Tags: DigIn, Dig In, DigIn23, Magazine, DigInMagazine, April, Activity, Excercise, Anxiety, Anxious, Feelings

Woman practicing Yoga

Activity: The Salve for Anxious Feelings?

Author: be well™ with Big Y® Registered Dietitian Team

Having anxious feelings is something many people experience—whether due to having an anxiety disorder or when they cycle through during stressful life situations. There are a variety of ways to help manage your anxious feelings—in the moment and long-term—and being physically active is one of them.

Whether you’re aiming to manage the symptoms associated with living with an anxiety disorder or addressing the moments you feel anxiousness boil over, here are tips to get you moving.

What is Anxiety?

Man holding his head

The “butterfly” feeling in your belly, breaths that are rapid, short and shallow, a quicker tick of your heart, tightening of muscles in your hands, shoulders and jaw, the inability to get and stay asleep, losing or gaining a larger-than-normal appetite, a distracted mind and irritated mood—all of these things can be experienced when someone is feeling a little angst or overwhelmed with anxiety.

Officially, the term anxiety is defined by the American Psychological Association as “an emotion characterized by apprehension and somatic symptoms of tension in which an individual anticipates impending danger, catastrophe, or misfortune.”1  In short, anxiety is something you feel in your body due to something your mind is telling you could or will happen. You may feel anxious about something positive about to happen like a promotion or dreading something you think could happen like an uncomfortable conversation.

How Can You Manage Anxiety?

Woman journaling

Possible tools to manage anxious feelings are plentiful. From journaling, talk therapy with a therapist and practicing mindfulness to cutting out excess caffeine from your meal plan, getting more shuteye and participating in an exercise class, the options available to you are only limited by your imagination. For individuals experiencing debilitating symptoms due to chronic anxiety, the addition of a tailored medication-regimen may be extremely beneficial as well.  

Moving Anxious Feelings Through You

Man running

To address the “buzzy” feeling of butterflies in your stomach, hands and legs when feeling angst, activity can be a powerful and impactful solution.2  Check out the list of different activities below for inspiration in your pursuit to feeling more settled and less anxious day-to-day.

Integrative Therapies

Woman practicing yoga

Practices such as yoga, pranayama (yogic breathing) and Qigong are anchored in visualizing moving of energy through your body byway of the poses and breaths you take. While doing yoga, pranayama and Qigong, you accept the presence of your anxious feelings (instead of fighting or resisting them) and may visualize moving them through, and subsequently out of, your body. As a result, you may feel more content than when you started as well as less overwhelmed when anxious feelings arise again.

Get Outdoors

Man Hiking

Vitamin tree is a real thing! Walking, hiking, running or simply just playing your favorite game outside will increase your likelihood of receiving sunlight (imperative for vitamin D production) and breathing in phytoncides, or natural wood oils, when in the company of trees (which researchers have seen can impact the body’s production of natural killer cells).3  For a more intentional saturation of all things Mother Nature, the practice of forest bathing, or a mindful outdoor experience, will help you to be present in the here-and-now. 

Just Move

Woman in the Pool

Whether you’re walking laps at the mall, streaming your favorite show while walking hills on your treadmill or swimming at your local YMCA, moving your body ANYWHERE (not just outdoors) is a must. This includes following along with virtual workout classes online, playing pickleball with friends, going dancing or doing pushups and squats in between meetings at the office. Moving your body, even if just for a short walk, is key to subduing the anxious feelings and thoughts circulating in your body and mind.

Remembering activity can be the most beneficial salve when you’re feeling anxious is the first step to landing on even ground moving forward.

1 American Psychological Association. APA Dictionary of Psychology: Anxiety. https://dictionary.apa.org/anxiety. Accessed 3/24/23.
2 Kandola A, Stubbs B. Exercise and anxiety. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020;1228:345-352. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-1792-1_23.
3 Li Q, Morimoto K, Nakadai A, Inagaki H, et al. Forest bathing enhances human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2007 Apr-Jun;20(2 Suppl 2):3-8. https://doi.org/10.1177/03946320070200S202.

Published 3/24/2023