Race after time, grueling transport, pressure at work, exhausting pace of life and lack of sleep, we are subjected to all kinds of stress. Getting into a sport is a healthy way to deal with this constant pressure. Are all sports beneficial? What activity can effectively relieve stress?
We had already spoken about it in a previous article. Physical activity helps to overcome the effects of stress by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) levels. In return, it stimulates the production of the famous endorphins, the hormones of well-being, which explain the state of post-workout euphoria and dopamine, which intervenes in the reward circuit. Taking time to practice a sport is also an opportunity for the brain to switch to “off” mode for a few moments by allowing it to focus only on what it is doing. This promotes anchoring in the present moment as well as distance from past ruminations and future projections.
Activities that let off steam or that channel?
Some people will tend to choose activities that let off steam as an outlet, while others will turn to gentler practices. Stressed and sensitive by nature, Lucile Dugal, is a young entrepreneur who founded Porridge Lab and discovered yoga a year ago. “This is how I learned to manage my stress. When your passion (editor’s note: cooking) turns out to be your job, you constantly think about it. I managed to set up an evening and morning routine to help me channel my energy. This allowed me to approach daily life with more serenity ”. If Lucile was more of the “let off steam” team with a practice of fitness and trail running, she aspires, today at 30, to activities more in line with his lifestyle and which help him to manage his mind. “Three years ago, I practiced yoga thanks to videos on YouTube, this ritual has become daily. Yoga allows me to move and stretch my body in order to be more alert and productive before starting the day, but also to work on breathing to manage my stress ”. Cecile Espinasse intensely practiced cardio activities such as indoor cycling. A freelance writer, she also turned to yoga and meditation to relieve the tensions of the day and the pressure of the freelance. “The sagging can even be seen on my face. After a day of stress, my features are drawn. I go to yoga and it’s magic! My body and mind come out totally relaxed ”.
Choosing the right activity according to your personality
If explosive people often turn to activities that let off steam such as boxing or cross-training, this type of practice can help maintain tension. A channeling practice based on endurance or gesture control may be more interesting: Nordic walking, golf, Pilates or yoga (there are dynamic practices for the most hyperactive afraid of calm). Trail-type nature runs or mountain biking are a good compromise between endurance and technique.
Calm people or introverted people will be able to orient themselves towards outlet practices, which require communication (such as team sports) or even concentration. Monotonous cardio such as running, swimming or indoor cardio training should be avoided to avoid offering the mind the opportunity to ruminate on its problems. However, it remains interesting to practice this type of activity by varying the rhythms for example. In all cases, the practice of any activity brings general well-being and reduces stress.
A moment of disconnection
To take advantage of all the benefits of your sport, switch off! No way to answer an email, text or call in the middle of your running or Pilates training. In addition, we will favor an outdoor practice to drive away stress and anxiety. In 2008, researchers from the University of Glasgow demonstrated that people who exercise outdoors were happier than those who exercise in the gym. “People’s mental health improved by around 50% when they were physically active in a natural environment, compared to those who were not. […] being in areas where there are a lot of trees and grass helps calm us down, ”said study director Prof. Mitchell.
Sport should not be a new source of anxiety or tension. We avoid putting pressure on ourselves to achieve a goal or enter a competition if we are not ready physically and mentally. For Guillaume Siber, physical and mental trainer, “it is preferable to put oneself in training routines to gradually reach your goal”. So beware of the too tempting training program with false promises of “guaranteed results in 21 days”. On the contrary, “allow yourself at least 3 months to reach your goal so that it does not become a burden if you cannot meet it” recalls the expert. “Throwing yourself into personal challenges simply means testing yourself: it means getting out of your comfort zone. It comes down to modifying one’s behavior, habits and routine for a given result ”. We also set positive goals because “excess or even bigorexia (dependence on physical activity) is only a dangerous filter, which can just hide this stress…” underlines our physical trainer.
Sports but also breathing exercises
Guillaume Siber recommends practicing both activities that let off steam (running, boxing, cross-training, cycling, swimming) and well-being activities (Yoga, stretching, tai chi). Also a hypnotherapist, above all, he advises practices that refocus and realign the body and mind like Yoga, Pilates or the postural gym.
These well-being activities strengthen the body in depth and relax the muscles and remove the tensions of the day. Also, they work on breathing: “it develops the rib cage, improves our breath, promotes better stress management, and helps eliminate toxins from our body”.
Stress is the body’s psychological and physical reaction to a difficult situation that requires adaptation. “We can therefore create it automatically or regulate it, for example with hypnosis in mental preparation, or in breathing and mindfulness exercises such as yoga,” explains our expert Guillaume Siber. “When we are anxious or stressed, we do not always realize that we are breathing more jerky.” Performing breathing exercises increases the amount of oxygen in the brain, slows the heart rate, and relaxes certain muscles.
And in practice
You can perform breathing exercises in yoga, relaxation therapy, hypnosis or cardiac coherence. The latter is a stress and emotional management practice that relies on controlling one’s breathing. Simple, this technique can be practiced alone without the help of a therapist: 5 minutes of rhythmic breathing with 6 respiratory cycles (inspiration / expiration) per minute or so to regulate the nervous system. Revealed in France by the Dr David Servan-Schreiber, it has many therapeutic effects: stress and anxiety management, better sleep, regulation of blood pressure, improvement of learning, concentration and decision-making.
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