Are you feeling stressed? Anxious? Frustrated? Powerless? You’re not alone.
The world can be a scary place. Tragic information from across the globe is now coming at us faster than our brains can process the information. And a lot of us are struggling with our ability to cope. According to a recent analysis by mathematicians at the University of Vermont, this past Monday was the saddest day in the history of Twitter, with an unprecedented number of users expressing their grief over so many events outside of their control and their fears for the future. And this barrage of information and strife shows now signs of letting up any time soon.
So what do you when life gets too overwhelming? We might not have all of the answers, but we do have one suggestion to help you take the edge off and regroup: martial arts. Whether karate, boxing, BJJ, Taekwondo, or Tai Chi is your game, the physical and mental aspects of training can be a huge balm in trying times. Here are five ways in which keeping up with your martial arts practice – or starting a new one – can help keep you going when things get rough.
It can help you manage your stress.
The endorphin rush that comes with higher intensity training in martial arts is a relatively easy way to take the edge off if you’re feeling anxious or stressed in your daily life. The focus on mental clarity and discipline in most martial arts training can also help to keep your brain from working against you. But even if you’re not in the kind of shape or health that allows for more physically demanding training, you can still benefit from a martial arts practice. Tai Chi, for example, is an excellent source of stress management. According to the Mayo Clinic, benefits of participation in Tai Chi can include decreased stress, as well as an improved mood, and improved fitness. Although further scientific research is needed, there is also some evidence that suggests that it can also help your sleeping habits, blood pressure, and overall well-being.
It can help you manage your anger.
Let’s face it: worry isn’t the only likely reaction to modern life. We can also get angry. Sometimes really angry. Luckily, training also has the capability to help us manage those issues. At the most basic level, punching and kicking in a safe and positive environment is a wonderful way to blow off some steam. Beyond that, martial arts also has proven benefits in terms of helping students manage their aggressive tendencies. A 2001 study called An effective approach to violence prevention: traditional martial arts in middle school, for example found that three months of Taekwondo training, a group of students with aggression issues had better control of their behavior. For more information, check out our blog post “What Are The Psychological Benefits Of Martial Arts Training?”
It provides you with a positive distraction.
It might seem weird to bring up distraction as a positive when martial arts are all about focus and intense dedication to your task, but hear us out. It can be hard to turn away from the news or from social media when something bad happens. But our bodies and brains can only take so much. We need to step away. We need to exercise in a way that is healthy for ourselves and our needs. And we need to give ourselves a break from whatever is happening in the world. So turn the computer off for a little while, packing up your martial arts gear, and head to the gym. A class that focuses on specific tasks and positive philosophies in encouraging learning environment could be just what you need to help your body and brain reset.
It can give you a sense of agency.
Part of what makes bad news and global situations so terrifying and hard to face is the sense of helplessness that comes with them. We can each do our part to make the world a little better, but that can feel like so little when tragedy hits. Most of us don’t have the opportunity or the ability to stop a major tragedy or change the entire world, and it can leave us wondering where we should even start.
Again, martial arts won’t solve anything. But one of the things that’s great about training in your favorite discipline is that regulated martial arts lessons, especially arts with a grading system, provide you with clear, specific goals that you can work toward – and solid recognition of your achievements when you meet those goals. Being able to take such precise steps toward an attainable goal is a truly powerful way to break out of a rut and remind yourself that you are capable and that you can make things happen.
It encourages mindfulness.
As the website Martial Tribes put it in a July 2017 post on the mental health benefits of training, “martial arts teach us the ability to mentally relax through meditation and focused breathing techniques. It also teaches us the skill of mental control in order to push our limits. The skills help us to cope with sudden stresses in the ring and in everyday life.”
The meditative aspect that’s present in at least some form in most martial arts classes won’t just help to keep your mind off things while you’re at the gym, it will give you the tools that you need to take care of yourself in every other aspect of your life as well. It’s actually like a mental form of self-defense!
Have martial arts helped you through a bad time? Do you have any other tips for coping with stressful situations? Let us know in the comments!
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