Social Anxiety is not just about mere shyness. It begins with a fear of being misjudged or judged negatively and results in self-consciousness and avoidance of social situations. When social anxiety creeps into your skin, it becomes hard to survive social life let alone thrive in it. One of the best ways to handle social anxiety is exercise. Exercise is powerful medicine. Studies have shown that it can treat mild to moderate depression and anxiety as effectively as an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances a person’s well-being. It promotes the release of endorphins like dopamine and serotonin. These hormones are “happy” hormones. They create an environment of pleasure and happiness. Exercise has immense benefits. It reduces inflammation, improves the quality of sleep, boosts mood, relaxes the muscles, builds strength, etc. With regular exercise, you can improve your ability to handle stress. So, keeping all this in mind I am going to walk you through various ways you can use this great tool called exercise to your benefit and bathe in its sunshine.
The 5 by 30 rule:
What I do is exercise at least 5 times a day for 30 minutes daily. Make it a habit to exercise at least 5 times a week for 30 minutes daily. You don’t have to set a perfect round of exercise. I started with something that came easily to me like walking and mild jogging sometimes. You should go with a routine that is well within your comfort zone for now. Build your stamina from scratch. Don’t go looking for high-stress routines from the very beginning.
Consistency over Competency:
In the start what I focused on was to keep it regular. When you are going out with something new its very important to maintain a consistent routine first. Once you get into the habit of doing it, you can experiment more. My first goal was to wake up every day. Then, put on those walking shoes and hit the road. With anxiety, it can be very difficult to maintain a regular routine. You don’t know what your next mood will be. So, make it a point to consciously go for it.
Set small Daily goals:
It is very overwhelming for an anxiety patient like me to start and maintain something new. I get over this by setting small daily goals. It would not be right to start by wanting to have zero anxiety the very next day. It is a very achievable and appropriate goal to be able to do even one thing that you have set for the day. For example, learning to do one yoga pose or taking a walk for 10 minutes. These small things are what will eventually lead you to better mental health. These small goals will combine to form a great accomplishment.
Choose what you enjoy:
Exercise can be very tough if you are not into what you are doing. Even those 10 or 15 minutes can seem never-ending if that exercise is not something you want to do. Especially when you are suffering from social anxiety, you can freak out thinking about the depressing exercise routine that is ahead of you. I
am an introvert by nature. So, I like to do solitary exercises more often than others. For example, I like to take a walk in a quiet park or do yoga at home. You might enjoy doing aerobics with loud music on and with lots of people around. It really depends on each individual person. When you are passionate about your exercise routine, it will become your habit in no time.
Listen to something:
Listening to good, happy music boosts mood and stabilizes anxiety. Always try to listen to good things while you are exercising. It will put you in a good mood and reduce anxiety. I like listening to motivational talks. Or maybe a collection of amazing quotes. Podcasts are great too. Nowadays, there
are audio books as well. But you can always gather up your favorite playlist and listen to great music. I enjoy a mixture of these depending on the mood I am in.
You should always have water with you when exercising. Hydrate in between rounds. Your body must not lose fluids. Also, water is known to be a great relaxant. Drink water calmly while sitting down. It will help you control your nerves and soothe you down.
Take someone friendly with you:
Seeing a friendly face always does wonders for my anxiety. So, I try to match up my time with either one of my friends or sometimes my mother. And take them with me for a walk or a run. If your anxiety gets the better of you, take a friend or someone supportive with you. Doing things together not only builds
better relationships but these relationships further help you to stabilize your anxiety. So, take a friend with you.
Take a pet with you:
Pets are very cute. They can soothe your mood in no time. If you don’t want to take a friend, you can always take your pet with you as your workout partner. You can exercise without any person but with an amazing company. Pets have been long known to have soothed social anxiety. With many new people, they even act as ice-breakers. So, tag your pet along on your next workout.
Exercise tips for sudden anxiety on-set:
What do I do when I experience sudden anxiety in the middle of a workplace or college, etc? First, let me tell you that there are various forms of exercise. There are many you can do on the spot. Like deep breathing exercises. When you feel a sudden onset of anxiety, you experience certain signs. For example, increase in breathing rate, sweaty hands, thumping heart, blurred vision, vagueness in thinking prowess, etc. You might experience some or all of these signs. Or experience some other symptoms as well. So, in situations like these, first, sit down and take deep breaths. I already have some great breathing exercises I like to do on the spot to calm myself down. You can easily search them on YouTube.
So, in sudden cases, you can practice those exercises to calm you down initially.
Deep breathing exercises trigger a part of your nervous system that is responsible for the relaxation response. You have to breathe anyway so, you might as well do it in a way that reduces your anxiety.
If you can, go and take a walk outside. If you are in such a position that you could take a walk in a quiet place, it will immediately soothe you down. Walking in a quiet place surrounded by nature is one of the best strategies to handle anxiety.
Do what you can:
If cannot go outside, do whatever you can at the moment. Maybe you can excuse yourself and go to a vacant place and do some jumping jacks or squats. Take advantage of the moment.
Mindfulness is the art of absolute awareness. Practice mindfulness. When you are in a whirlpool of anxiety, being fully aware of yourself is the key to getting control of your emotions. When you practice mindfulness you feel all your fear with absolute consciousness. Mindfulness is one of the most powerful
exercises. Feel every inch of bodily sensation. Don’t let your mind wander towards useless thinking. Be conscious of what you are thinking and feeling. As soon as your mind gets into thinking negative stuff, shun it and force it to think about happy stuff. Be aware of what happens to your body when it gets into an anxiety attack. So, you can be prepared and have more control. Mindfulness is about mastering your outside as well as your inside environment.
Meditation and mindfulness go hand in hand. Meditation is a popular technique for reducing anxiety and stress. It is an amazing way to calm down, center your thoughts and focus your mind. It can relax your mind and stop those thoughts that are racing and raising your anxiety. There are plenty of guided exercises on YouTube. You can find amazing guidance for both mindfulness and meditation on YouTube. When practicing meditation you need to be very careful of disturbances around you. Cut down on all
distractions when you are getting ready to meditate. For example, I practice meditation for 20 minutes daily. When I am meditating, I make sure that all my emails are switched to mute and all social media notifications are turned off as well.
Practice meditation. Start from your comfort zone. If you can even do it for 5 or 10 minutes for 2 to 3 times a week, that is a good start. But you need to start.
Yoga is a form of exercise that teaches you control over your mind and body. It is equally healing for both mental and physical health. It is great for your flexibility and strength as well. It is about different sets of relaxing poses and techniques practiced to bring the body into balance. It boosts your heart
health as well by reducing heart diseases and strengthening your heart muscles. We might consider physical and mental health as two distinct things. But in reality, they are completely co-joined. To maintain good mental health, you must be vigilant about your physical well-being as well and vice versa. So, hit YouTube and find some relaxing, stress and anxiety-reducing ‘asanas’.
If you happen to live in a mountainous area or near one, try hiking. I have once done hiking with my friends. And though tiring, it is an exhilarating experience and exercise as well. So, if you are not into routines and schedules and want something with no boundaries, give hiking a try. Plus, the fresh and
cool air will kill anxiety to its core. If you take friends along or people you are comfortable with, you can really enjoy this as a picnic with the thrill of an adventure.
Swimming is not just another exercise. It is also one of the professional sports around. It is extremely refreshing and soothing. It takes practice to become a swimmer. So, with exercise, it also serves the purpose of keeping your head off stress and into swimming. Dive deep into it. When I tried it a couple of
times, I absolutely loved it. Give it a try to find what works for you.
Biking is another form of aerobic exercise which is very effective in pushing you out of the stress mode and into pleasure mode. You can go biking outside or even use a gym bike. I think biking is one of the most effective ways to enjoy something fun in isolation. There’s huge joy in biking in nature.
There are other forms of aerobic exercises that you can try to see which ones you like best. For example,
running, jogging, roller-blading, skating, etc.
This is my absolute favorite. Keeping the best for the last. Martial arts has helped me with depression and anxiety more than anything else. It is not just another form of exercise. It is an art in itself. Some of its forms include tai chi, judo, taekwondo, jujitsu, etc. In learning martial arts, you have to learn to focus and control your mind and concentrate on the task at hand. These techniques of mindfulness combined with strength training make up for an excellent exercise of choice.
Bonus: Exercise your mind:
This again is one of my favorites. I love reading. Reading might not be a physical form of exercise, but it is an amazing mental exercise. It strengthens the mind. Read great books. Shun bad books. Read inspiring books. But reading is not the only way. You can exercise your mind by doing mental math, playing puzzles, solving quizzes, and just about anything that challenges your mind.
Take full advantage of this guide. And keep exercising!