Exercise is the best natural anxiety remedy
I don't usually start by sharing about my journey, but in this case I need to make an exception. I took many years to finally banish my anxiety. For me, exercise had the biggest impact in my life. The thing was that I had exercised a little bit for many years, and didn't get anything out of it - because I didn't put enough into it. A run here or there isn't enough.
There is a feeling you get after an intense exercise session that gives you a glow that lasts the rest of the day. This isn't just the endorphins rushing through your body, or the 'pump' that some people talk about - but an almost spiritual calm that comes after you have pushed yourself to the limit.
Your body is calm, muscles unwound, and so is your mind. Many people I have spoken to with anxiety talk of "chattering" or thoughts they can't stop running through their head. That makes perfect sense if you're stressed and on edge - you need to push that stress out, by force if necessary.
Can fitness cure my anxiety?
Fitness! Exercise! Ugh! I know, it sounds stupid, but this was the #1 change for me. Getting to the gym and working out so hard I leave drowned in sweat sets me up for the rest of the day - nothing else seems so bad. I started going to let out the anger and frustration I was feeling, but learned to love that 'pump' you get - so I managed to keep it up.
Improving your fitness will help many areas of your life - obviously not just your mental state. Regardless - let's start with the basics. If you're not in great shape, then you actually have the easier road: you're going to feel the biggest improvements, in the shortest timeframe.
One of the toughest things with anxiety is how the experience is a little different for each person, so we'll never have a one-size-fits-all fix. So will improving your fitness and taking your exercise regime up a notch cure your anxiety? We can't say for sure. But what I can tell you is that committing to regular exercise has helped every one of the people in my life that suffered from anxiety and stress.
Dealing with anxiety through routines
The final step to deal with my anxiety was switching my daily routine to go to the gym first thing in the morning. What a huge change! Once I had committed to doing so I was suprised to find the rest of my day fell into an easier pattern. No more missing meals - by lunchtime and dinner I was starving, so I ate on time. By the time evening came around I was tired out and not tempted to stay up late: so I started getting good, regular sleep for the first time in many years.
If you are busy with worthwhile activites and in control of what is happening in your day your thoughts will follow suit.
Life is a balancing act. Any one of these changes would have returned a small improvement, but together the effect was transformative.
Sleep is essential for a healthy mind
You need good sleep. Lots of it. This isn't negotiable. Note this doesn't mean lots of sleep - it is easy to oversleep and feel groggy and tired. But forcing myself to go to bed and get up at the same time each day really helped. Your body adjusts pretty quickly - and needs quality sleep to recover. I used to stay up until the early hours every night, reading or trolling the internet as I didn't want to face the next day - now I wake up early, and go to the gym first thing.
Many studies demonstrate just how important sleep is for our mental and physical wellbeing. What really hit home for me was understanding that regular sleep is far more important than hours slept. You can't just stay up all night then try to catch up the next day.
Getting enough sleep is crucial to managing anxiety - and you need to maintain a regular sleep cycle so your body can adjust.
The other thing that I scoffed for many years until I tried was daily meditation. Meditation can wipe away the stress from your day, and ease your anxiety.
There are so many techniques and approaches so you need to try something that works for you. My favourite is meditation with calming background music - you only need 5-10 minutes. I have done this enough times now that as soon as I hear one of my meditation tracks I can often feel my body physically relaxing. I play all my music through Spotify, and have it on my phone, so I know I can just pop outside with headphones wherever I am if I am getting stressed.
Improving your fitness through exercise is a great way to treat anxiety symptoms. Exercise is a natural remedy for anxiety, and committing to an exercise routine will help bring balance to others areas of your life.