Exercise for Stress Relief

Good morning, everyone! I hope everyone’s day is off to a good start — the hardest part of the week is over, so it can only get easier from here, right? 🙂

I’m going to head to the gym soon for my workout du jour, and I’m really looking forward to burning off some stress from yesterday. Yesterday was filled with aggravation, and I spent the bulk of the day doing this:

are you fucking kidding me

Brandon and I both had to stay late at work last night, so he came to pick me up so I wouldn’t have to deal with the Metro (he’s a good man!). It was late enough that neither one of us felt up to cooking dinner, so we salved our shared irritation by going to get ice cream and Indian food…in that order. Hey, a working adult’s gotta do what a working adult’s gotta do!

My more consistent form of stress relief, though, comes from exercise. Since I was in high school, I’ve found that exercise helps keep me sane — especially when the going gets rough. Approximately eighty bajillion studies have found that exercise causes chemical changes within the brain that help mitigate the effects of stress, and some studies have even found that exercise helps build new nerve connections in the brain as well.

For me, exercise is my go-to coping mechanism. It helps me feel energized, happy, and better able to deal with whatever insanity comes my way, and it helps me calm down after or during a stressful experience. (This article in the Times explains why that might be the case; granted, I’m not a mouse, but whatevs.) In college and grad school, I’d exercise like a madwoman, especially during exams — I used to go for midnight runs around campus during college, and when I was in Israel I used to bring my Hebrew and Arabic vocab flashcards to the gym and quiz myself while sweating out my exam stress. I’m sure I looked like I’d lost my mind, but oh well!

Now, thankfully, I don’t have to deal with exams and papers…but I do have to deal with commuting, traffic, and work stress. While those things are difficult under any circumstance, I find that I’m a lot more zen about things like traffic jams after I’ve exercised. Instead of getting irritated, I find that post-workout Lillian shrugs her shoulders and says “Oh well, I’ll get there when I get there. There’s nothing I can do about the traffic, so it’s not worth getting upset about this. At least this gives me more time to read my book, so it ain’t all bad.”

Adding to this, I love the way exercise makes me feel. After a good workout, I feel strong, capable, and, with my brain awash in endorphins, happy. I find that I quite literally crave exercise, and if I go more than a couple of days without a good sweat session, I get all antsy and agitated.

A case in point: when I was in college, my parents could tell whether it had been more than two days since my last long run — at one point during my freshman year, I was on the phone with my dad, and I was a total crankypants. He asked how long it had been since I last went running, and I grouchily snapped “Two days. Why?” With a deep breath, he then said “Lillian, you’re seriously crabby. Hang up the phone, put on your shoes, and go running.” When I grouchily snapped that jeeeez, Dad — I didn’t have time, that I had to study for midterms, that he just didn’t understand (hey, I was 18), he calmly said “Make the time. You need it.” Aaaah parents: it’s alarming how well they know their children. He was right, and after I got back from a run 45 minutes later, I called my parents back and had a lovely conversation without even a trace of my earlier snarkiness.

That same motif still applies, even 14 years later (omigod, I started college 14 years ago. Holy “I feel so old” moment, Batman): after a good workout, I feel a lot better about life. So for today, my daily sweat session will help me burn off some of the stress/irritation from my Monday, and it might just leave me feeling like this:

Kickin' It
If I could literally do this at various points throughout my day, it’d be unspeakably awesome.

Anyways, I hope everyone has a fabulous (and hopefully stress-free) Tuesday!

2 thoughts on “Exercise for Stress Relief

  1. aftertheivyleague March 12, 2013 / 5:37 pm

    I am the exact same way. I’m such a Moody Mandy if I don’t get my regular exercise in, and immediately after an awesome workout, I’m super perky and energized and feeling on top of the world. Without it, I have zilch for energy and hate life sitting on the couch watching re-runs. I mean sure, sometimes I’m in the mood for some quality couch time, it’s all about balance…but without exercise. Man, I’m not a happy person to be around! haha

  2. chasingchels March 12, 2013 / 6:55 pm

    I just pictured you performing that bottom video and almost fell off my seat in silent giggles (boys are sleeping so they can’t be loud)….exercise (and running in particular) usually has the same effect on me. Learning where to push it and where to rest, however stiil present a challenge…something I’m going to keep working on

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