Want an inexpensive and effective way to increase your resilience?
I think it is fair to say that we have all been through a lot the past few months. It has been a challenging year and the long term impact is only just starting to be felt as the kids return to school and we return to our workplaces (if we still have a job). All of this has a long term potential to disrupt us for months, not just for our immune system but also for our emotional and mental health.
As our stress increases our resilience starts to decrease. The good news is we can reverse this with simple, inexpensive and effective ways to lower the stress and increase our resilience. And one of these things is exercise.
Now before you all tune out and roll your eyes let me explain the science behind why we don't exercise and why we should exercise.
The majority of scientific literature finds that the experience of stress impairs efforts to be physically active. In other words, stress means we just can be bothered probably because we are not eating well and we have poor sleep habits making our energy and motivation low. In other words the more we are stressed the less likely we are to exercise.
Looking to research for the benefits, we consistently find that people report feeling calmer after a 20 to 30 minute bout of exercise and the calming effect can last several hours after you exercise. Not only that, exercise reduces the stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) and stimulates the production of endorphins, those fabulous mood elevating pain killing neurotransmitters that get a bit addictive making us want to exercise even more. Plus they make us calmer and more relaxed, ward off anxiety and feelings of depression, improve our sleep and enhance our immunity. The prefect "pill" for our current climate.
Behaviourally as we exercise and begin to feel stronger our sense of control and self confidence increases motivating us to not only continue to exercise but in our general life as well. All that extra energy helps us finish off tasks we have been procrastinating about giving us a further sense of self worth and well-being.
So whilst your head may not agree and those first steps are without a doubt the hardest, just start. Start short and small at 10 or 15 minutes daily with the aim to build up to 30 to 40 minutes of moderate exercise, or 15 to 20 minutes of vigorous exercise.
My rules for success when starting an exercise program are:
You must enjoy it - do anything - run, skip, dance, roller-skate, take the dog for a walk - anything!
You must be able to do it easily and without mental effort
You must do it without criticising yourself or comparing yourself with others
And finally. don’t want for motivation because you might be waiting for a long time and it probably won’t come! Motivation is not natural in most of us so exercise needs to be scheduled in. Better still, find a friend or commit to a team and you include a hobby, friendships and laughter in your life all of which also improve resilience and reduce stress.
Even better, exercise outside and immerse yourself in nature because 20 to 30 minutes in nature lowers our cortisol levels too - just without access to our buzzing phone and social media but that is a post for another day...