If your anxiety is acting up, it might seem counterintuitive to go for a workout. It's hard enough to breathe when you're having a panic attack, let alone think about getting out of the house and hitting the gym. But high-energy workouts might help ease your anxiety, experts say.
Many folks who are prone to anxiety avoid exercise because the increased heart rate from a workout can feel like a panic attack, says clinical psychologistL. Kevin Chapman, Ph.D. Still, he says, that doesn't mean exercise can't eventually alleviate anxiety oreven reduce the severity of panic attacks. Increasing your ability to tolerate distressing sensations can be a very important part of anti-anxiety treatment, Dr. Chapman tells Bustle, and working out can be a helpful component of that treatment.
High-energy exercising might make it harder to breathe, but it also generates endorphins. These hormones canstimulate mood boosts and therefore help calm you down from panicking. Even if you have general anxiety without a panic disorder, these endorphins can help you ease toward a more relaxed state of mind. The more you practice this kind of exercise, the more your body and brain will learn that even when your heart rate is high, you can still be safe and even happy.
Knowing that you're going to be OK while you're engaging in high-intensity exercise can be difficult, says psychotherapist Lillyana Morales, LMHC. "It is completely possible for individuals with anxiety to engage in workouts, but it may mean working up to the desired goal," she tells Bustle. "If you’re someone who ends up in a panic attack 10 minutes into a workout, then aim for five."
You don't have to leap right into high-intensity work, either. Many of my personal training clients with anxiety who excelled at high-energy exercise needed to work up to their goals over time. "Setting small, attainable goals will allow you to create a safe space for yourself," Morales says. These fivehigh-energy workouts can help you combat your anxiety and even have a little bit of fun. Just make sure you're going at your own pace.