I was already exercising fairly regularly before I got help for my anxiety problem. Although it would ease my worries temporarily, it did nothing to cure the high anxiety that kept haunting me for most of my waking hours. When I got into a systematic program (the Linden Method) to fix my anxiety, I realized why exercising in a haphazard way improved my health but did almost nothing to cure my anxiety disorder.
The way to use exercise to overcome anxiety is to develop a highly-structured program for yourself that would extend into all parts of your daily routine. Make up a program that combines vigorous exercise with yoga, tai chi or qigong. You can do vigorous exercise during off-work hours but you should also learn quick 5-minute stretching and breathing yoga exercises that you can do at work or at home when panic strikes.
The following is crucial so pay close attention:
Your anxiety disorder works on a fixed routine. You get panic or anxiety attacks at certain times of day or in certain situations. Office workers may get it during staff meetings and housewives get it perhaps before the kids get back from school. You must find an appropriate exercise to distract you during each of these moments or situations.
For vigorous exercise during off-work hours, pick something solo like jogging, or hook up a punching bag in your garage or basement and take up kickboxing. The reason for going solo is that you can do the activity when the panic hits you. If you took up tennis, it would take too long to get a partner and find an available court. You need to set up something that can be done at a moment’s notice.
The great thing about this is that your abnormally high adrenalin levels will keep you exercising. Once you experience that incredible feeling of the exercise melting away your panic attack, you’ll need no self-discipline to keep up with the program.
For this to work, don’t schedule your exercise for a particular time if that time isn’t when you normally get an anxiety attack. Do it when the panic hits, and do it EVERY time the panic hits. Don’t allow yourself a single moment alone with your anxiety without trying to do something to distract yourself.
For exercises during your work hours, type in “office yoga” into a search engine and learn a bunch of quick exercises for when anxiety hits you at the office. Being a chronic worrier, you might think your boss would fire you for this but on the contrary, most companies encourage these exercises because it cuts down on repetitive strain injuries and office stress, which is a heavy cost for businesses in terms of sick leave and health insurance. Your boss might even assign you to teach everyone else in the office and hold group exercise sessions.
These exercises can be done in five minutes. Resist the urge to do only one or two minutes otherwise the anxiety will quickly return. At least five minutes should hold the anxiety at bay for another hour. Again, try not to let any time go by when you are just stewing in your anxiety.
Also check out qigong (sometimes spelled chi kung), which are sort of stationary tai chi moves. Qigong is fantastically relaxing. Learn it from a certified instructor if you can but if not, just get a good DVD. Done correctly, it will move waves of supremely-relaxed energy through your body.
No matter how busy you are, find the five minutes like your life depended on it. Because of the nature of anxiety disorder, you will ALWAYS feel you don’t have time. That is how your anxiety maintains itself. The road to permanent recovery is to break that thought pattern.