Reducing stress and anxiety with exercise

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My approach to exercise in my 40’s is quite different from my 20’s and thirties where I was all about the burn. Like many other women in my generation, exercise for my in younger years was all tied to my appearance. If it was the next way to get thinner and burn calories then I’d give it a try. I’m sure I’m not alone in that way of thinking.

Nowadays I’m much more motivated by how I feel rather than how I look. I no longer see exercise as a chore, it’s a time for me to have some time to myself, to really focus in on my mind and body connection. To calm me when I’m feeling anxious or to let off steam if I’m feeling stressed. 

Hitting Perimenopause often ups my levels of anxiety and certainly my irritability. I often have days where my moods can go from pretty level to hulk-like anger in a very short space of time and the smallest of things will set me off. As you can imagine this puts quite a lot of pressure on the rest of my family, who can often be seen backing slowly out of rooms when they sense I’m about to explode. 

Walking has been a great way to combat some of my mood swings. It certainly isn’t a cure-all but I have found that if I’m having a particularly bad day, taking myself off for a 20-30 minute walk will give me some breathing space and time to gather my thoughts and gain a little perspective. It’s really about managing symptoms rather than trying to prevent them completely. 

Yoga is something else I have been leaning in to more and more and I have found it can help me level my moods.

The practice of yoga encourages the release of tension in the body, helping to calm the mind and reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. This can be especially beneficial for when you are struggling with unstable hormones along with the demands of work, family, and other responsibilities, 

Yoga also promotes physical flexibility and strength. As women enter mid-life, they may experience changes in their bodies, including decreased flexibility and a loss of muscle mass. Practicing yoga regularly can help to improve flexibility, balance and core strength, which in turn can help to prevent falls and injuries. I’ve always enjoyed yoga, and have practiced on and off since my 20’s. I’m in no way highly flexible and I’ve faced the fact that my hamstrings will probably always behave like frozen chewing gum. However, I have found that the regular stretches I have have been consistent with over the years I can still do with ease, and that feels pretty good!

Another benefit of yoga is that it can help to improve sleep. Insomnia and other sleep disorders are common among women in mid-life. Yoga practice is known to calm the nervous system and promote relaxation, which can improve the quality of sleep. My sleep patterns can be pretty erratic, particularly around my period and I’ve found a really calm flow routine, even just for 20 mins can often help to calm my monkey mind at least long enough to get off to sleep, even if it doesn’t stop me waking up a 4am. It’s also a great way to get a bit of movement into your day if you’re struggling with period cramps and bloating and just can’t face vigorous exercise. 

You don’t need a big investment to get started with yoga but I would advise getting yourself a good mat, as they provide a comfortable and stable surface for you to perform poses on. A decent mat will also provide enough cushioning to support your joints. I invested in a sticky yoga mat and I highly recommend this as I found myself gradually sliding forward during some of my earlier classes.  Also, if like me you are tall, you can get extra long mats – trust me, so with it!. The thickness should be based on your personal preference and the type of yoga you will be practicing. For example, if you’re practicing on a hard surface, you may want a thicker mat to provide more cushioning, especially for your knees and tailbone.

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