In honor of Stress Awareness Month, we’ve made it our goal to strengthen your resilience (“Do this”) and hold the line against stress (“Ditch that”). This week, you’ll discover how to take the stress out of exercise. Because you owe it to yourself to tap into the wellspring of mental sharpness, emotional calm, and physical vibrancy that comes from exercising—without stressing about it.
It’s not that you don’t have good intentions—you’re well aware of the benefits of exercise, but the daily grind of modern life just makes it challenging to fit in. This isn’t an excuse, it’s a fact! A recent Gallup poll showed that about half of Americans find it difficult to exercise regularly. Clearly, the hard part isn’t knowing what to do; it’s getting ourselves to do it. But it’s also that, too often, fitness regimes only address the physical. To work, a fitness plan has to have two components, mental and physical. Once you get your mind on board, your body more easily follows.
Challenge the mental intruders that are sabotaging your fitness success. Fitness hits big emotional buttons, and whenever there are big emotions, there are big beliefs lurking beneath the surface. Some of the negative beliefs we may hold are about our capabilities or capacities, some are about how we should be spending our time, and some target our identity and how we see ourselves. And they can silently sabotage your fitness efforts because they get in the way of making good choices.
Find your trouble spots. If you think you’ll never be able to do a perfect plank, run a marathon, do a graceful downward dog, or whatever it is that you aspire to fitness-wise, well, the fact is you won’t. Our own thinking traps stop us in our tracks before we have a fair shot at succeeding at something. As a first step, just recognize that this is happening.
(Read more about how our thoughts create our reality.)
Then, zap the thoughts. Use these thought zappers any time your negative thoughts creep in as you’re exercising or trying to get yourself to do so.
Thought: “This is too hard.”
Zap it: “Yes, this is hard, but it’s not too hard. Exercise is meant to be challenging, and I am up for the challenge.”
Thought: “This is boring.”
Zap it: “I’m not looking at this the right way. What’s my reason for exercising? Is it to be entertained or get fit? I need to remember my motivating factor, and that will help me reframe this.”
Thought: “I should be home with the kids.”
Zap it: “If I want to be there for the people I love for a long time, I need to be healthy. And taking time to exercise means I’ll be more energetic and present with my kids.”
Once you get your mind aligned with your intentions, it’s time to get moving. The fitness advice available to you is unlimited—but the trick is to use simple guidelines that make it easy for you to find the right path and stick with it. The more precise you are with your plan, the better your aim—and the better your chances of hitting your target of making fitness a regular part of your life.
Find something that feels good. The best way to make exercise feel like less of a burden and more of a fun outlet for stress if to do something you enjoy. Hate yoga? Don’t do yoga! When exercise is just another thing to check off your to-do list, it adds to your stress levels. There are so many ways to get moving, so explore them, and have fun in the process.
Set goals and deadlines. It’s not specific enough to say, “I want to get in shape.” Instead, ask yourself what you want to accomplish by when. You might say, “In 6 months, I want to have lost 10 pounds and have gained more energy.” And take small bites to start. For example, you can decide to go for at least two walks this week and do one session of strength training, and then work up from there. Three days a week for 30 minutes each time is the minimum most people need to stay healthy.
(Read more about how to find your fitness sweet spot.)
Learn more useful information about stress and your health! Order meQuilibrium’s new book, meQuilibrium: 14 Days to Cooler, Calmer, and Happier, co-authored by meQuilibrium CEO Jan Bruce, Adam Perlman, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, and Andrew Shatté, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer.