How Working Out Calmed My Anxiety


By Jennifer Landis

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

As a working mom, I have my fair share of stress. Then, 2020 arrived, and my levels went through the roof. Suddenly, I had an increased workload coupled with fears of continued employment, all while trying to learn how to homeschool my eldest.

One of the best tools in my arsenal that helps me stay sane is a regular exercise program. I’m prone to anxiety disorders, and I don’t know how I would have managed this challenging year without fitness. Here’s how working out calmed my anxiety and how it can help you, too.

The Psychology of Anxiety

What makes human beings anxious? The mechanism illustrates how intricately connected the human mind and body are.

When you experience stress, a host of physiological processes kick into play. These all evolved to help you survive.

Stress is your body’s reaction to encountering a threat that it doesn’t feel it has the resources to deal with — so it tries to shore them up. You amp up your respiration and heart rates while your digestive processes slow down to get you ready for fight or flight.

Your brain begins secreting chemicals like endorphins, which decrease your perception of pain — it’s how people can keep fighting despite debilitating injury. When you must flee an angry bear, all of these biological mechanisms keep you alive. However, they become problematic when applied to modern problems.

I wish I could outrun COVID-19, y’all, but try as I might, I can’t. Individuals are powerless against forces like pandemics, systemic racism, growing income inequality and the rising rates of everything except average wages.

Heck, most of us can’t do much about a micromanaging boss at the moment. Today’s economy proves challenging for everyone, and it’s probably not the best time to set sail on rocky unemployment seas without an anchor. Over half of all workers who find themselves hunting today lost their job when their employer closed up shop. The prospect of getting pushed to the limit daily is unpleasant, sure, but it pales behind the specter of bread lines.

What can you do when the pent-up frustration leaves you feeling like a pad of butter tossed into a hot pan — sizzling and spitting greasy “I’ve had it” splatter everywhere? Bottling up that energy sometimes leads to an eventual, and often dramatic, meltdown. You don’t want to reach your boiling point and tell your boss to shove your job where the sun doesn’t shine or serve your well-meaning, if sometimes bumbling, spouse divorce papers.

If you don’t erupt or healthfully process your emotions, eventually, internalized stress can lead to an anxiety disorder. Please remain aware of the following signs and seek help when necessary.

  • You feel restless and tense: If someone asks you what’s wrong, you might not be able to pinpoint specifics. You might respond with, “2020.” However, feeling restless all the time without being able to relax is a sign of anxiety.
  • You feel an impending sense of doom: This sign can be tricky to interpret. If rumors of layoff flew around your office for months and half your team disappears, you have every reason to feel worried. However, if the last official word was, “everything’s fine,” and it seems like business as usual, your perception might be the problem.
  • Trouble thinking or concentrating: When you feel worried, you can’t think of anything but the threat at hand. When you have anxiety, it’s like trying to balance a budget report while running from a snarling wolf pack.
  • Sleep disturbances: Anxiety can keep you tossing and turning at night. Ironically, the lack of Zzz’s further deteriorates your ability to focus and can prevent you from seeing the solution to your problems.
  • Gastrointestinal problems: The idea of a nervous stomach isn’t a scientific myth. If you have anxiety, you can suffer nausea and vomiting, even diarrhea or constipation.

When anxiety disorders remain untreated, other unpleasant symptoms often arise that further compound the problem. Ongoing stress disrupts your blood sugar levels, leading you to eat more. You often crave foods high in sugar and carbs.

Excess weight can add to your stress levels, creating a vicious cycle. Plus, carrying too many pounds puts a strain on your heart, which already takes a pounding from amped-up cortisol levels. You suffer an increased risk of cardiovascular disease — and treatment for ticker-related trouble can lead to bankruptcy.  You can’t catch a break.

If you notice signs of anxiety in yourself, please seek treatment. Unfortunately, though, that might not be possible if you recently lost health care coverage or didn’t have it in the first place. How can you treat the disorder and holistically reduce stress for free?

You can release your angst through exercise. A few rounds on the heavy bag provide safe and effective relief.

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