You’ve probably heard it before – exercise is a great way to relieve stress. See why moving your body can help; I make my case below:
● Reduce levels of stress hormones. Have you heard of cortisol? Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal gland, and helps your body to cope with difficult situations – a little cortisol is not a bad thing. However, this stress hormone can build up in the body and can contribute to feelings of anxiety, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping.
● Increase levels of endorphins. Endorphins are "feel-good" chemicals that are released by the brain during exercise. They have mood-boosting and pain-relieving effects, which can help to improve our sense of well-being and reduce stress levels.
● Distract us from ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. When we're exercising, we're forced to focus on our bodies and our breathing. This can help to take our minds off worries and stressors, and can give us a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
● Improve our overall health and fitness. When we're physically fit, we're better able to cope with stress. This is because we have more energy, we're better able to sleep, and we're more resilient in the face of challenges.
Pilates is an ideal form of exercise for relieving stress, combining all of the benefits above with low-impact exercise that focuses on core strength and flexibility. This type of exercise can help reduce stress by improving our posture, reducing muscle tension, and improving our breathing. Pilates also teaches us how to focus on the present moment, which can help to take our minds off of our worries.
Let’s learn a little more about cortisol. We know that cortisol is a hormone, commonly known as a stress hormone. It is produced by our adrenal glands and released in response to stress to help our body to cope with difficult situations. Chronically high levels of cortisol can have negative health effects, but under normal circumstances, our bodies use cortisol productively and positively. There are always two sides to a coin. Some effects on the body are:
● Increased heart rate and blood pressure, which helps to prepare our body for "fight or flight." Think about how your body feels in response to danger, bringing awareness to a situation.
● Increased blood sugar levels, which provides the body with energy during times of stress. It also helps regulate your metabolism.
● Suppression of the immune system, which can make it more difficult for the body to fight off infection, but in short spurts, cortisol can boost your immunity by limiting inflammation.
● Changes in sleep patterns. Cortisol can disrupt your sleep, making it difficult to fall asleep or to stay asleep, but under normal circumstances it plays a role in your sleep - wake cycle. You may have heard of this as your circadian rhythm.
If you find yourself feeling frazzled, especially during the holidays, it is important to find healthy ways to manage your stress: this may include exercise, relaxation techniques, or talking with a trusted friend. It’s equally important to eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep. Simply put, just being aware of stressors in your life can help you make progress managing your stress levels.
Here are some tips for managing stress:
● Exercise regularly. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress levels. It releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. Try a new class or sign-up for a class with a friend - have fun and hold each other accountable in a positive way.
● Practice relaxation techniques. There are many relaxation techniques that can help to reduce stress levels. We have several options at BFL; some examples include massage therapy, reiki sessions and classes like meditation and yoga.
● Get enough sleep. When you're well-rested, you're better able to cope with stress. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. ● Eat a healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet can help to improve your mood and energy levels; making it easier to cope with stress.
● Spend time with friends and/or family. Social support can be a great way to reduce stress levels. Spend time with people who make you feel good and who you can talk to without judgment.
● Take breaks. When you're feeling stressed, take a few minutes to step away from whatever you're doing and relax. Go for a walk, listen to music, or do something else that you enjoy.
● Learn to say no. It's okay to say no to requests that you don't have time for or that will add to your stress levels.
● Steer clear of negative people and situations. If there are people or situations in your life that are causing you stress, try to keep your distance as much as possible.
I may be a bit biased as a Pilates Instructor, but if you're looking for a way to relieve stress physically, Pilates is a fabulous option. It's a safe and effective form of exercise that can help to improve your overall health and well-being. That said, at BFL, we offer so much more than Pilates, I encourage you to explore all of our fitness and wellness options. At BFL you'll find a staff that truly cares about your experience, whether you need encouragement, guidance, compassion, or all of these. As we approach the holiday season, carve out time to take care of yourself.