The New York Times Magazine recently published the fantastic “America’s New ‘Anxiety’ Disorder” by Nitsuh Abebe. In it, Abebe beautifully defines anxiety as “the ambient apprehension that terrible things might happen and the physical response…that accompanies this feeling.” He continues to delve into the everyday bleakness that surrounds an increasing number of Americans with the haunting, foreboding conclusion that something catastrophic might need to occur to relieve the general malaise across the country and unite citizens across political ideologies.
As pessimistic a notion that may be, the personal anxieties we experience may feel more immediate than the seemingly continuous threat of World War III or a governmental shutdown. Instead, they might be the smallest concerns like making it to work on time with a train stuck in the tunnel, or not knowing if you’ll make ends meet for rent this month. Sure, logically speaking, you’ve managed your rent every time and even when the subway interfered on the worst work days, you made up for it. But logic alone won’t always settle the apprehension that anxiety can cause.
As Abebe points out, anxiety at its root is caused by the lack of control over something and what might happen. What’s the best way to combat the feeling that you cannot control something? Control something else.
There’s a plethora of fitness advice out there. What works best for you might not work best of another, and so on and so forth. The one pillar of a great workout that does not change from exercise guru to guru is executing a routine with the proper form, poise, and control. For example, a plank will not exercise your abs properly unless your back remains straight. Hence, control of your body when working out is vital for optimal results.
When anxiety kicks in, exercise can counteract the apprehension. Stepping on a treadmill for a run could ease the pit in your stomach because you’ll be too busy focused on breathing properly and keeping one foot in front of the other to pay attention to worries outside of your control. The same idea can be applied to any workout, be it a lifting exercise, a cardio routine such as biking and rowing, or elliptical training, yoga, pilates, and more. Concentrating on the immediacy of controlling your body’s movements in a workout may offer relief for anxiety, culminating in the endorphin rush that follows a finished, wonderful exercise and leaving you proud of yourself, happy, and ready to overcome anything.
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