At one point while in school, I felt so overwhelmed and anxious in light of everything I needed to get done (¿sound familiar?) that I took an amigo's advice and met with a counselor.
Her first question: have you been exercising regularly?
¿Why was this psychologist talking to me about fitness?
May is Mental Health Month and we can significantly improve our mental wellness with exercise which is proven to reduce stress and anxiety by releasing feel-good endorphins, improving your body-image, and providing a platform to set and achieve goals.
When I'm in a slump, these fitness activities increase my mood along with my heart rate:
5 Fitness Activities to Boost your Mood
- Go for a run: Push yourself to run faster or farther than you normally would and benefit from the sense of accomplishment as well as the cardio. I share ways I get motivated to run in Fitness: 45 Minute Run to the Mailbox.
- Get social with team sports or group fitness: Social contact is important to your wellness. Organized sports and group fitness classes provide structured interactions without the stresses of maintaining conversation.
- Take a walk with a friend: Simply talking about your problems can relieve pressure. Set a date to stroll with a pal, letting the movement and the conversation lift your spirits.
- Breathe deeply with yoga: Getting more oxygen to your brain decreases anxiety. Take a Hatha class which I describe in Fitness: Slow Down and Focus with Hatha Yoga, try these restorative poses at home, or just sit still and meditate.
- Dance: Music and movement are a powerful stress-busting combination. A fast-paced class like Masala Bhangra,which I describe in Fitness: Why Work Out When You Can Dance?, will put a smile on your face.
Enhance the feel-good power of any ejercicio by taking it outside. Just 5 minutes in green space can improve your self-esteem, as I explain in Fitness: 3 Reasons to Exercise Outside.
If you or someone you love is struggling with mental illness beyond anxiety, consult a health care professional. According to the American Psychiatric Association, Latinos suffering from mental illness often go without professional treatment for a variety of reasons:
- lack of insurance,
- language barriers,
- or cultural stigmas.
Many feel that mental illness is not a "real" disease or are ashamed to admit they are having mental health issues for fear of being labeled as loco.
Mental well-being is an important part of your health and there is no shame in seeking help.
Pledge to be proactive about mental health by adopting routines that keep stress levels low such as:
- regular exercise,
- getting plenty of sleep,
- maintaining healthy relationships,
- working on creative projects,
- and eating a nutritious, balanced diet.
You can't control what life throws at you, but you can control how you react. When you feel stress creeping up, get moving--it will keep you looking and feeling your best.
¿Need workout inspiration? Click here to read more of my fitness suggestions.
A teacher by day, The Wise Latina Club’s Natalie Wagner Fierro is the co-founder of the Institute for Student Health. She equally loves food (cooking or dining in Washington’s restaurants) and burning calories by distance running, practicing yoga, and archery. Click here to read more about and connect with Natalie.What are your favorite workouts to relieve stress?