There are healthy and unhealthy options for dealing with stress. Choosing the avenues we do often is influenced by many facets, often formed as newborns.
For example, studies have shown that babies who cry and whose mothers repeatedly offer food, even if the cry is for a cuddle or a diaper change, grow into adults who also have disordered relationships with food. Fortunately, we can change what we decide to be our outlets, although it’s not always easy.
If you always wished you were someone who reached for a healthy amount of fitness as a way to let off steam instead of alcohol, drugs, or binge eating, there are steps you can take to change your habits. First, if you do have an unhealthy addiction, it’s important to get help for alcohol addiction from a professional. A lot more goes into addressing addiction than simply changing your habits or mindset.
However, if you simply have habits that aren’t dangerous but you’d like to redirect into fitness, here are a few steps to get started:
Find a Form of Fitness You Like
Not everyone is meant to be a runner, cyclist, or some other specific type of athlete. It’s very possible there are forms of fitness you’ll never enjoy. Once you’ve given a type of fitness an honest shot and you still dread doing it, try something else. There are so many ways to exercise, from group classes to urban hiking, that it’s pointless to force yourself into something you’ll never enjoy. You might not like something the first time, but you’ll usually get an idea if it’s something that will develop into joy. Listen to your gut. You can get creative and make a fitness routine with your dog if you really want to avoid gyms and the standard way of exercising.
Try a Brisk 15-minute Walk
For example, if you normally reach for junk food when you’re stressed, know that you can still do that after a brisk walk (preferably outside). You might find that the walk gives you the energy and the change of scenery that you’re actually seeking when you normally eat junk food. You also have the safety net of knowing that if you still have that craving, it’s only 15 minutes away. However, cardio can be an appetite suppressant.
Know the Best Time to Work out for You
If you don’t want to change habits formed by exposure to stressful environments, but rather want a daily practice to help manage overall stress, it’s a good idea to know when the best time to work out for you Forget the articles telling you that morning, mid-day, or evening is best. The best option is when you’ll actually get in a good workout. If you always struggle to get up in the morning as it is, there’s little chance that you’ll suddenly develop an early morning workout regimen.
Speak Kindly to Yourself
Your internal voice has a lot to do with outside realities. If you tell yourself you’ll never be a runner, never be able to lift a certain amount of weight, or that you’re just too lazy to get to the gym, your brain will go above and beyond to make that statement a reality. Our brains want us to live the reality that our inner voices create. Cognitive reconditioning, or consciously making an effort to be your own cheerleader, is a game changer. You can use it for anything in life, including changing your habits.
Tap Into Fitness in Short Bursts
A lot of people think of fitness and exercise as something that lasts at least 30 minutes. That seemingly magical number is actually from the American Heart Association’s suggestion that 30 minutes of exercise five days per week is the minimum for adult fitness. However, even a minute (or less!) of a fitness activity can have healthy benefits related to stress. For example, fitness can entail mindful deep breathing. Five deep breaths in a stressful situation can dramatically change your mood.
You Are What You Eat
Fitness also includes diet, and everyone has a diet. It’s not something you “go on.” Our diet plays a big role in our reactions. Including more healthy foods in your daily diet is a part of fitness, and gives your body and brain the fuel it needs to combat stressful situations. If you’re self-starving on a crash diet or malnourished because of a diet of processed foods, there’s a good chance that when stress strikes you’re not at your best to handle it.
When you think of fitness, it shouldn’t be a chore. Fitness should bring joy, but it depends if you’ve included the right kind of fitness for you in your daily life. Of course, trying a new form of fitness can be hard and even stress-inducing in itself. Trying it with openness and honesty just might provide a brand-new stress tool after a few more sessions.