Overcoming Anxiety With Martial Arts

There are many benefits to martial arts. It all depends on what you are looking for and what you use to get out of it. Here is an article Mr. Rose wrote for a magazine article a handful of years ago about depression/anxiety, and martial arts!

Anxiety – Depression – & Martial Arts

It has been known scientifically for a long time how exercise affects the brain physically in positive ways. Yet there are still many people out there who do not know. Dopamine is a chemical used in the brain as a neurotransmitter, or messenger, from nerve cells to other nerve cells that helps to reward the brains “pleasure” centers as well as regulating movement and emotional response.

Often, people who are easily addicted to substances or who feel an overabundance of anxiety or depression tend to have less of this chemical being used by the brain than is normal. It is common for all of us to feel nervous, anxious, or even depressed sometimes. It is part of being alive and a healthy response to external forces for survival instincts.

When our bodies start to have this response from internal forces, or in a way that holds on to those responses for a long period of time, severe problems can often occur. Trapping ourselves in a loop that leads to our bodies and brains to beginning to use and make less dopamine until we become anxious or depressed almost constantly or find ourselves feeling that way with no reason to be. 

The world has changed, and so have the type of threats that bring about these responses.

Often times there is little that can be done in the moments that the response is triggered. Resolutions to problems that seem like issues of survival are often not things that happen in a short frame of time. Leaving the body to start attempting to stay in these heightened states of anxiety for longer periods.

This can often lead to looking for external ways to cope with these heavy emotions.

Essentially what makes many illegal and harmful drugs so completely addictive to a person is how it effects the use and amount of dopamine in the brain. These drugs usually increase it greatly making a person feel good. However these have very harmful side effects on other parts of the body, some permanent, and some even deadly.

This same effect can be achieved without harmful drugs, chemicals, or bad side effects, simply by exercise. As the body moves and pushes to muscles and the mind, the levels of dopamine in your brain increase; the harder the workout, the higher the level of dopamine in the brain for many hours afterward. This gives what some describe as a post workout “adrenaline rush” shortly after finishing exercise, overdoing it for an extremely long period of time can cause this rush to become what some call workout euphoria though. Leaving you feeling great for the next day or two however making it very difficult to sleep and leaving you full of focus and energy, to avoid this just be sure that if you have a heavy workout, to do no more than an hour at a time and allow your body to recover.

At other times it is common for a person to have a great sense of calm and accomplishment within an hour after finishing a heavy workout. One added physical reward for working out other than just being healthy and building muscle and cardiovascular strength!

Mindset can also play a huge factor in your ability to control your anxieties

Science of how fitness can make you feel good aside. Fitness in Martial Arts also comes with a stepladder of achievements of all kinds. These achievements giving to body and mind goals to achieve. Once achieved, that in itself is a great factor in increasing self-esteem as well as confidence. Many Martial Arts schools focus on making sure that their school is filled with respectful and thoughtful students.

The kind of people who will help you to feel encouraged and like you belong regardless of skill level or age. This creates a very positive encouraging environment. Creating a great place to spend time if we find ourselves struggling with anxiety and depression. If you find yourself not wanting to go anywhere, do anything, or be around anybody; often that is the time you need to have that place you can go and feel like you are safe and belong. Slowly and through achievements you will begin to carry that self esteem and positive energy of the people you surround yourself with. This is one of the reasons we love our student’s so much!

My secret to controlling my anxiety

It really helps generate a mindset that begins to see challenges and obstacles as something exciting. Rather than seeing challenges as something to be ran away from. It took quite some time, but over the course of a year I was able to begin convincing myself that my anxiety was just excitement at an opportunity through challenge. This became a habit until many times my anxiety would begin to rise, with it would also be a response of excitement.

Through keeping an excited mindset when it comes to challenges, you can also find it easier to keep your confidence up. With that rise in confidence and self esteem through consistently being in an encouraging environment can change of how you look at obstacles. It becomes far easier to manage anxieties!

CAUTION! Positive attitudes are infectious!

That doesn’t mean its not difficult to step onto a Martial Arts mat or exercise facility for the first time. Especially if you suffer with the type of anxiety I am talking about! I still have to argue with myself about going in stores or dealing with customer service! If you can find something in you to help you get over that first hump, just go in and try a class. You might find it life changing like hundreds of others have who have walked through our doors! If it helps bring a friend! Lots of programs like ours also offer first class free, so you can see what its about and meet the people around the school to see for yourself!

Written by: Cory Rose

Peaceful Warriors MA/Yoga/5th Day Kids Camp