I would like to direct my words today to anyone that has ever felt the "backwards" way of spelling the word 'desserts' (which would be 'stressed'). Because this life is not meant to be easy all the time, but rather a growing, stretching, and learning opportunity, I think it is safe to say that we have all felt that six letter word creep into our lives. One of the most common effects that stress creates is anxiety. There are many forms of anxiety, some are more severe than others. From work demands to social pressures, anxiety can surface at anytime. I have seen it debilitate the strong and control the determined. However, there are many tools that can help us combat this [sometimes] daily visitor.
You've probably heard of the phrase "runner's high"- the positive and energizing feeling in the body after a workout or run. This is because when you exercise, your body releases endorphins that interact with the receptors in your brain that trigger positive feelings. When you feel stress, your body releases the hormone- cortisol. Evidence has shown that movement is what gets rid of cortisol, bringing it back to regular levels; exercise can be one of the greatest medicines and most powerful antidepressants. While I'm not suggest that therapists, doctors, and medications are not needed (because there is definitely a time and a place for those), I am suggesting that exercise is a powerful tool that can be used daily, to empower yourself and ease any stress level.
Now, when experiencing anxiety and stress, working out is usually the last thing you want to be doing. It is much more tempting to dish out the ice cream and call it a night. But having a plan in place will help you be successful. Exercise is never a punishment to the body, but rather a gift. Maybe you like group fitness classes or solo yoga time. Whether it's swimming, running, dancing in your kitchen to music, playing soccer with your kids, or taking a walk around your neighborhood; find something that you enjoy doing that can be your go-to stress reliever. A 10 minute walk can be just as effective as a 60 minute workout. One key thing to remember is consistency. Science suggests it is better for our brain and body to move every day for 30 minutes than to move for 3 hours just one or two days per week. Consistency is important. No matter what situation you're in, make exercise a part of your therapy; whether you struggle with occasional or diagnosable anxiety, exercise is a [free] tool to help.
Here is a quick stretching routine you can do anywhere to let go of anxiety. Stretching before bed each night helps us sleep better. We naturally will start to breathe a little deeper when stretching which brings our heart rate to a normal pace and gets oxygen flowing throughout the body.
Keep your belly button tucked in as you bend from your hips to one side. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides. Stretch the triceps simultaneously as you lightly press on the elbows, extending out from your body.
Extend triangle pose- bend from your hip, not the waist. Hold for 30 seconds and do the reverse side.
Make this an active stretch by driving both legs in opposite directions. Lengthen the tailbone to the floor and keep your shoulders down and away from the ears. Have front leg remain at a 90 degree angle. Never have the knee reach past the toes.
Legs wide- squat low without leaning forward- center yourself with heels firmly planted on the ground- palms pressed together- inhale gratitude and exhale doubt. End in child's pose, breathing deeply, and reaching your fingertips away from your head.
References: Exercise for Mood and Anxiety, Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being, by Michael W. Otto, PhD, and Jasper A.J. Smits, PhD (Oxford University Press, 2011)
Photos for Foundation c/o Lori Romney Photography
Ashley Wright has a passion for health and fitness. She is a Team Beachbody (C) Coach, PiYo instructor, and has helped women of all ages gain the tools needed to live a healthy lifestyle. She believes that a healthy lifestyle will instill confidence as well as provide a solid foundation for you to accomplish your goals. As a former Utah's Distinguished Young Women of Utah, she knows the importance of incorporating health and fitness to be a well rounded woman to better serve those around you. Get Moving - Eat Healthy - Love Yourself. Visit Ashley's Facebook Page to learn more.