According to a recent study, 85% of Brits experience stress regularly, with more than a third of us feeling stressed for at least one full day every week. There are a million different reasons that someone might suffer from stress, with common triggers including financial worries, pressure at work, relationship difficulties and health concerns. It can hit us at any time, but as April is Stress Awareness Month, now is perhaps a good time to identify the source of stress in your life and explore strategies to combat it.
Many people use exercise as a way to fight against stress. The rush of feel-good endorphins that is released by the pituitary gland during exercise can act as a major mood boost (ever heard of the “runner’s high”?). Not only do they make us feel happier, endorphins, also known as the body’s natural painkiller, have been shown to moderate our appetite (reducing the temptation to comfort eat when we’re feeling stressed), release sex hormones and enhance the functioning of our immune system.
It’s not just the release of endorphins that makes exercise great for combatting stress. Focusing all of your energy on your body’s movements can help you to forget about daily irritations or worries – you’re likely to feel much more optimistic after thinking about something else for a while, instead of dwelling on what has caused your stress and getting caught in a negative cycle of thoughts. Stepping away from a problem and focusing your energy on something else can sometimes open your mind up to a solution you might not otherwise have thought of, too – a change in perspective can sometimes really help.
What’s more, with regular practice of any sport, you’ll see yourself making improvements, which is a great confidence-booster and something positive to focus on when other areas of your life may be causing you some stress. When you’re feeling overwhelmed it can be tempting to isolate yourself, and while it’s true that spending some time alone can sometimes help to restore some calm, getting out and being active is one of the best ways to reduce stress.
Working out is a fantastic way to combat stress, but the most important thing is to find something that works for YOU! Above all, be kind to yourself – we all have bad days after all.
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