The exact physiological mechanisms to explain how exercise improves stress have not been delineated. Human and animal research indicates that being physically active improves the way the body handles stress because of changes in the hormone responses, and that exercise affects neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin that affect mood and behaviors (9,11). In addition to the possible physiological mechanisms, there also is the possibility that exercise serves as a time-out or break from one’s stressors. A study that tested the time-out hypothesis used a protocol that had participants exercise but did not allow a break from stress during the exercise session (5). Participants were college-aged women who reported that studying was their biggest stressor. Self-report of stress and anxiety symptoms was assessed with a standard questionnaire before and after four conditions over 4 days. The conditions were quiet rest, study, exercise, and studying while exercising. These conditions were counterbalanced across participants, and each condition was 40 minutes in duration. The “exercise only” condition had the greatest calming effect (5). When participants were not given a break from their stressor in the “studying while exercising” condition, exercise did not have the same calming effect.
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On the other hand, if you’re a person who generally has their life together, and who is somewhat successful in your current coping strategies, even if they’re not perfect, then a little bit of additional quiet and relaxation may not seem so dramatic to you as it does to that burned out person. It will feel good, but the degree of difference between that and your normal way of life will not seem so extreme to you as it will to the burned out person. It is a relative experience.
You’ve heard the “om” sound yogis make when they meditate, right? Well, Joshi says using a buzzing sound is another way to use your voice to calm yourself in the midst of a freakout. “Bhramari, a humming bee sound, can be done by closing the eyes and making the humming sound like a bee,” she says. “These sound vibrations calm down the thought waves and relax the entire nervous system. External sound frequency resonates with the internal rhythm of the body and mind, creating peace and tranquility within.” Research from India has shown Bhramari to improve cardiovascular patterns. Press your ears closed for an even stronger vibration.
Neural oscillations are rhythmic or repetitive electrochemical activity in the brain and central nervous system. Such oscillations can be characterized by their frequency, amplitude and phase. Neural tissue can generate oscillatory activity driven by mechanisms within individual neurons, as well as by interactions between them. They may also adjust frequency to synchronize with the periodic vibration of external acoustic or visual stimuli.