mind and body to work in harmony. During a session, you’ll move your body through different poses while controlling your breathing. While some types of yoga are more intense than others, many of them focus on relaxation and meditation. Yoga can lower stress, blood pressure, and heart rate, and practically anyone can do it regardless of age or fitness level.
How to Create the Right Workout Plan for You
When you have a busy lifestyle, it can feel impossible to squeeze a workout in. If health, fitness, or even stress relief is a priority, you’ll have to find some way to make it happen without adding to your anxiety. Pick and choose the tips that will work best for your schedule, goals, and responsibilities:
- In order to reap health benefits, you need to find two and a half hours a week of moderate intensity exercise. If you can’t commit that much time, aim for 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise. Choose the one that’s most realistic for you. You can complete 75 minutes in just two sessions under 40 minutes each!
- Don’t force yourself to do a workout you hate just so you can check it off your daily list. The best workout is the one you’ll actually do. If you can’t stand running or it hurts your knees, try swimming. If you prefer solo workouts, invest in home gym equipment or see if you like hiking. If you need to stay completely engaged in order to complete a workout, go to a Pilates or Zumba class. Try different activities until you find one you want to do.
- Exhausted by the end of the day? Even if your evenings are devoted to your favorite TV shows, you can fit in mini workouts during commercial breaks. Gather your home workout gear and complete as many reps of one exercise as you can during the break. By the end of a half-hour show, you will have fit in a 9-minute workout.
- Add a meditative workout, like Pilates or yoga, to your nighttime routine. You may not want to hit the gym an hour before bed because you think it’ll make you wired, but the workouts that are intended to soothe the mind are perfect at the end of the day.
Having an overarching “why” will help you stay on track of your fitness and stress-busting goals. Knowing the reasons behind your workouts will push you to complete them. It’s difficult to motivate yourself to get out of bed to go on a run, but by reframing it as a way to ease stress and feel happier all day long, that run just got much more appealing.