Fight Stress and Exhaustion >> How Sports Can Help
All of a sudden you feel it: you just want to curl up in a ball. It comes over us like a wave, we feel helpless and alone. Exhaustion is setting in, and – worst case scenario – it can turn into burnout.
We’ve all been in situations like this, where we wonder: could I have noticed earlier before it got this bad? What could I have done to address this exhaustion before it overwhelmed me? How can I cope with especially stressful days?
Experts agree that exercise is the key to success. Those who work out regularly reduce their stress, improve their mood, and enhance their mental health.
Where does stress come from?
Stress at work, in the family, or in your free time – there are plenty of reasons why the body and mind react to stress. Since every person is different, stressors are perceived differently. That’s why some situations might be a threat for some people, while others consider them positive stress or “eustress” that pushes them to a higher performance level.
In the prefrontal cortex…
…information that we take in is sorted, evaluated, and processed. When the brain is confronted with too much information, it is unable to process it. This leads to a sense of being overwhelmed. (1)
When stress occurs frequently or constantly but the body is unable to manage it, it is felt as something negative; stress hormones are released (adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol), which make the body more efficient for a short time. It is preparing for fight or flight (just like our predecessors had to flee from wild animals). We want to survive, and this means running away in dangerous situations.
Exercise for stress reduction
Physical exertion and sports…
…are controlled by the motor cortex in our brains. This takes resources away from the prefrontal cortex, which then reduces stress.
Which sport should you do regularly to clear your head?
This is where opinions diverge:
- Many experts recommend running, because it is one of the first skills that we learn. The important thing here is to stay in the aerobic range (your breathing speeds up, but you aren’t out of breath), in order to avoid putting too much strain on your body.
- In addition to endurance sports, regular walks can help reduce stress.
- Yoga is another effective way to clear your head. By concentrating on your breathing, you enter a meditative state.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 2.5 hours of exercise per week.
It’s important that you have a positive association with the sport you choose; you should enjoy doing it. There are no advantages to choosing a sport or training plan that just creates more stress, because you are too competitive or push yourself too hard. The key is to find out what is right for you. Your friend might run 10 km to relax – but that doesn’t mean this is what your body needs.