Anxiety is a mental health condition that impacts millions of people worldwide. Most of us have felt anxiety in the form of a little nervousness or apprehensiveness, but what happens when these feelings of unease devolve into a constant state of restlessness and unease? This kind of anxiety can severely affect a person’s quality of life. While there are numerous treatments out there, all with their benefits and downsides, it can be hard to figure out what’s the best method for you especially when money is involved. But even if you are unable to seek anxiety treatment from a professional, there are still methods you can implement in your own free time that will markedly improve your well-being. Exercise itself is often touted as a great method for managing symptoms and we’ll explore how, when paired with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness, one can create a multifaceted approach to managing anxiety.

Understanding Anxiety and Its Causes

 While anxiety may vary from person to person, some key characteristics make it distinct from other mental health issues. Anxiety isn’t just feeling tense about an upcoming event; it’s a persistent sensation of worry that seems to shadow every personal interaction, workplace task, and even simple quiet moments. While life and work stresses can undoubtedly induce anxiety, it could also surface due to more profound, ingrained issues or even underlying health conditions. When such a myriad of factors can stir up anxiety, the pathway to anxiety treatment needs an equally comprehensive strategy. This is where a combination of CBT, Mindfulness Therapy, and lifestyle adjustments like a sustained exercise regimen can offer a ray of hope.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a form of therapy that has shown significant success in helping those affected by anxiety. At its core, CBT focuses on helping people understand the negative thought patterns that give birth to their undesirable emotions and behaviors. Let’s paint a picture: imagine you’re faced with a challenging task that triggers thoughts like “I can’t do this,” and “I will fail.” Now, these thoughts inevitably lead to feelings of worry and distress, and your behavior subsequently mirrors this anxiety. This is where CBT shines through as a form of anxiety therapy – it encourages you to alter these negative thought patterns. By doing so, it becomes possible to replace anxieties with feelings of competence and even confidence, significantly reducing your anxiety.

The Role of Mindfulness Therapy in Dealing with Anxiety

There are several ways in which mindfulness therapy can play a significant role in helping individuals manage and reduce anxiety levels. Firstly, it promotes self-awareness by encouraging individuals to pay attention to their thoughts and emotions in a non-judgmental way. By becoming more aware of our anxious thoughts, we can begin to challenge them and understand their underlying causes. 

Furthermore, practicing mindfulness can help individuals develop a different perspective on their anxiety. Instead of allowing anxious thoughts and feelings to consume us, mindfulness teaches us to observe them as passing events in the mind, rather than an accurate reflection of reality. This shift in perspective can provide a sense of control over anxiety, reducing its impact on daily life.

Mindfulness therapy also emphasizes the importance of embracing the present moment. Anxiety often arises from dwelling on past events or worrying about the future. By focusing on the present moment, individuals can redirect their attention away from anxious thoughts and instead engage with what is happening in the present. This helps to ground individuals, reducing the power anxiety has over their thoughts and emotions.

 Additionally, mindfulness therapy teaches individuals to be more accepting of their anxious thoughts and feelings. Rather than resisting or trying to suppress anxiety, mindfulness invites us to acknowledge these thoughts and feelings with kindness and compassion. This acceptance allows individuals to develop a healthier relationship with anxiety, reducing the struggle and resistance that often exacerbate its effects.

Incorporating mindfulness techniques into daily life can also help individuals manage physiological symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid breathing or increased heart rate. Mindfulness practices, such as deep breathing exercises or body scan meditations, can help regulate these physical symptoms by promoting relaxation and calmness.

Lastly, mindfulness therapy provides individuals with tools to cultivate inner resilience and develop a greater sense of self-compassion. By practicing self-care and self-compassion through mindfulness, individuals can nurture their well-being and build a stronger foundation for coping with anxiety.

Physical Exercise and Mental Health 

Physical exercise plays a crucial role in promoting mental health and well-being. Engaging in regular physical activity has been shown to have numerous benefits for managing anxiety and improving overall mental well-being. Exercise has a profound impact on anxiety as it enhances the body’s stress response and promotes the release of endorphins, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. This combination helps create a sense of calm, reduces the perception of pain, and fosters a positive mental outlook. Studies consistently highlight exercise as a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment, providing a boost to mood and overall well-being.

One of the primary ways in which exercise positively impacts mental health is through its ability to relax the mind and reduce stress. When we engage in physical activity, our bodies release endorphins, which are natural mood-boosting chemicals. These endorphins help alleviate feelings of stress and promote a sense of calm and relaxation. Exercise also increases the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which are known to improve mood and reduce anxiety.

Regular exercise has also been found to improve sleep quality, another essential aspect of maintaining good mental health. Anxiety can often interfere with sleep, leading to a vicious cycle of increased anxiety due to lack of proper rest. However, incorporating exercise into our daily routine can help regulate our sleep patterns, making it easier to fall asleep and improving the quality of our sleep. This, in turn, can reduce anxiety symptoms and enhance overall mental well-being.

 Furthermore, physical exercise provides an outlet for pent-up energy and tension, helping to release built-up stress and anxiety. Engaging in activities such as running, swimming, or cycling allows individuals to channel their energy constructively and healthily. This outlet not only helps reduce anxiety levels but also improves overall emotional well-being.

Exercise is also known to enhance cognitive function. Regular physical activity has been shown to improve focus, attention, and concentration, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals with anxiety. By improving cognitive function, exercise can help individuals better manage anxious thoughts and maintain a clear and focused mind.

In addition to these effects, physical exercise offers a valuable opportunity for individuals to engage in self-care and self-reflection. Whether it’s going for a walk in nature, practicing yoga, or participating in a team sport, exercise provides individuals with dedicated time for themselves. This time allows for introspection, stress relief, and a break from the demands of daily life, all of which can contribute to improved mental well-being.

It is worth noting that the type and intensity of exercise can vary based on individual preferences and capabilities. Engaging in activities that are enjoyable and sustainable is key to maintaining a regular exercise routine. Whether it’s incorporating regular walks into the daily routine or joining a fitness class, finding an exercise regimen that works for each individual can greatly contribute to managing anxiety and promoting overall mental health.

There’s no one-size-fits-all exercise for anxiety management. Yoga, running, swimming, cycling, or even a simple daily walk can be effective. The key is to find and commit to an activity you enjoy regularly.

Tips to Combine Exercise, CBT, and Mindfulness for Anxiety Management

Here are some tips on how to integrate these practices into your daily routine:

  1. Start your day with exercise: Begin your day with a quick run, a yoga session, or any form of physical activity that you enjoy. Exercise helps release endorphins and sets a positive tone for the rest of the day.
  1. Follow exercise with mindfulness practice: After your workout, take a few minutes to engage in a mindfulness meditation session. Focus on your breath and observe your thoughts and sensations without judgment. This practice can help ground you in the present moment and reduce anxiety.
  1. Attend CBT sessions: Consider seeking the guidance of a certified therapist who specializes in CBT. CBT sessions can help you explore the underlying causes of your anxiety and develop effective coping strategies. Your therapist can also help you integrate exercise and mindfulness into your overall anxiety management plan.
  1. Create a schedule: Incorporate regular exercise, mindfulness, and CBT sessions into your weekly schedule. Consistency is key when it comes to managing anxiety. Set aside dedicated time for each practice to ensure you prioritize your mental well-being.
  1. Practice mindfulness during exercise: As you engage in physical activity, bring mindfulness into the present moment. Pay attention to your body’s sensations, observe your surroundings, and be fully present in the activity. This can help enhance the benefits of both exercise and mindfulness.

The Takeaway

Exercise can be a powerful tool for managing the symptoms of anxiety, but it’s not a total cure. I understand that everyone’s anxiety management plan may look different, and tailor my approach to suit your individual needs. Whether you’re new to exercise, mindfulness, or CBT, I will guide you through the process, helping you integrate these practices into your life effectively.

Remember, the path toward overcoming anxiety is a journey, not a race. It’s important to start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can. If you need help figuring out where to begin, fill out the form below for a free 20-minute consultation.


Go Mindful Counseling

Go Mindful Counseling offers compassionate and effective phone therapy and online therapy for anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, anger, stress, insomnia, and addictive behaviors (see the website for the full list of treatment options).  We provide cognitive behavioral therapy through in-person sessions, online video conferencing, and phone. Click below to schedule a free 20-minute consultation.

Margie Ahern
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