Coronavirus, Stress, and Exercise As A Way Out

No one would argue that we all think more clearly and make better decisions when we are calm. It’s just the way the brain works. Stress lowers our cognitive ability’s by moving us away from a relaxed state, towards one that is action oriented. If you were getting chased by a lion, your “thinking” is all but gone and you are totally reactionary, as you should be. Calm has left the building.

Well you may not have a lion chasing you, but the Coronavirus is. Yikes! This whole Corona/lockdown situation can be a bit unnerving. And rightfully so. I think anyone who is completely unaffected by all this is not living in reality. These are strange times and uncertain times. It’s perfectly normal to be a bit more stressed and on edge.

But that does not mean you have to stay that way. Being able to calm yourself is huge, and a skill anyone can learn or improve. I believe exercise is the best way to do that. It provides at least two major avenues to a calmer and clearer frame of mind.

First, exercise makes you feel better. I could go down the whole endorphin route, but you’ve heard that a million times. So, let me hit it from a different angle. When you exercise it’s uncomfortable. It’s hard and burns and puts you into a dysphoric state. The opposite of euphoric, which everyone is familiar with. When you are in this dysphoric state, your body doesn’t like it so it raises all the chemicals/molecules in your body that make you feel good. This balances you out so you can continue to exercise. Then, when the exercise ends, the feel-good molecules stay elevated while your body takes time to adjust back down. So, you get to feel really, really good for quite some time. This provides a better, calmer, more positive start of mind. Which is also a good time to think about your future and make decisions.

Second, exercise provides an opportunity to practice calming yourself. What do I mean? Being able to calm yourself is a skill. Just because there is a stressful situation doesn’t mean it has to take control of you. Use exercise to help train this. Here’s how. When you are done with some high intensity training, your heart rate is elevated and your breathing heavy. This is a great time to pay attention to how you feel. When you notice how you feel, you can practice bringing yourself down to a normal state. Take the 10 minutes that follow your intense exercise and focus on your breathing and heart rate, and concisely bring it back down by calming yourself. Once you get good at doing this with exercise, will be better able to apply it to other distressed states.

These are just two of the ways that exercise helps you stay calm in an uneasy time. There are countless others. If you’re not exercising and need help getting started, please reach out today. We are ready to help you achieve a calmer, healthier, state of mind.

Dennis Fenrich

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