If you have Anxiety or Panic Symptoms then the benefits to you of incorporating exercise into your daily routine and burning off the excess adrenalin that you are producing cannot be underestimated.
With all the experience I have, even after all these years of being panic free, I still think that the single best thing that you are able to do for yourself while suffering these symptoms is form an exercise programme, build it into your life so that it becomes normal and stick to it, even through recovery and beyond.
Exercise is proven to release feel good hormones (Endorphin's) and is proven to improve your mood as well as having many other health benefits such as reducing your risk of heart disease or stroke and some cancers.
Exercise is like a miracle pill that we severely under use, but is yet one of the most cost effective and fantastic pills we have in our quest to become physically and mentally healthy.
It is just so effective in reducing stress and Panic symptoms, I really cannot stress this enough.
When we suffer panic/anxiety symptoms we naturally produce excess adrenalin. When this adrenalin has no where to go it begins to fester and worsens sensations of panic and creating more negative and frightening thoughts.
By being aware of this process, we come to realise that we do in fact have lots of personal tools that can fight our anxiety from different angles as well as just breaking the fear cycle, for example by exercising more to burn off this excess adrenalin or by making alterations to our diet so we don't increase stimulation on an already over stimulated nervous system.
Exercise is one of these alternative ways of attacking your symptoms and helping you in developing newer healthier habits that will reduce your symptoms and then keep them at bay in the longer term.
In my own situation, when I was at the height of my own symptoms, I found that I became a different person when I exercised. My symptoms seemed much more manageable day to day and I defiantly felt calmer.
Now after years of remission from my own panic symptoms, I still personally exercise 5-6 times per week. My fitness now ensures I am best placed to maintain my recovery. I never take this wellness for granted, and I know that if I ever feel extra stressed then a trip to the gym usually helps me.
I recognise this to be something I need to do to stay well, and I would never take the chance of becoming ill again when I know that there are things I can do to prevent it. All I needed was to develop and maintain my self discipline to do it.
Research shows that physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress and depression. Regular exercisers are at 30% lower risk of developing Depression than people who don't exercise.
By exercising we have so much to look forward to:
- We get out and about move away from being inward and concentrating on our feelings and mood, exercise can bring us back into our outer shell where we notice the world around us again and move our focus away from anxiety or Depression
- We feel the fresh air and notice nature and how beautiful the world is
- It lifts our low mood
- We work off the excess adrenalin which is festering inside
- We get fitter and healthier
- Our self esteem improves
- We meet other people and get back into social circles, emerging from our isolation
These are just a few benefits, there are many many more!
One Important note though, is to do the exercise for yourself as a lifestyle choice to begin to look after your mind and body. It is easy to let self care go when we are feeling stressed. Yes, it will make you feel better, but the point I am making is that sometimes maybe after a session you wont feel better and that is fine, don't use it just to rid yourself of feelings, The feelings you want will come in time.
For myself, initially, I bought a bike and started to cycle. But I now also run, spin and do weights, all work well for me. If I can give you an example of why it felt hard for me when I first started to cycle it was because:
- I was often feeling like I could not breathe while biking as my panic symptoms were already raging. I didn't like the sensation of being out of breath, but I knew I had to go through this and once I did I was ok.
- I was quite limited in my ability to travel - anywhere, and so setting off on my bike along the country lanes I found quite nerve racking at first. Over time this travel really pushed the limitations placed on me by my Agoraphobia, which was a great thing.
At the same time for all the reasons that I found this hard at the height of my own suffering, I knew that it would give me something to focus on and was a 'good' obsession, rather than the other more negative methods that I was using to try to control my feeling of fear and low moods such as taking tablets, drinking alcohol, trawling the Internet, over eating, avoidance and isolation. It would have been so easy for me to use my fears to talk myself out of starting but rather than decide it was not for me, I looked at ways in which it could be done by doing the following:
- Firstly I looked at where I DID feel safe riding so in my mind I 'could' get home quickly if needed. The trick for me was never to completely over face myself,to always move forward but by taking steps that I could manage rather than over facing myself straight away. I did what I felt comfortable with, whilst knowing that in time I would be able to do more so I didn't focus on the fact that I had only gone round the block when I used to be able to go anywhere (this would have been self defecting), what I did was look at where I was NOW and what I could do NOW. Focus on what you can and did do, not what you can't or didn't.
- I started by taking the first step and just cycled round the block, I carried on doing this almost daily until I felt able to do this easily
- Next I began to push my route, I added on a little each more so I had gone that bit further each time
- Now I try and alternate my routes by going a different way each time
- Remember its a little at a time, but I noticed this way that I was pushing my boundaries and moving forwards. I was widening my safety zone and challenging my negative beliefs.
One last point, some days you won't feel like going. I would push through this anyway and go, this is the only way to form permanent habits. Usually the days I could have dropped out were the days that I felt the best when I had finished.
Ultimately, It is your choice whether you decide to take the advice that exercising will help your symptoms, but I can tell you from experience that it was and continues to be the best decision that I made. It has helped me more than anything else to manage my symptoms and keep them in remission.
Anyway you can get more active is fine as long as you get started.