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How to use movement to manage anxiety and overwhelm and improve self esteem and body image.

Updated: Apr 6

Therapy. Therapist. Life coach . Mental health service

I want to talk about how being active and proactive are useful strategies for your wellbeing toolkit.

We've all heard how important exercise is for our physical bodies and that when we exercise we produce endorphins that help us feel happier, but movement can actually be used in a more applied way to help us manage anxiety, low self esteem, overwhelm and body image.

Let's take these one at a time.

When we feel anxious, the thoughts come from us living in the future. We're focused on what might happen, what someone might say or what might not work out the way we want it to.

This worry if not addressed becomes stress and when we get stressed, adrenaline is produced so that we can either run away or fight. When a lot of adrenaline is being produced our body begins to shut down processes that it doesn't think it will need in order to conserve energy. These processes include reproduction and problem solving.

The issue with our problem solving capabilities working less efficiently is that we find it harder to rationalise our thoughts and feelings and bring ourselves back to the present moment where we can regain some balance.

Getting up and walking from one room to the next or taking a walk in nature can help us to force our brains to stop dwelling on our unhelpful thoughts and slow down or stop the excessive production of adrenaline.

We can then think clearer and start to manage our own thoughts.

Low self esteem and low body image can often go hand in hand but even as separate triggers, they can be managed effectively through being active.

To build self esteem we need to foster a recognition and appreciation of our own abilities and to boost our body image, we need to learn how to appreciate, respect and love our body for what it gives us and what it is capable of.

Using activities that start slowly and gently but give us the opportunity to build strength, agility and flexibility with a route to progression can be very helpful here.

For example, walking slowly is an ideal way to start to become more active (it also creates some space in the brain for us to be able to be able to make sense of our thoughts and feelings.)

It will strengthen and tone muscle, boost heart function, keep joints mobile and manage weight. It can even be combined with jobs to help us to manage our time effectively.

We can then over time, maybe walk a little faster or choose a less flat route to build progress. We could then move into fast walking or jogging if that was something that we were interested in. This all contributes to a general state of wellbeing and if we choose to mindfully notice the way our body is moving, the muscles it is using and the way it is supporting us, we can start to foster appreciation for it as we begin the work alongside the exercise to change our beliefs and how we identify with our body.

As we become more comfortable with this activity the idea of maybe adding a swim or moving into yoga or pirates doesn't seem so alien, tai chi or Qi qong may appeal and these have the added bonus of helping us to slow down our mind as we exercise our body and this can help us to manage overwhelm.

The added bonus of movement is that it also produces these lovely endorphins as I mentioned earlier and this help us to feel good about ourselves, raise our vibration and lighten our mood.

Should we want to work further on managing our mindset, we can use activity or exercise to help us to move outside of our comfort zone which will help us to build resilience, become more confident, foster an appreciation of our body and help us to quieten the constant chatter in our brain which will enable us to see where we might have taken on too much, need to learn how to self regulate, set and reinforce effective boundaries, delegate or manage our time more effectively to manage overwhelm.

The more comfortable we become with the activity, the more confident we are, the more confidence we have the more we believe in our ability to cope which is all resilience essentially means, the more willing we become to try different things.

This is the jackpot for our wellbeing as it means that we are now ready to start moving out of our comfort zone and when we do this, our confidence, resilience, self esteem and coping skills all improve exponentially and we can really start to take control of our mindset, our health and wellbeing and ultimately how we want to show up in the world and live our life.

Being proactive is also an enormously useful tool for managing wellbeing.

We tend to feel overwhelmed because there seems to be too much to do or deal with and this may be an accurate representation of our life in which case the only thing that we can do is proactively manage it.

Proactive means to create or control a situation. To apply this to our life means that we become mindful of how we are feeling and what might have triggered those emotions. We can then calmly and logically begin to problem solve and search for acceptable solutions.

Now maybe this looks like asking for help- somethings lots of us aren't very good at but maybe this is an area that we can work on.

Maybe it is always assumed that we are happy to do something and we need to learn how to start setting boundaries and politely and non confrontationally learning how to say no.

Maybe we need to look at our time management or find labour saving solutions to help us to complete the tasks.

It might be that we could do something as simple as learn how to use the technology that we can access in our phones to help us plan, make lists, find information or plan our diaries.

One of the biggest causes of anxiety and overwhelm is not dealing with things as they arise. Constantly putting things off because they're difficult or boring or unpleasant only brings about more issues and ultimately they need to be done so it's better for our wellbeing to deal with them promptly and if we are struggling with them, to ask someone else to help.

Asking for help is not failure, it is managing the resources around us effectively, so that we create the best environment for success and as long as that help and support is reciprocated when other people ask for help then we have balance and contrary to being needy we are actually empowering each other through self awareness and self regulation.

Another way of being proactive to manage our wellbeing is to look at what we want to achieve in a day, a week ,a month or year or whatever and break it down into small manageable chunks so that we have the beat chance of achieving it which will improve our confidence and self esteem and it will be manageable which can help to reduce our feelings of anxiety and overwhelm.

I hope this has been a helpful guide to how being active and pro active are fabulous strategies to have in your wellbeing toolkit.

If you would like to know more, please get in touch.



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