The stress of exercise. 

**Guest blog from Joanne Dowds MISCP**

I can go from happy to harpy in less than 10 seconds at the best of times but when stressed best of luck to anyone I encounter. The last time I was properly strung out was a few years ago, renovating a house in a recession can do that to you, but I had been managing but family illness, friends death and some work issues combined to make a truly torturous autumn 2014. Being true to form I ignored all of it until the short term measures of wine, sugar, shopping (window -as I was truly skint) stopped taking my mind of my problems, I had stopped attending yoga classes –deeming it an unnecessary expense, while I retained a gym membership, I used the shower more than the exercise equipment. Self care went out the window along with my exercise regime. When I say self care I mean things I do for myself to care for myself, things I enjoy including cooking my own food thus ensuring Im eating well. Looking back with a finished and mostly furnished house I can only really appreciate how difficult I found the process. It was possibly the most stressful thing I have every undertaken. Don’t tell my bank but I’m not good with money. 

Maybe it’s because I’m from the north but my go to emotion when stressed is anger. The hulk has nothing on me when enraged. In the same week in that particular period I blasted the ears of some poor guy on the phone who’s mates were trying to mess with him, told a guy in the gym to **** off when he offered to help, my lack of enthusiasm for the seated row was probably very obvious. It does not make me proud as my general life philosophy is to try not to be a bitch. So while I have no idea who the lad on the phone was– no surprise that he wouldn’t tell the crazy chick his name, I did subsequently apologise to the gym guy. It was horrendously embarrassing but I felt better.  


Stress can grow from many sources, money worries, family issues, exams, relationships, work. Sometimes it’s a single dramatic event, sometimes is a multiple tiny cuts that build to a bigger wound. Stress has short and long term negative effects on the body, it can cause muscle pains, stomach upsets, headaches, nausea, dizziness, speed the development of chronic diseases, the list can go on.

 There are lots of recommendations for coping with stress- self care, avoiding sugar, alcohol, sharing thoughts and talking to loved ones. Exercise is one of the primary mechanisms recommended for dealing with stress; the exact mechanism of how it works is unknown, but it is thought that by learning to cope with the physical stress caused by exercise, allows the body to practice coping better, allowing body systems trial runs at communicating better together.

The body adapting to cope makes sense to me but I also think of the Viktor Frankel quote

‘in the space between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom’.

Identifying that space is a feature of meditation and mindfulness practices but how I think exercise helps me is it helps give me more time in that space, more time to decide how to act, rather than just react when my bitch button is being pushed. I will never be renovating a house again, but the next time, and there is always a next time, I feel stressed I will do my very best to ensure that I stick with some form of exercise to keep the rage at bay. For myself and those around me and to the guy on the phone…sorry!


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