How To Maximize The Benefits Of Anxiety And Fear By (Safely) Stressing Yourself Out


The therapeutic and medical benefits of exercise are important to your health. The enhancing benefits of exercise are essential to your life. Therapy is, by definition, a treatment for a specific physical or mental disorder.



Enhancement is all of the ways we improve the quality of our life in the absence of a disorder. Therapy is a healing process that restores physical or mental well-being. Enhancement is a wholeness process; it strengthens the whole of our life — physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially.



Therapy is administered by a medical doctor, therapist, or some other healer. Enhancement is self-administered by each of us. As therapy/medicine, exercise is often prescribed to prevent future disease.



Enhancement exercise is about feeling whole and alive, here and now. Enhancement is the expression of your ability to initiate activities that make life worth living, and thus, it is characteristic of and attributed to your power to will.



That is why you have to know how to find the inner strength of your willpower before you can find your physical strengths.



Exercise is one of the best ways to enhance life, precisely because it demands the exertion of your willpower. At any age, nothing enhances your inner strength like seeing and feeling that your body can still respond to your will.



The Co-Evolution of Your Power to Will and Exercise

Life gives us no choice. We are under the lash of life’s enhancement imperative.



However, unlike the living system from which we evolved, we are no longer dependent on external forces (like the random occurrence of ecological disasters) for our enhancements.



After eons of other living systems’ success under stress, the life-enhancing power of our will evolved enabling us to maximize the benefits of stress without having to wait for nature to motivate us with her life-threatening forces.



Exercise Enhances the Power of Your Will


When the poet Carl Sandburg noted there are people who live stronger than death, he was referring to passionate people who dream and aspire to live a better life.


He was not implying that it was an intolerable life that fueled their passion for a better life but the day-to-day strength of vitality; of knowing how to be an emotionally, mentally, physically strong, and meaningful force in this chaotic world of forces.



To live stronger than death means we never turn our back on life and its enhancement imperative, and thus learn how to build up the power of our will so we can boldly confront the stress of this chaotic world of forces and live a life that is truly vital.



How Exercise Increases Your Power to Will

Exercise is a death-defying act. Danger lurks as known and unknown risks are present any time you confront the stress of excessive chaotic forces — and exercise is no exception.



It is only natural to feel the fear, anxiety, and dread as our body resists the change from a perfectly good resting state to the exercise state of work. These negative feelings and thoughts constitute the first stressful confrontation we all face when initiating exercise.



Experiencing the power of your will being stronger than the force of your body’s resistance to change constitutes the first and best exercise-induced enhancement.



Increasing the power of our will begins with the development of emotional and cognitive coping skills to overcome negative feelings of resistance and allow us to focus on exercising. Moreover, the enhancement from these coping skills is not limited to initiating exercise.



You may experience fear and anxiety again as the intensity of exercise increases, and you will certainly experience these feelings when confronting the stress of living among worldly chaotic forces.



Exercise Overload and the Stress of Enhancement

Exercise puts us in the driver’s seat when it comes to experiencing the enhancement benefits of stress. Instead of suddenly being in a crude life-or-death confrontation with excessive, unmitigated, and brute forces, exercise is a deliberate, methodical process.



Exercise teaches us to gradually and safely find the measure of stress that maximizes its life-enhancing benefits. Exercise physiologists call the right measure of exercise-induced stress a healthy overload as it momentarily exceeds the normal limits of your body without causing injury.



However, beyond the muscular and cardiovascular benefits of a healthy overload, there is what cognitive psychologists call the stress inoculating benefit of exercise as it builds up your emotional, mental, and physical, resiliency to all kinds of stress.



Moreover, another benefit of the healthy overload is the increased power you acquire from “knowing thyself” to be successful under the stress of exercise.



Enhancement Exercise is a Mindful Activity

Exercise demands you develop a heightened sensitivity for your body. Heightened sensitivity is essential to knowing yourself and how to be safe, especially during the rest-to-exercise transition, and as you push the limits of your body.



A good exercise specialist will help you develop knowledge about yourself (emotionally, mentally, and physically) by cultivating your body awareness and guiding you in the development and application of emotional and cognitive coping skills.



If you are on your own, here are some tips for learning to cope, getting to know yourself, and maximizing the enhancement potential of exercise and other stressful situations.


Safety first: Whether out running, biking, hiking, swimming, or lifting weight, make sure your training environment is safe. If you have never exercised, or it has been a while make sure you get an A-OK from your physician.



Stay in touch: Self-talk to communicate with your emotional and cognitive self as well as with your body and learn to listen to your body. Your body knows what you want (enhancement) and wants to work with you, but your body needs you to care, feel, listen to, and work with it by applying your emotional and cognitive coping skills.



Stages of stress and applying coping skills during exercise:

  • Preparation stage: Develop self-talk for emotionally and cognitively coping with the stress before initiating exercise or producing a healthy exercise overload.
  • Confronting the stress of initiating exercise and healthy overload of exercise: Develop self-talk to safely and confidently confront the stress of initiating the warm-up and the healthy overload.
  • Coping with crucial moments during the warm-up (e.g., feeling stiff, heavy breathing) and healthy overload: Develop self-talk to safely cope with and manage stress of pushing the limits of your body.
  • Reward and evaluation: Develop self-talk to congratulate yourself for initiating and completing the exercise session and assess how you feel after exercise and how well you were able to cope with stress of exercise.


Maintenance and the Enhancement Benefits of Exercise

Another benefit acquired from producing a healthy exercise overload is that it takes less exercise to experience and maintain the feeling of being whole and alive that you get from exercise. It is the efficiency that comes with knowledge acquired from repeated exercise-induced enhancement experiences.


This benefit comes in handy when you have a stressful day at work and need to feel good again. Just a short run, bike ride, fitness class, or abbreviated weight workout can be just the ticket to feeling whole and alive again.

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Dr. Stephen Almada 

Health Psychologist

[email protected]