Is Exercise Stressing You Out? Try These 4 Strategies
Exercise Human beings are fragile, emotional creatures—personally, I can attest to crying at Pixar movies, cursing in rush hour traffic, and laughing uncontrollably at puppy videos. But when it comes to fitness, that softness starts to fade. Some invisible switch flips in our brains, and we start treating our bodies like machines. We increase our heart rate to drip sweat, tear muscle to rebuild it stronger, push our limits to burn calories—all on purpose.
Working up a sweat has been demonstrated to lower blood pressure, release endorphins, strengthen the immune system, improve memory, combat stress, and make you feel happier. So what happens if exercise is stressing you out and making you anxious—or you’re just not getting the results you hoped for? Studies suggest it’s less about what exercise you’re doing and more about how you exercise that makes the difference. Here are some ways to rethink your approach:
1. Use stress to your advantage.
While chronic stress can be detrimental to both your mind and body, short-term stress is great for energy boost and focus. John Ratey, M.D., an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, says that the impact of small doses of stress on the brain is similar to the way vaccines affect the immune system, making us stronger. But it’s how you respond to stress that is important. “If you react passively or if there is simply no way out, stress can become damaging,” he says.