When you are set on living your best life, anxiety can feel like a stumbling block stopping you from reaching your goals and following your dreams. Anxiety can be debilitating, preventing you from working out, connecting with others, and rising to challenges.
So, it is good to be reminded that exercise, working out, and lifting weights are powerful ways of supporting your mental, as well as your physical health. “Lift weights, lift spirits, lift life” expresses this truth. Exercise and physical movement can be a powerful antidote to anxiety. Let us lift the lid on how lifting weights can help you lift the burden of anxiety.
What is anxiety, anyway? That feeling of doom, fear or apprehension is anxiety. It is often accompanied by physical, mental, and behavioral symptoms. Increased heart rate, muscle tension, sweating, and shaking are some of the many ways we can experience the physical effects of anxiety. Mental symptoms can include difficulty concentrating, anticipating the worst outcomes, and excessive rumination, with thoughts going round and round. All of this can contribute to behavioral patterns and responses such as restlessness, inability to sit still, social withdrawal, and isolation. This can be a downward spiral. The more we experience anxiety, the less likely we are to want to connect. We begin to withdraw. That isolates us and leaves us to face our fears alone, without support. It is easy to feel down, and anxiety can soon be accompanied by depression.
When we feel anxious, our body enters the so-called “flight or fight zone.” That can be useful when we face a threat to our safety and need to run away or fight for our lives. However, it’s common to experience anxiety from other perceived threats including seeing someone looking at us a certain way or fearing our own or even other’s reactions when we enter a crowded room. No matter what the threat, when our bodies enter fight or flight, it is primed and ready. Even if we feel frozen and stuck, our anxiety is impacting us physically and can leave us exhausted.
It is no surprise, then, that anxiety can leave you with low-spirits and little motivation to work out. Yet, it is also true that choosing to exercise when we feel anxious allows us to put the flight or fight response to some use that benefits us. Lifting weights allows our body to work out the physical effects of anxiety. Our body has the chance to move and to act. And that feels empowering! We are back in the driver’s seat. You know, bench pressing 250lbs with fellow lifters by your side offering encouragement shows anxiety who’s the boss! Lift to conquer your fears. Lift to conquer anxiety.
Exercise provides the feel-good endorphin rush and that sense of self-mastery that is a real boost to our wellbeing and self-esteem. It’s been shown that regular exercise is effective in managing anxiety, both as a preventative and an ongoing management strategy. And, when we consider that a gym environment connects us with others and provides support and encouragement, then it’s possible to see that exercise and lifting weights are real anxiety-busting, self-help choices.
So, if you want to lift to conquer anxiety, consider the small next steps towards your fitness goals. There’s a real strength in showing up for yourself, your own wellbeing, your own mental health, by taking the next step forward. Consider what forms of exercise are manageable for you in your current situation? What goal can you set yourself for today that includes an element of physical movement? What support or resources can help you meet that goal? Reaching out to other lifters to let them know where you are is a powerful way to lift the stigma of mental health. Connecting with a gym buddy and working out together can help you to stay accountable to your goals, and to tackling your anxiety. So, lift to conquer. Lift weights, lift spirits, lift life, and allow yourself to gain the life-enhancing and mood-lifting benefits of exercise.
Be sure to check out our book recommendations below.
The Four Agreements.