When you suffer from regular, persistent anxiety, you'll often seek out treatment. You'll talk to your doctor about medications, you'll consider therapy, you'll try herbal and homeopathic supplements, and you'll do anything you can to rid yourself of that anxiety forever.
No method is 100% perfect. But one amazing thing about anxiety is that it can be reduced and then leveraged by things you never thought would work. One such thing is walking. Simply walking around may be what you need to get natural anxiety relief.
Walking for Anxiety
Anxiety is something that requires short and long term treatments. While walking works, you need to see your specific anxiety profile to really know how to prevent anxiety in a way that will work for you.
Take my anxiety test now to learn more.
Your Anxiety Has a Specific Treatment
All anxiety disorders are different, just like you're different from someone else suffering from anxiety. But anxiety is also extremely treatable, provided you commit to a solution that has been shown effective. It all depends on your specific anxiety, which is why taking my anxiety test is such a smart idea.
But if you're looking for something quick and easy that you can start doing right now, you can't get much better than walking.
Walking and Anxiety
Walking may sound silly. After all, you walk every day and you still have anxiety. But how often you're walking and when you're walking can make a considerable difference in your ability to cope.
Walking has several benefits. These benefits may be different for each person, because no one knows your current methods of coping but you. Still, the following represent some of the very real benefits of anxiety:
Benefit 1: Movement
It all starts with movement. There is an extremely high correlation between movement and anxiety, where those that do not burn off enough energy are more prone to suffering from anxiety symptoms.
There are likely several reason this occurs:
- Unused energy in the body appears to cause anxiety in the mind. The mind/body connection really does exist, and since a lack of activity causes a considerable amount of unused energy, anxiety may be the result.
- Severe anxiety symptoms can also create further anxiety, and symptoms may be worse when you're not moving and tiring your muscles. Anxiety symptoms are not just caused by anxiety - they're also exacerbated by the way your body feels. Improve the way your body feels and your symptoms may decrease, which in turn should decrease your overall anxiety.
For these reasons it becomes very important to make sure that you're moving more often, and walking is a great way to ensure that you're tiring out your muscles as much as possible.
Benefit 2: Breathing
Another benefit is the way that walking changes the way you breathe. This is especially true of anxiety attacks and panic attacks, but may affect you at all stages of your anxiety.
Most of the very severe anxiety symptoms, like chest pains, difficulty breathing, etc., are the result of hyperventilation which occurs when you have anxiety. Hyperventilation makes it feel like you're not getting enough oxygen (which is why many people gasp for breath when they hyperventilate) but is actually caused by losing too much carbon dioxide. Your body needs it, and when you breathe too quickly or too fully you may put too much oxygen in your body and not enough carbon dioxide.
So there are two ways to improve your Co2 levels. The first is to slow your breathing. But many people find this hard, because as stated hyperventilation makes it feel like you aren't breathing enough, and it's tough to fight the urge to take deeper breaths.
Walking represents a nice alternative. The more you walk and move, the more your body creates carbon dioxide naturally, and the more your body tends to breathe more efficiently. It's not 100% fool proof (if you think about your breathing too much, walking may not work as well), but it can be very effective at making sure your body regains its natural balance.
Some believe that the blood flow from walking may also provide a similar benefit in terms of countering the effects of anxiety symptoms.
Benefit 3: Distractions
Walking also provides a considerable amount of sensory distraction. When you're walking, you're feeling the ground and the wind, you're processing the information that's around you, you're smelling different things, etc. Even if all you do is walk around your home, you're constantly using your brain to process new things.
One of the most effective ways to deal with anxiety is to simply reduce the amount you think about your symptoms. You can't fight your thoughts (and you shouldn't, because this may actually increase anxiety) but you can make it harder for your mind to focus by ensuring that it's forced to process many different types of information all at once. Walking - especially if you can also get outside, although it may not be necessary - gives your mind much to think about even if you don't realize it's thinking. This, in turn, reduces the amount of mental energy you give your anxiety and should decrease your anxiety symptoms.
Benefit 4: Moving Up to Jogging
Someday, if possible, walking could also lead to jogging, and jogging is actually a profoundly effective anxiety cure. Jogging for long distances actually releases neurotransmitters that reduce stress and anxiety, burns away some of the hormones that cause anxiety symptoms, and tires your muscles to a considerable degree in a way that is extremely effective for controlling severe symptoms.
Jogging is a great goal in the long run. But it's often hard to jog if you haven't first gotten used to walking often throughout the day. So you start by walking more and more often, and then if you're feeling healthy enough and ready you see about moving up to jogging.
Using Walking as an Anxiety Treatment
Walking works, and it works well. It may not control all your anxiety producing thoughts or prevent all of your anxiety symptoms, but walking is a type of remedy that can actually make a very real difference on your ability to cope with anxiety.
When it comes to curing anxiety, you can often leverage improvements to create more improvements. If you can cut down on the severity of your anxiety symptoms you should be able to find that in the end they make a very real difference for your ability to cope with anxiety forever.
I've also helped many people that suffer from all types of anxiety cure their disorder starting with my free 7 minute anxiety test, so make sure you take the test now to learn more about your anxiety and how to reduce it.
Take the test here if you haven't yet.
Merom, Dafna, et al. Promoting walking as an adjunct intervention to group cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety disordersa pilot group randomized trial. Journal of anxiety disorders 22.6 (2008): 959-968.
Rippe, James M., et al. Walking for health and fitness. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association 259.18 (1988): 2720-2724.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.