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How Fitness Helps Manage Anxiety

by Nellie

Fitness is a HUGE help when it comes to managing anxiety. Also sharing 3 tips to help get you through when things are completely overwhelming.

I’ve had anxiety for a few years now. Not really sure where or when it started but I deal with it on a daily basis. On some days it is barely there, and on some days it’s almost crippling.

My anxiety stems from several things but mainly just life. I worry about my children (a lot), their health, their social adaptation to school. I worry also about my job, if I’m in the right place or do I need more? Let’s just put it this way, if I am emotionally connected to it, I likely have anxiety over it.

As I haven’t visited a doctor to discuss (yet), I’ve been using fitness to help me calm the worry. To be completely honest most days I am so tired (or lazy) that working out seems like the biggest task ever. The excuses begin coming in like rapid fire and all of a sudden I’ve convinced myself to skip a workout. Then I remember that exercise not only calms my anxiety it wears my body out so that I can sleep at night.

A few months ago when my anxiety was at its worst, I’d get up at 2am and worry about significant and insignificant things. The worst part was that I never went back to bed–with an early wake up call of 5am, this would only compound the problem and led to very tired work days.

As an African American woman I am not ashamed to say that I suffer from anxiety. Mental illness is very rarely discussed in our community and we need to start talking about it–like yesterday.

This is all brand new for my husband who has been with me 18 years. I try to give him warning on bad days by telling him my “anxiety is on fleek” so he knows that I will likely be trying to fix all the problems that ever existed in about 30 minutes. On those days there are three things that really help me to relax and regain control of the situation.

Here are three tips to help manage anxiety

  1. Going for a run/walk. Fresh air, for me, is a very natural drug. Being inside, cooped up is enough to make you crazy without even realizing it. Since I can’t leave the building every hour at work I simply walk over to a window and just take a deep breath. It does wonders.
  2. Stretching: stretching before bed almost always means I am going to sleep better. Basic stretches like getting the tension out of your neck with neck rolls or reaching up to the sky as tall as you can have made a BIG difference in the way I sleep.
  3. Write: I have tons of private notes that help me through tough moments. When I start worrying about something I either write a plan to make it better or simple poetry to share how I’m feeling at the moment. It’s super helpful and therapeutic.

Have you or someone you know ever had anxiety? How does fitness help you daily?

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8 comments

Kris walters May 23, 2016 - 5:31 am

Thank you for sharing this. I am sorry to hear that you are going through this. Sometimes I get a little anxious and I have had several 2am wakeup calls of worrying. My son however is the one who is on medication for his anxiety and depression. It is very hard as a mom to see him go through it. I was trying to encourage him to get back to running like he did in high school. He has told me that running helped him before control it better. I hope things get better for you!

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Janine Huldie May 23, 2016 - 6:41 am

Love these tips and have done all of the above myself during anxious times, as well. But still thank you for the gentle reminder here today still!! 🙂

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Stacie May 23, 2016 - 8:35 pm

So glad you shared this. I deal with anxiety too and I really need to work out more. Walking is always so therapeutic for me. It helps to soothe and calm me down when I am stressed.

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Tamara May 23, 2016 - 11:09 pm

I appreciate you sharing this, because I always think of you as someone with zero anxiety. I know that sounds funny, but maybe it’s just zero anxiety that you let stop you.
I’m trying and mostly succeeding in that.
I will tell you that I HAVE been to the doctor about anxiety and you know what he prescribed?
Exercise.
I think it’s working.

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kita May 24, 2016 - 12:14 am

Love these tips. I use to be okay with anxiety but as I am getting older it’s getting worse.

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Ivanna May 24, 2016 - 7:48 am

Great post. I can relate on so many levels. Fitness is how I fight anxiety as well.

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Britt May 24, 2016 - 12:20 pm

Great post Nellie! I had severe postpartum anxiety and realized that I also suffered from acute anxiety after my first year of law school. I am an anxious person in general and still suffer low levels of anxiety in new situations or when I’m facing something big or important. I think it is so important to talk about these things. And yes, exercise is a huge help!

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Leslie May 25, 2016 - 11:29 pm

So sorry to hear that you deal with anxiety on the regular. Oh to be young and carefree again, no? Definitely agree that fitness helps to soothe anxiety. I don’t know that I could have lasted as long as I did at my last job if it weren’t for the gym in the same building. Lunch breaks were my decompress time, as I would pound my frustrations into the treadmill. It was total gym therapy.

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