Obviously, anxiety isn’t something you just “get over.” It’s not an ex-boyfriend or an unfortunate haircut. It’s a disorder that can potentially cause enough distress to interfere with your ability to lead a normal life.
That being said, when I use the phrase “get over” in this article, I mean it in the sense that I have learned (through exercise) ways to deal with my anxiety so that it doesn’t have such a huge impact on me day-to-day. Essentially, regular exercise has given me the ability to take back the reigns and not let anxiety rule my life.
My anxiety was overwhelming.
Not everyone with anxiety experiences it the same way. For me, the best way I can describe it is like a hamster constantly running on its wheel. At night, especially, there’s an endless stream of thoughts and concerns which make it difficult to sleep and some days near impossible to concentrate on even the most minute tasks.
Every now and then I’ll experience symptoms of a minor panic attack and it feels like I’ve completely lost control. That’s probably the worst part is the sense of helplessness. There’s nothing you can do, but wait for it to pass. I couldn’t let it stop me anymore.
I needed to make a change.
Needless to say, I was at a point in my life where something needed to change. My roommate and best friend had recently gotten into a regular gym routine, mostly weightlifting, and I decided to try it out. I started small at first, joining a local gym and showing up once or twice a week.
That first month, I was already starting to feel a difference, but I wasn’t feeling completely confident in my workouts yet, which was starting to make me a little anxious (the exact opposite of what I was going for.) So, I saved up and hired a personal trainer for a few sessions.
Things really started to happen.
I was able to sit down with a trainer and set realistic, yet challenging goals for myself. I had something to work towards and a someone holding me accountable. It already felt like a breath of fresh air. Soon, I was going to the gym 4-5 days a week and working my ass off.
I never saw myself as the fit athletic type, the runner or someone who would be strong enough to lift weights, but exercise changed my life. Not only was I distracted from all the things that typically cause me a great deal of anxiety, but I felt so wonderfully exhausted after every workout that I didn’t have the energy to worry.
Here’s the science.
As Elle Woods once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” It’s true, exercise has been proven to reduce fatigue, improve concentration and enhance overall cognitive function.
In one study, researchers found that those who got regular vigorous exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years.
How I feel now.
I can honestly say, the difference is night and day (rhyme unintended.) Anytime I feel anxious or overwhelmed I head to the gym and I hone all my energy and focus into my workout. My mind feels more clear than it has in months and my body feels healthy for the first time in a long time.
I’m strong inside and out and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, but me. I finally feel like I’m in control. Of course, not everyday is a perfect day. I still have times when my anxiety creeps back up on me, but I can better manage my symptoms and for that, I have exercise to thank.