How Martial Arts can help with social anxiety

How Martial Arts can help with social anxiety

Chronic anxiety can be a very debilitating affliction. It might manifest itself when meeting new people, speaking in front of groups, or something as everyday as eating in front of others. There are several coping strategies which come recommended, and to combat anxiety effectively it’s important to make more than a single lifestyle change. Some of the most effective ways to combat social anxiety include eating a balanced diet, practising regulatory breathing, getting involved in community activities, and of course, regular exercise. And what kind of activity helps with all the above? You’ve guessed it. Martial arts will not only improve your physical fitness, but your mental state as well. Both are formidable combatants in fighting off anxiety in all its forms. So, keep reading for just a few of the ways taking up a martial art can help with your anxiety.

Regular Socialising

Reading this heading alone might fill the sufferer of social anxiety with dread. Indeed, many people who experience anxiety worry about what others might think of them. Or they might have a fear of embarrassing themselves in front of strangers. This can make socialising seem almost impossible. However, you will learn that while everyone’s journey is different, many before you have walked a similar path (UFC fighters included). Indeed, some of your training partners have likely dealt with the same struggles. Rest assured, they’ll be there to help you overcome them.

Forge Lifelong Relationships

To be sure, one of the key reasons many take up a combat sport is to meet new people and feel part of a community. The structure of a martial arts class is inherently social. It is ideal for making new friends, without creating the expectation to socialise until you are ready. If you’re a bit of a wallflower then that’s fine. There really is no pressure, but throughout the course of your training you will share laughs and develop new and lasting friendships with all kinds of people. Cultivating these kinds of relationships is invaluable, and it will invariably spill over into your life outside of class and competition. The gym/academy is a centre of learning, but also the heart of a community.

Take Pride in Yourself

Many will wax lyrical about how the martial arts are great for cultivating fitness. As you progress in your journey you will notice how you are getting that little bit stronger. How your cardio is getting that little bit better. How, as the months go by, you start to see a change in your appearance. Whether it’s weight loss, muscle gain, or even just some toning of an already healthy physique, if you are training regularly and supplementing this with a balanced diet then you will soon start to reap the benefits. And it’s not just about looking better. By attending regularly, you will feel your energy levels increase and, through the negative tension that gets released in your training, stress levels will drop significantly.

Grow in Confidence

Knowing that you are well equipped to protect yourself (or someone else) brings with it a sense of pride and self-assurance. Of course, martial arts should never be used to antagonise, but it is a method of self-defence to be used in an emergency. Furthermore, during your time in the gym, you will learn to deal with and conquer situations that you may never have thought yourself capable of. You will encounter instances of pressure and diversity, and you will learn to overcome them. These moments can make even the most shrinking of violets feel ten feet tall!

Problem sleeper? No problem!

Another sure-fire way to a healthier lifestyle is getting the necessary amount of sleep. Anxiety can make it very difficult to get a good night’s sleep. This can in turn lead to elevated stress levels. Then, you’re left with a self-perpetuating cycle of stress, causing sleep problems, leading to stress, and so on. The physical exertion involved in just one hour of a martial arts class is enough to deplete much of your pent-up energy. This will lead to a much better night’s sleep, thus helping to ease some of the symptoms of anxiety. 

And breathe…

Throughout martial arts training, you will learn how to regulate your breathing better. Studies have shown a correlation between anxiety and breathing problems, including hyperventilation, chest tightness, breathlessness and feelings of dizziness.  In combat sports, breathing is key. Most forms will teach different breathing exercises, which are invaluable when you need to catch a breath in those moments of duress. This focus on respiration can be a great help with anxiety and can even be utilized to offset impending panic attacks. By learning to slow your breathing rate, you will decrease your demand for oxygen and use less air to breathe. Techniques learned in the gym will set the anxiety sufferer in great stead for those moments when the room feels just a little too close.


If this article speaks to you and you’d like to know more about what the Martial Arts can do for you, then we’d love to hear from you. Whether you’d like a no-commitment chat with one of our instructors or want to come and watch a class for free, our door is always open. OSS!

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