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Trauma, such as enduring and surviving domestic violence, inevitably comes along with a hefty dose of stress, which can leave you feeling anxious, tired and distracted, and can lead to insomnia, headaches and other less-than-pleasant side effects. Fortunately, integrating any sort of exercise into your daily routine—from running laps to doing 20 minutes of yoga—will force your stress levels to take a noticeable drop.
According to the American Council on Exercise, it’s widely believed that neurotransmitters, chemicals produced in the brain that regulate our moods, are stimulated during exercise. One workout can generate 90 to 120 minutes of relaxation response because of these neurotransmitters. Post-workout, you can enjoy a more relaxed state-of-mind. Overall, working out regularly will help you lower your risk for depression.
Luckily, when doctors say that any exercise can give you these stress-busting benefits, they really mean any. You don’t have to be a power-lifter or pro-athlete to get started. But, in case you’re looking for a challenge, below, we listed five exercise examples to start you down a stress-lowering path, listed in order from easiest to most sweat-inducing.
- Tai Chi. Think more meditation than workout, tai chi is a series of flowing movements and breathing techniques that can calm the mind and body. Studies show it can help lower blood pressure and boost the immune system to boot. Get started with this video on tai chi from the Department of Health and Human Services.
- Mini Workouts. Find four, 10-minute periods a day for mini workouts. This will be as beneficial as one, 40-minute workout session. Try taking a walk around the block, doing squats while dinner’s on the stove or taking your kids on a bike ride.
- Strike a Pose. Yoga is well known for its stress relief benefits. You can sign up for a class, but yoga can also easily be done at home. Watch this video from the Mayo Clinic that demonstrates a few simple poses to get started with.
- Circuit Training. This workout alternates weight-training with cardio, giving you short rest breaks in between. The sessions are often intense, but quick. You can find some free sample workouts here.
- Couch to 5K. Always wanted to run in a 5K but didn’t know where to start? This program will get you confidently at that starting line in just 9 weeks. The free program, which consists of a three-workout-a-day-plan, can be found online here.
As always, if you are currently with an abusive partner, your safety is top priority. If any of the above activities will put you at increased risk of danger, avoid them until you can establish a safe escape. If you need help, you can speak to an advocate with The National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 by calling 800-799-SAFE.
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