Stress Management and Physical Exercise, the Secret Towards Healthy Life

As each of us gets through our day-to-day, we often feel moments of stress. Stress is one of the most common words that we use to describe our state of being. According to the Mental Health Foundation, UK, stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed or being unable to cope and when pressures seem too much or unmanageable. In our 21st century modern lifestyle, stress is unavoidable; however, if we continue to experience stress every day without taking steps to de-stress, it can lead to chronic illnesses.

Good and bad stress

According to researchers, not all stresses are bad. In fact, some stresses can be beneficial. For instance, when you’re running a marathon and find yourself close to the finish line, or when you have to go up on stage and deliver a speech, the pressure you feel could be overwhelming and intense, but it helps push you over the finish line. These kinds of stresses do not have any negative effects on our physical or mental health, and we can return to ‘resting’ state very quickly. Stress also triggers a ‘flight or fight’ response in certain situations that can actually help us survive certain situations; like examinations, job interviews and so on.

But long-term stress can have deleterious effects on our health. Financial stress, sudden loss of a loved one, an accident, difficulties in relationships at work or home, relocation and many such factors could lead to unimaginable stress. These stressorscan contribute to the deterioration of our mental health,leading to anxiety and depressionand even impact the normal functioning of our heart, weaken our immune system, and impact our emotional wellbeing.

Watch out for these stress signals

According to Mental Health Foundation, UK , work-related stress accounts for an average of 23.9 days of work lost every year for every person who is affected by stress. So what are some of the signs of stress that we must all keep a look out for? Stress affects our behaviors and emotional wellbeing, soirritability, fear, sudden bouts of anger, sadness, or a feeling of extreme frustration, are some of the feelings we experience when confronted with extreme levels of continuous stress. Our behaviors also undergo subtle changes: becoming indecisive or extremely inflexible and rigid, or withdrawn and not wanting to have any social interactions. Suddenly bursting into tears or feeling tearful along with changes in sleep patterns could also indicate stress.

Besides emotional and behavioral changes, stress also induces physical symptoms such as nausea, headaches, indigestion, sudden palpitations, and even breathlessness. Research has also linked prolonged stress to Irritable Bowel Syndrome as well as cardiovascular disease.

Exercise and de-stress

Regular exercise can have a profound and positive impact on your mental health and counter the negative impact of stress. Besides improving overall physical wellbeing, when you exercise, you release endorphins;the chemicals in the brain that help us feel good and uplift our mood. Regular physical activity improves our blood circulation, helps us feel energetic, improves our sleep and makes us feel better about ourselves. Moreover every bit of physical activity, even if it’s only for 15-20 minutes a day, increases our ability to fight the debilitating effects of stress. Some of the exercises that one can do to relieve stress are:

  • Yoga - this form of gentle exercise helps lower our heart rate and our blood pressure, increases one’s body’s flexibility and makes us mindful of our breathing. It is great for people of any age.
  • Aerobic exercises –any form of high intensity workouts like dancing, spinning, running or kick boxing,increases our heart rate, burns calories, maintains a high metabolic rate and helps build muscle while strengthening our bones and improving our mental health.
  • Pilates – this form of exercise is designed to build strength, flexibility and endurance and is a form of anaerobicexercise, which tones our body and helps to reduce stress.
  • Team sports- what better way to enjoy your physical activity than play team sports such as football, cricket, basketball or even aqua sports. It helps keep you active, fit and improves your relationships, while also helping you de-stress.

Stress today is an undeniable fact of life. But we can counter the harmful effects of stress by being mindful of how it can and does affect us, physically and mentally, and take necessary steps to keep ourselves stress-free and healthy. If you find that you or someone close to you is suffering from anxiety, depression or other stress-related issues, please take an appointment with a doctor. Don’t let stress win over you. Exercise your willpower and negate its effects, because you can.