Feeling stressed? Exercise can help prepare for the ‘mental marathon’ of everyday life
When you ask people how they’re doing, a common response is ‘busy!’ Almost all of us experience a lot of pressure on a daily basis, but many of us don’t have tools to help manage feelings of stress and being overwhelmed.
The Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) Mental Health Week is May 7-13. This year the theme ‘get loud about what mental health really is’ focuses on providing the tools all Canadians need to maintain their mental health – including building self-esteem, resilience, and coping skills. Building on that theme, GoodLife Fitness is drawing attention to how physical activity can help build the mental mindset to manage stress effectively.
Exercise trains the body to handle stress
Among the many physical benefits, studies have found our bodies react to intense physical activity in the same way as they do to stress -- increasing cortisol and adrenaline production and elevating the heart rate. By activating this physical stress response through regular vigorous exercise, you can train your body to produce less cortisol and reduce your heart rate, meaning you’ll feel less stressed out.
Working out encourages mental resilience
In addition to the physical effects, Kim Lavender, vice president of team training and specialty group training with GoodLife Fitness says working out helps you establish the right mindset for mental wellness. When we make a point of exercising we’re setting goals and pushing ourselves to achieve more. This focus helps us feel more balanced and in control when faced with life’s challenges.
In team training, Lavender coaches clients to believe in themselves and visualize success, a frame of mind that can also be helpful in approaching life outside the gym.
- Think positively: Focus your energy on positive thoughts. Work to banish self-criticism and focus on your best qualities.
- Visualize success: Many successful athletes picture their game or race beforehand to imagine themselves performing at their best. Try doing the same with your daily responsibilities – whether it’s a meeting, a networking function, a stressful interaction.
- Practice self-compassion: Striving for perfection can be stressful. Accept that there may be days that don’t go as planned and you don’t accomplish what you hope to. Remember that tomorrow is a new day to keep moving towards your goals.
- Learn from your mistakes: Instead of dwelling on your mistakes, learn from them and move ahead. Follow this mantra: No failure, only feedback.
- Rethink stress: It’s possible to channel the energy from stress in a positive direction. Studies have shown that people who believed the symptoms of stress, like increased heart rate and body temperature were positive and to help your body perform better, had little to no long-term health effects of stress.
- Find time to recharge: Take time to rest on a regular basis, and make sure you get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Your mind and body both need that time to heal and rebuild.
GoodLife Fitness coaches and personal trainers are available to talk more about fitness coaching principles and building a positive mindset. They can also suggest and demonstrate stress-busting workout ideas. We can also find a member who uses regular workouts to help manage their stressful lifestyle.