Consult your doctor before starting an exercise routine.
Get your heart rate up.
First off, let me say that I’m not a psychotherapist nor do I have a license to diagnose or treat mood disorders. But I do know the spinning tension of anxiety; it was the undercurrent of my addiction and the reason I reached for a drug in the first place. Getting sober doesn’t mean it went away. In fact, removing the emotional buffer of a drink or drug usually causes the anxiety and to return tenfold. Understanding the mechanics of our nervous system can help us intervene during a wave of anxiety.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls body functions like breathing, circulation, and digestive processes. It happens automatically and without conscious effort. Within this system are two functions- sympathetic (the gas pedal) and parasympathetic (the brake pedal). When you feel anxious, scared, or threatened the gas pedal is revved up. During this heightened state you experience increased heart rate, shallow breathing, and difficulty thinking straight. Long term patterns of this stress response turn into anxiety. When you don’t have an outlet to express and decompress anxiety it get stored in the body. Over time it turns into chronic pain.
When dealing with anxiety, forcing your nervous system to calm down isn’t always the answer. Sometimes you need to meet the energy where it’s at. Getting your heart rate up with exercise is an excellent way to start melting away the issues you’ve stored in your tissues. Here are some suggestions:
- Take a hike in nature. Make sure to gain some elevation.
- Hot yoga class isn’t for everyone, but try it. You might like it! If not, you never have to go back 😉
- Jog/run/speed walk in your neighborhood.
- Bike around town or in the hills.
- Climb some stairs.
After a few weeks of consistent exercise take 5-10 minutes in the morning to sit quietly in meditation. Here are some techniques to guide you. The addition of a meditation practice will balance the rigor of exercise.
And remember- mental health professionals are always an option if you need extra support.