Do you ever wonder why people are hooked on roller coasters or even sky diving? Well maybe they're trying to ward off stress in their everyday lives. It's more logical than it sounds. New research shows that intense exercise releases stress hormones, including adrenaline, and the resulting buzz can buffer you from future stress in other domains. Getting that adrenaline kick is not controlled so much by what it is you're doing (i.e. I get a rush from not coming to a full stop at a stop sign), but whether or not you're taking a step outside your comfort zone. So here are three ways to boost your buzz and fight stress:
- Push your limits. Workout-wise, it's not enough just to take your Schwinn out for a spin around the park. The track has to be unpredictable and even slightly dangerous (that means riding off-road, hitting the steep downhill trails), according to the Texas A&M study. You want to feel that surge of adrenaline when you crest a hill and see the path fall suddenly away.
And although it's a big part of it, we're not just talking about pushing your physical limits. Putting yourself through the paces of mentally challenging situations -- like giving an important speech while gazing out over a sea of strange faces, or tackling an intimidating new project at work -- can also trigger the same stress response and protect your brain against future freak-outs.
- Go for active relaxation. No, that's not an oxymoron. The traditional approaches to winding down -- meditation, deep breathing, a round of tequila shots -- can certainly take the edge off stress. But getting your adrenaline pumping is going to require a little more action than that. Consider weight lifting: Even though it's low impact, if you give it 120 percent and continue working toward improving your bench press, you'll get a jolt of your power hormone.
- Buddy up. Maintaining the flow of dopamine and endorphins is what keeps your stress response in check during pressure-cooker situations. If peering down from the side of Mount Kilimanjaro doesn't sound like an ideal Saturday afternoon, enlist a friend as your climbing buddy and start small. Research shows that working out with a pal helps distract you from negative cues and keeps you focused on the fact that what you're doing is insanely fun.