Treat Anxiety like a Workout

I recently discovered my gym’s VersaClimber classes. Within 5 minutes, I feel like I’m climbing Mount Everest without oxygen in the middle of summer, with no end in sight. A 30-minute class can feel like hours. Today, as beads of sweat tricked down my face, I asked myself, “why am I subjecting myself to this?”

Several reasons came to me pretty quickly: I want a quick but efficient cardio workout, it doesn’t hurt my foot, it’s a great stress reliever, it helps keep me in shape, and the music is amazing. Plus, I actually enjoy physical challenges.

In broader terms, I endure the discomfort class after class, because it serves a bigger purpose—health, well-being, and possibly a tighter tush.

It also occurred to me that we humans (especially women) are willing to endure lots of things that are super uncomfortable or time-consuming, because what’s on the other side means enough to us. Think waxing, getting our hair colored — which can take HOURS — eating better, cosmetic procedures, just to name a few. I’m sure you have some things coming to your mind right now.

Now, what if we applied that same mindset when we’re experiencing anxiety? Are you willing to be uncomfortable AND continue to do what’s important to you?

If you read my blogs, you know that the goal cannot be to eliminate anxiety — resisting or fighting it will likely make it persist and grow. Our goal is to become more willing to feel anxious and uncomfortable and continue on with life, because you are moving toward something you care about. That something may be strengthening your recovery, going on dates, getting a better job, or being more present in your relationships.

When I go to my class, I expect it to be hard work, and I make the conscious choice to be uncomfortable, because I want the benefits. When I’m feeling anxious and want to avoid doing something, I consciously choose to do the opposite of what my anxiety wants. I try to keep in mind that my discomfort rarely lasts as long as my VersaClimber class. I connect with why doing this is important (longer term focus) and how I might stay out of my head during the experience.

To get the maximum results from my class, I also have to commit to changing my behavior between climbing sessions and vary up my workouts. The same mindset is beneficial when you want to shift your relationship with anxiety or make any kind of behavior change.

After all, does your OCD/anxiety/worry ever rest?

If you’re someone who is in therapy, “working on your anxiety,” or any other kind of behavior change, I encourage you to ask yourself, “am I approaching this as diligently as I approach my [fill in the blank…]?”

If not, why not?

As I climb off my VersaClimber, my endorphins flowing, I can say without a doubt that this feeling was worth every uncomfortable step.