Reducing stress and anxiety is often a sub-goal of martial arts students who are looking to get fit, have fun, and learn self-defense … But this sport can help students with anxiety directly in a few different ways. Let’s get into them. (We’re not medical professionals and recommend you consult with a doctor to get the proper treatment and care you deserve.)
Reducing Anxiety With Martial Arts
Martial arts classes can be really helpful for adults (and kids!) that may struggle with clinical or just life-related anxiety. Not only is it a highly physical sport (which means you’re actually doing something with all the adrenaline that the anxiety produces), it’s also a unique tool we can use to combat symptoms of anxiety.
A common symptom of anxiety is racing thoughts. If you’re battling anxiety, you may feel like you’re just your thoughts, not feeling present or even feeling sensations in your body. Martial arts can be a great solution for this. First of all, when you’re feeling anxious, your brain can pump out adrenaline and activate what’s known as your “fight-or-flight” response. All that adrenaline usually just courses through your body as you think, think, and (over)think – but martial arts pushes you in a different direction.
Kicking and punching and channeling that energy effectively is really healthy and can even be necessary for your body, as it’s getting the adrenaline and anxiety OUT in an intentional way. Secondly, using your full body in a self defense workout in general is going to melt that stress away and help you get ALL of those feelings out. Work stress, kids stress, relationship stress, life stress … All the things you’re way overthinking come OUT on the mat. You channel it all into movement and it makes you a focused, clear-headed person off the mat- and an excellent martial artist on the mat, with real power and energy behind your moves.
Concentration and Motivation Through Martial Arts
It’s not hard to correlate racing thoughts that occupy your brain space with difficulty concentrating, another symptom of anxiety. Often when you’re struggling with anxiety, you’re in a weird dichotomy- sometimes you’re sharply alert (presumably of all things your brain may see as potential “threats”) and almost hyperactive, and other times you’re fatigued and don’t want to do anything. You’re either frozen in panic or spinning your wheels with stress. If this sounds like you – show up to class. That’s all we ask you to do.
Once you get here, we will help you. Our world-class instructors (most of whom have dealt with or still deal with anxiety themselves) will show you how to take your stress and tension and “help, my shoulders are stuck to my ears” feelings and channel them into your moves.
You concentrate on one minute of each class at a time and soon you’re having a lot of fun and the time is flying by. For this one martial arts class, you don’t have to be anything other than exactly you, even if you’re anxious, doing what you’re doing, exporting your thought process to your instructor and getting it all out through physical movement.
What we can’t say is that martial arts classes can “get rid of your anxiety- only medical professionals can show you how to do that. But what we WILL say is that physically moving your body, channeling your racing thoughts into something useful, being a part of a fun community with rewarding social interactions, and setting and getting new goals- these help anyone’s mental health. They’re key pieces to the whole picture that martial arts classes can absolutely provide.
Creating a Better Mindset Through Martial Arts
We say it all the time, but it’s true – martial arts is about so much more than just punches and kicks. Martial arts is actually an amazing tool that people have been using for centuries to improve their lives and mindsets dramatically. How? Using ancient techniques that are mixed with a complete education on modern mindset in your martial arts classes, you build confidence, physical and mental strength. You develop discipline and perseverance by hitting your fitness goals and moving through the ranks.
And you learn so much about how strong your mind is from such a physically involved sport. Look – martial arts is HARD. It is a difficult sport. There’s a lot of coordination, muscle memory, focus and discipline required to really be a successful martial artist. So martial arts is difficult, but guess what- so is life with anxiety, and we’re going to help you get through it.
Whether it’s just anxious feelings or full-on generalized anxiety disorder we know the difficulty of life with mental health issues cannot be understated. But we also know it can be helped through the power of martial arts classes, and the development of your mindset.
How Mindset Can Help You Reduce Anxiety
Mindset is so important to us here at Karate International because we’ve seen it work time and time again, on and off the mat. One of our favorite quotes is “A black belt is a white belt who never gave up.” It’s true- that’s the only difference. And it’s the difference between perseverance and giving up, even (especially) when times are tough.
When you’re by yourself in a gym, for example, it’s you, the machinery or weights, and your brain telling you what to do. Sometimes, when you’re anxious, your brain is not your most reliable workout buddy. It’s easily distracted, it can say some pretty mean things to you and hype you up for “emergencies” (which are really non-threats) in the worst way possible.
But when you’re in our martial arts classes, it’s not your brain telling you what to do (not yet, anyway)- it’s our awesome instructors. Meeting them, you may be surprised to know that they have struggled with their own mental health issues, and have turned to martial arts time and time again for support from their own instructors, their peers, and this family here. Martial arts is an individual sport in a group setting, which means that you’re never alone, and that fact alone can be hugely comforting and helpful in reducing anxiety.
Okay, one more thing with the instructors. Sometimes when you’re struggling with anxiety you can’t see anything other than your own shortcomings and failures. But please hear this- our instructors and the community here are going to support you.
We are going to show you just how much freaking amazing you really are, despite (or maybe because of?) your mental health struggles. The best part is that over time, you start to internalize that supportive encouragement, and are able to carry yourself through tough moments with compassion and grace. The whole self defense piece of it, then, becomes just the icing on the cake.
Martial Arts and Mental Health
The benefits of martial arts for mental health in general are endless. For anxiety specifically, staying active, channeling racing thoughts into something positive through kicks and punches, and mindset/community support are martial arts benefits that are critical to staying well. With martial arts classes your mood and health can improve tremendously right alongside your mindset, which gives you the proper tools to reduce anxiety and push through those tough times. Ready to see what martial arts can do for you? Give Karate International in West Raleigh a try with our risk-free trial (yes, risk-free!) and see for yourself how it can change your life. You’ll LOVE IT!