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Exercise control: A worrier’s guide to anxiety, stress relief

Is controlling your anxiety starting to get on your nerves? Not to worry, I have remedy that requires no prescriptions or visits to your doctor: exercise.

Is controlling your anxiety starting to get on your nerves? Not to worry, I have remedy that requires no prescriptions or visits to your doctor: exercise.

I am a self-diagnosed germaphobe with a history of hypochondria. There was a time when anxiety had me on the VIP list at the college infirmary. All the doctors and nurses knew me by name, I never had to wait in line and my favorite lollipop flavor was waiting by the check-out counter. I was the P. Diddy of the medical center. It wasn't until my final visit, caused by finding a "suspicious" bump on the back of my neck (it was a bone of my spine), that I realized my stress and anxiety were taking over my life. It was at this point that I decided to experiment with daily exercise as a cure for my anxiety. Why you ask? Well, I figured if I can run at a steady pace for five miles, I must not be dying - not yet, at least. Today, I am relieved to say, I have not suffered from psychosomatic symptoms since. Here are a few of my favorite stress relief techniques (Note: I am not a doctor, this is purely experienced-based):

Roll with the punches. Boxing is a real hit when it comes to reducing tension. Nothing rids the brain of stress quite like whaling on a punching bag. Furthermore, this exercise is a total calorie-killer. While anyone can throw a fist, it is important for a boxing novice to practice proper form. I remember the first time I decided to channel my inner Rocky; I threw a wild, pretty pathetic punch at a bag, almost destroying all the bones in my wrist. Luckily, most gyms offer personal trainers or boxing classes that can instruct you on the correct way to hold your hand, angle your body and support your wrist when unleashing your fists of fury.

Run the show. Running changed my life. If your mind is overwhelmed and a brain cell away from melting out of your ear, then I challenge you to run. If you do not feel better post-run, you can throw your sweaty socks at me. A common fear of hypochondriacs is sickness and death. But if you can run at a decent pace for an extended period of time, chances are you are in fine health. Cardio exercises are the best medicine for the mind and body. Stress and anxiety can cause the body to hyperventilate, resulting in dizziness, chest pain and shortness of breath. The brain is not receiving a healthy dose of oxygen, which causes these symptoms. Running regulates your breathing pattern, allowing ample oxygen to flow from your nose, into your lungs and bloodstream, nourishing your muscles, organs and brain.

Stretch away stress. Tension headaches (or as my late great grandmother referred to as undiagnosed brain tumors) are a common symptom of stress. A leading cause of these headaches is tightened Trapezius muscles (the muscles responsible for scrunching your shoulders up to your ears). Take a moment to focus on your current posture. Practice stretching your neck by tilting your head from side-to-side. Hold for twenty-to-thirty seconds, and then do the same for the alternate side. Additionally, look up to the ceiling and down to your feet. I am amazed by how many of my clients lack neck mobility. My favorite exercise for relieving muscle tension is tightening your muscles, holding for thirty seconds and then slowly releasing. Start with your hands and work your way down to your feet.

If you suffer from symptoms of stress, anxiety or a panic disorder, it's time to exercise control over your body. Be a warrior, not a worrier.

Earn it.

* If your anxiety and stress is becoming difficult to manage, please seek professional help. You are amazing, and you are not alone.

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.