The Science Of Blowing Off Steam: Why Exercising Is Helpful For Stress
Exercising for stress control is an option that isnt fully satisfying to many people, and often awkward for people in pain. But its still one of the most accessible and effective options, and it is firmly grounded in biology and science. Exercise is startlingly good medicine.52 Anything that can ward off dementia53 or actually help your brain recover from injury54 is probably neurologically relevant to any mood disorder as well. Which is certainly what the data suggests so far.55
But theres a more specific and fascinating reason that exercise is helpful for anxiety, which is well worth understanding:
Exercise simulates what stress is trying to prepare us for. More exactly, exercise simulates a reaction to a stressful emergency which then also triggers the relaxation and recovery mode that follows. Robert Sapolsky:
The stress-response is about preparing your body for an explosive burst of energy consumption right now psychological stress is about doing all the same things to your body for no physical reason whatsoever. Exercise finally provides your body with the outlet that it was preparing for.
Why Zebras Dont Get Ulcers, by Robert M Sapolsky, 255
This is why exercise is an effective outlet for frustration, which is well-known to measurably reduce the stress-response.
Mechanisms Of Chest Pain In Panic Disorder
Panic disorder may cause chest pain via a number of mechanisms. These include cardiac mechanisms and noncardiac mechanisms . These mechanisms may not exist independent of one another, as there is evidence to suggest that multiple causes of chest painboth cardiac and noncardiacmay be at work in any given patient with PD.
How To Overcome Anxiety And Chest Tightness
Most likely, everyone has to deal with anxiety at least a few times in their lives. Especially now in our fast-pacing world, responsibilities are becoming greater in numbers than ever before. May it be worrying about getting enough food, providing for the family, or feeling terrified before having a public speech these are all potential anxiety triggers. In fact, any state of worry, even the minor ones such as visiting a dentist, can lead to anxiety.
Here are some of the best ideas on overcoming the anxiety that will help you improve your life.
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Limit Alcohol Caffeine And Smoking
While smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol and caffeine can feel like theyre helping quell your anxiety, studies show that all three can actually make it worse.
If you dont want to quit any of them completely, take note of which you have consumed before you feel anxious to try to pinpoint which may be negatively impacting you, and limit your intake accordingly.
The Body’s Response To Stress
To understand how natural pain relief works, it’s important to understand how stress affects your body. Pain and stress have a similar effect on the body: your heart rate and blood pressure rise, breathing becomes fast and shallow, and your muscles tighten.
You can actually feel your body’s response when you’re faced with a sudden, stressful event, such as fearing that a car is about to hit you. The car misses you and, in time, your system returns to normal. You relax.
The episode causes the release of hormones like cortisol, which can help you deal with a big challenge. But if it happens too often, it can start to take a toll on your bodyâs immune system, which makes it harder for your body to fight infection and disease.
Stress can also give you that âbutterflies in the stomachâ feeling and could raise your awareness of pain, bloating, and nausea. Some people even start to vomit when they feel serious pressure. This is the effect of stress on not just the stomach, but on your digestive tract as well. It can even affect mental function and mood, in part because of special hormone receptors in your gut that are linked to your brain.
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Anxiety And Heart Attack Recovery
Anxiety disorders come with a high degree of fear and uncertainty. When this fear and certainty keeps the heart attack or heart disease patient from following the advice and treatment plan of their cardiologist, it can have a major impact on recovery. Anxiety can interfere with:
- Sticking to prescribed exercise regimens
- Taking prescribed medications
- Following through with a healthy diet
- Getting a proper amount of quality sleep
- Reconnecting with friends and family
- Confidently resuming job career and family responsibilities
How To Relieve Chest Tightness And Anxiety
But if youre certain your symptoms are from anxiety, the remedy can be deceptively simple. At the top of the list: Shifting your breathing from short, shallow breaths to longer, deeper ones, perhaps through mindfulness or meditation. That can help you get more oxygen which can calm your lungs and help your chest not feel as tight, says Dr. Gaynes.
If something specific is stressing you out, talk to yourself using some cognitive-behavioral techniques to relax. For instance, how likely is a doomsday scenario youre imagining likely to happen? Would it be the end of the world if it did? CBT can also help you unlearn anxiousness that has an outside trigger.
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Symptoms Of Anxiety Vs Cardiac Chest Pain
Its hard, if not impossible, to tell the difference between anxiety-induced chest pain and the pain caused by an underlying heart condition. In addition to your chest pain, both can cause:
- Heart palpitations
- Feeling of dread or being out of control
Everyone experiences slightly different symptoms, whether they have anxiety or a heart problem. For this reason, the following two qualities arent written in stone. However, theyre generally true and may help you determine the cause of your chest pain:
When Should I Call Triple Zero And Ask For An Ambulance
If you have any of the symptoms below, call triple zero immediately and ask for an ambulance. If calling triple zero does not work on your mobile phone, try calling 112.
- your chest pain is severe, or worsening, or has lasted longer than 10 minutes
- your chest pain feels heavy, crushing or tight
- you have other symptoms, such as breathlessness, nausea, dizziness or a cold sweat
- you also feel the pain in your jaw or down your left arm
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Get A Pet Probably A Dog They Are People Too And Those Relationships Are Never Toxic
And if you cant care for a dog yourself, seek out a therapy dog, formally or informally. Its hard to overstate the therapeutic value of pets, and dogs in particular they arent called our best friends for nothing. Dont get me wrong: I am both a cat person and a dog person, and have always had trouble relating to being limited to one or the other. I was blessed with a particularly mellow cat that came with my wife, and I miss her terribly. But even as a cat lover, I have to concede that dogs, on average, are probably the better bet for battling anxiety. They are just so freakishly positive. It is infectious. Its like being around someone who is always laughing.
I have little to add, because the basics are obvious and the details have already been particularly exhaustively explored by others: How Dogs Can Help with Mental Health. Thats a deep dive into the power of human-canine relationships there.
This is Snug. Shes the lab I grew up with & she was fantastic.
How Does Anxiety Cause Chest Pain
Anxiety is an emotional reaction that often causes your body to respond with the fight, flight, or freeze response. This response may also temporarily change how you breathe.
Most often, your fight, flight, or freeze response can lead to hyperventilation when youre breathing too quickly and this can increase chest pain.
As many as 1 in 10 people who seek medical care report hyperventilating.
Hyperventilating can cause chest pain because rapid breathing leads to lower carbon dioxide levels in your blood. When this happens, you may also feel lightheaded or tingling in your fingers and toes.
But while anxiety-induced chest pain can be uncomfortable, it isnt harmful or dangerous.
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Relieve Chest Tightness Caused By Anxiety: 5 Science
Chest pain is felt by 1216% of people¹ at some point in their life. Given that your chest holds important organs like your lungs and heart, any chest pain may indicate a serious problem, and it is important to see your doctor immediately for a diagnosis and management of your chest pain.
Regardless of the cause, experiencing chest pain can be stressful and cause feelings of anxiety. In some cases, the chest pain itself may also be caused by anxiety, specifically due to a panic attack.
Quick Read Angina Or Anxiety
- Many people go to the emergency room with chest pain that feels like a heart attack but is instead anxiety.
- Its unlikely that a young person without risk factors is having a heart attack, but you should still go to the emergency room if you experience symptoms.
Picture this: Your heart is racing. It feels like its not just beating in your chest but in your throat and neck. Its beating so hard that its impossible to think of anything else.
You feel short of breath, but short of breath doesnt quite describe it. Its more like youre smothering or choking. And when you think about it, swallowing is difficult, too.
On top of this, you are sweating and shaking uncontrollably. And you are dizzy to the point of needing to throw up.
Your chest gets tighter and tighter. You feel a sense of impending doom. Youre worried that you may be having a heart attack. What else could it be?
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Can An Anxiety Attack Really Feel That Bad
During an anxiety attack, adrenaline courses through your body. Everyone experiences the result of this adrenaline differently, but some symptoms are common, such as a racing heart, shortness of breath, tightness in your chest, dizziness, sweating, trembling, an upset stomach and a feeling like you might die.
Unfortunately, a panic attack has symptoms that closely resemble those of a heart attack, making it hard to tell the difference between the two, says cardiologist , who practices at the UW Medicine Regional Heart Center Cardiology Clinic.
Your body is preparing you to either fight off a threat or flee to safety, and thats serious stuff, she says.
Is My Chest Pain Being Caused By Anxiety Or A Heart Attack
Symptoms like chest tightness and pain, shortness of breath, and rapid heartbeat can be common symptoms of anxiety, but these symptoms also overlap with indicators of something more serious: a heart attack.
A heart attack occurs when part of your heart is not receiving enough blood, typically because an artery has become blocked.
Common symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Chest pressure and pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sense of impending doom
Evidently, many of these symptoms are also common symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks, but there are some main differences:
- Pain location: If you are experiencing anxiety or a panic attack, your chest pain will typically stay in that location. With a heart attack, however, the pain can radiate to other areas of the body, like your arms, shoulders, and back.
- What your chest pain feels like: If you are experiencing anxiety or a panic attack, the chest pain will often feel sharp and stabbing, or the discomfort may be difficult to describe. With a heart attack, the pain tends to be a squeezing feeling, feeling like there is a weight on your chest, an aching or burning sensation, and chest pressure.
Anxiety is a treatable problem, and research shows that a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication management can help reduce anxiety symptoms and help people feel better long-term.
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Can You Mistake Other Types Of Heart Palpitations For Anxiety Heart Palpitations
If heart palpitations dont go away within a few minutes or happen frequently, they may not be related to anxiety. Less commonly, heart palpitations result from a health condition or disorder, including:
- Lifestyle, including your alcohol and caffeine intake, as both can cause palpitations.
- Medical history.
Your provider may suggest a blood test to check for anemia or low potassium. Theyll also look for a thyroid problem or other health issues that could cause heart palpitations.
What Should I Do When Chest Pain Strikes
If you feel badly enough to wonder if youre having a heart attack, you should go to the emergency room.
Thats because there are no single defining characteristics that will tell you if youre having a heart attack, says, Gary Weeks, M.D., chief of cardiology at the Heart Institute at UW Medical Center – Northwest.
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The Relationship Between Anxiety And Chronic Pain
Anxiety is quite possibly the most common condition that accompanies chronic pain. Anxiety tends to go hand in hand with chronic pain. The reason is that pain is a danger signal. The function of pain is to signal danger that something is wrong in the body and requires attention. As such, pain is a warning signal that naturally leads the nervous system to respond with its corresponding alarm the fight-or-flight response.
The nervous systems response to pain neatly corresponds to its response to any other danger.
- Feelings of alarm, apprehension and distress
- Increased reactivity of the body, such as increased muscle tension, increased heart rate ad blood pressure, gastrointestinal reactivity, and the like
- Increased cognitive focus on the danger, in this case, pain, and a tendency to worry and catastrophize about it
- Avoidance behaviors, such as guarding, resting, staying home and not engaging in activities that might bring about or increase pain
In acute pain, these responses might be quite helpful. The corresponding fear allows for seeking help and guarding in order to prevent further injury. In chronic pain, they become anxiety and avoidance behaviors.
Is It Anxiety Or Something Else
Because so many things can cause chest tightness, its one of the trickiest symptoms to diagnose, says Dr. Cazabon.
One way to suspect its anxiety is to think about whats going on in your life at the moment. Is there any kind of clear stressor thats happening that might explain why youre more anxious? says Dr. Gaynes. Trouble at work or in a relationship may help explain the symptom. So may feelings of fear.
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Anxiety And The Nervous System
Anxiety is a state of the autonomic nervous system. When anxious, people are literally nervous. They are nervous in their feelings, their body, their thinking and in their behavior. As such, the nervous system is in a heightened state of alarm. The state of alarm is set off by the possibility of a dangerous thing happening.
Psychologists have dubbed this state of alarm the fight-or-flight response. It prepares people for action, for meeting the challenge of the dangerous thing that might happen. To meet these challenges, the nervous system responds with feelings of being alarmed, with physical changes that increase the capacity for action, with an increased cognitive focus on the possible danger, and avoidance behaviors.
If the danger were actually occurring, this fight-or-flight response of the nervous system would be quite helpful. It would allow for fear-based responses and escape behaviors. In the case of anxiety, the danger isnt actually happening, but simply might happen. The nervous system prepares by going into fight-or-flight nonetheless. The same responses occur, but the accompanying avoidant behaviors become less goal-directed. In fact, the avoidant behaviors associated with anxiety are in the end quite restless, unproductive and aimless.