It’s 10:30 in the morning and you’re still stuck in traffic. Your boss gave you a warning just the other day. Upon reaching the office, you evade your boss only to find work piled up on your desk.
Your rent’s due and you can’t deal with your landlord’s incessant calls and texts. The only thing you want to do now is to go home, lounge on your recliner and crack open a cold one. But until then, you have to deal with everything that’s not going right.
It feels like the only time you are at peace is when you’re combatting your stress with a smoke or a drink, or binge eating or watching a show, or all of them. The only time you’re at peace is when you’re away from all your responsibilities.
From the time we wake up, we are constantly stressing about a multitude of things. But are we coping with them in a healthy way? Binge-eating and smoking your stress away might take the edge off, but it’s all bound to hit you hard the next day when you’re stuck in traffic again.
How do you regulate your stress levels in a way that doesn’t add up and bite you back in the (near) future? How do you wake up feeling fresh, be at the office with a calm mind, enjoy your time there, and excel at everything else you do?
The minute I’d reach my office, I’d be looking forward to my smoke breaks. My sleep-deprived eyes would always be on my watch, hoping time goes by quickly so I can go home and crash.
However, ever since the public basketball court opened next to my house, I’ve been going there most evenings, just to shoot some hoops; I wanted to revisit my school days when I was always looking forward to the PT periods.
But a few weeks into regular playing, I realised that I was sleeping better, working better and not relying on my usual stress-busters as I did – I wasn’t even stressing out so much to begin with!
Is playing a sport the answer to relieving all your stress?
The Science of Exercise and Stress
I’ve read and been told several times that exercise is a great way to beat stress. But the last thing I wanted to do after a long day was to work out. How does physically exerting an already tired body help one feel better?
To understand the relationship between stress and exercise, we have to understand what stress means. It is defined as a state of mental tension that arises from demanding situations.
Stress can have several physical effects on the body, including headache, nausea and even upset stomach. Studies indicate that 75%-90% of doctor visits are for stress-related illnesses. But what causes it?
Causes of Stress
Some of the most common causes of stress include financial problems, job stability and relationships. For me, it has always been my responsibilities. Every time I thought about the umpteen things I had to do, I’d distract myself with mindless scrolling on Instagram or try to fall asleep.
Other common reasons for stress include:
- Health problems
- Personal safety
- Familial responsibilities
- The Economy
- Housing Costs
People who already struggle with anxiety have it worse; the amount of problems becomes too overwhelming to handle.
In situations like these, it is imperative that you take some time to cool off. Taking your mind off will give you a fresh perspective on the problems at hand. This leaves you with a better mental state to handle them.
But getting a drink or a smoke is definitely not something you’d want to rely on a daily basis, as all health experts say. The problem is, we always want something instant. But instant gratification doesn’t lead to any substantial changes for the future.
However, a good game with your friends, be it basketball or badminton, will leave you feeling better than you did before. Is this the fastest, healthiest way to cope with stress?
How Do Sports Help Cope With Stress?
Playing a sport that demands a lot of energy is a form of releasing physical stress; it stretches your muscles and helps your body breathe more efficiently. With regular exercise, the bloodstreams are able to carry more oxygen to the heart, lungs and muscles.
The endorphins produced during physical exertion are responsible for you feeling good after a workout or a game; they help in reducing high levels of adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body.
Working out helps you burn these hormones and regulate its level in the long run. This in turn improves your sleep cycle.
But if going to the gym can do all this, why play a sport?
Going to the gym, though beneficial for the body, doesn’t solve some of the problems. Studies show that people who exercise alone or play individual sports do not see much improvement with their mental health or stress as opposed to the ones who engage in team sports.
This is mainly because the ones who go to the gym are not necessarily doing it for stress management; the reason could vary from keeping fit to losing weight, all of which could’ve possibly risen from a state of worry about themselves.
The primary objective when people play sports with friends is never to tone their muscles or get rock hard abs, but to have fun; they use this time to take a break from all their responsibilities and simply have a good time.
This reason alone makes playing a sport something you’d carry on doing as opposed to hitting the gym which most people stop continuing.
Apart from this, playing with a group requires you to socialize and adapt, helping you hone your prowess in both of these skills. You are also posed with a set of rules to follow. This parameter, coupled with the different qualities of people improves your cognitive thinking skills.
Most people deal with extreme stress by resorting to over-the-counter medicines or recreational intoxicants. However, engaging in sports can help you combat both physical and mental stress your body endures on a daily basis.
Your attention span, judgement, logic and reasoning, all improve as a result. With these skills sharpened, you will feel more confident in facing the hurdles and devising solutions for the same.
The reduction in the cortisol and adrenaline levels also help you feel more relaxed in demanding circumstances. And the icing on the cake – you’ll look and feel better.
What more reasons do you need? Book the nearest venue and bust that stress away!