If you struggle to manage anxiety, it is likely that you would try anything to help calm your anxiety.
As an entrepreneur or business owner, you are more likely to experience anxiety than non-entrepreneurs.
Symptoms of anxiety can range from annoying to debilitating.
People experiencing Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder all report that anxiety interferes significantly with their quality of life.
In business, anxiety can separate you from your CEO-self, and you lose touch with your ability to reason well, take in and synthesize new information, make decisions, solve problems, be creative and control your emotions. All of these are key skills you need to run a business.
Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, as a business owner, you can experience many anxiety-provoking events during the course of the day.
Anxiety can still have a significant impact on your day-to-day, with racing thoughts, inability to concentrate, irritability and many uncomfortable physical symptoms as well.
Why humans get anxious
There is a part of the brain that is always on the alert for danger.
Below our awareness, it will perceive data that it will interpret as threatening, and will send messages to the body to activate, in order to respond to the threat.
Because this is centred in the mammalian brain, the signals prepare the body or fight or flight as if there were a predator close by–even though there isn’t one, and we can’t run from modern-day threats or stressors.
Running a business, it can feel like there are threats coming at you left, right and centre. The alarm messages are constant. You can feel always on alert, jumpy or easily startled. Or your emotions are on a hair trigger.
Movement: a natural remedy you can use on your own that has been proven to help anxiety.
Regular movement has been proven to be a powerful tool for anxiety and can, in some cases, be just as effective as medication.
Physical activity can reduce anxiety by making the brain’s alarm system less reactive. Movement depletes the fight or flight energy that is pent up in the body. Because the body and mind are connected in a feedback loop, discharging the energy means there aren’t physical signals of alarm feeding the mind and perpetuating the anxious thoughts and feelings.
Movement is a natural support for anxiety that is portable and always available.
Regular exercise can help anxiety by releasing feel-good endorphins. Natural cannabis-like chemicals (called endogenous cannabinoids) and other helpful brain chemicals are released that can enhance a sense of wellbeing. It can also keep your baseline level of nervous system activation at a manageable level, so that when the crap hits the fan, your nervous system activation doesn’t go through the roof.
Physical effects of exercise, like increased heart rate, mimic symptoms of anxiety and can help an anxious person be less fearful of these physical sensations.
Part of what makes anxiety hard is the thoughts we have about it. Being afraid of it, thinking it means something is wrong, criticizing ourselves for being anxious: all of these can add to the difficulty. Sometimes a mindset shift can help. When you feel sensations like short, rapid breaths and a beating heart when you exercise, you can also notice how they are helping you and aren’t signs of a problem.
When you’re not exercising, and you notice these sensations, you might like to experiment with the idea that your anxiety is trying to make you aware, and is inviting you to pay attention. You might like to say something to yourself like, “Hello anxious voice. I know you are trying to help me. Thank you for that. I’m now paying attention and am taking care.”
Movement is a confidence booster
According to a 2013 paper published in Frontiers in Psychology, physical activity can play a role in helping anxiety because it promotes feelings of self efficacy.
Participating in activities that build mastery (like martial arts) promotes self confidence and can make people suffering from anxiety more confident in their everyday lives.
People with anxiety also might tend to isolate themselves. After all, if you’re feeling stressed out and anxious, the last thing you feel like doing is facing more demands, like putting on a brave face in public. But exercise or physical activity can be a catalyst for more social interaction.
Joining a group exercise class (live or online) or taking a walk with a friend can be a great way to foster social connection while helping anxiety. Engaging in an activity takes the social pressure off (you don’t have to come up with things to say, or figure out what to do with your hands) and can create an easier flow of conversation.
Any movement can help anxiety
While many healthcare professionals suggest regular aerobic exercise to help with anxiety, studies have shown that any type of movement can have an impact and help regulate anxiety.
Movement doesn’t have to come in the form of a structured activity. According to the Mayo Clinic things like gardening, washing your car or walking around the block can also play an important role in helping anxiety.
Movement activities to help anxiety
- Yoga: here is a gentle Yoga and breathing practice that can help anxiety
- HIIT training is specifically identified as a form of exercise that can prevent the recurrence of anxiety symptoms. It’s also good for people–like me–who don’t like to exercise but need or want to. Here is one example of HIIT exercise that can help anxiety.
- Dancing is another good way to move your body to discharge anxious energy and help anxiety.
Do you struggle with anxiety? How are you already moving your body? Is there a way you can do more of that?
If you’re an anxious entrepreneur or business owner and you want to create a proactive mental health plan so you can set the foundation for sustainable success and show up fully as your CEO-self in your business, you can book a free chat to learn about working with me.