How Boxing Helped Relieve My Anxiety And Stress

Photographed by Andi Elloway.
I'm not ashamed to say that I have definitely cried during a boxing class. For one thing, I love a good cry, and boxing is a form of exercise that brings up a lot of emotions for me. I don't know if it's the fact that some boxing instructors encourage you to channel the day's frustrations and emotions to the hitting the bag, but it's deeply cathartic to get lost in the combinations of punches.
As someone who lives with depression and who sometimes gets extremely anxious, I've definitely seen my state of mind improve since I started boxing over a year ago. Part of it really is about taking my anger out on a bag, but any form of exercise can certainly help people with anxiety, and there's definitely a reason that working out is such a common recommendation to improve mood and mental health.
"For me, boxing is a kind of moving meditation," says Lindsay Coke, a trainer at Shadowbox in New York City. "I love how personal it is, and how it's just as much about individual mental battles as it is the physical ones. It's so subjective, and in the end can be anyone's fight - there are rules to abide by, but it also pushes you to break down your walls and reach new heights."
Not to mention, for me, boxing classes at studios like Shadowbox toe the line between being solitary and social at the same time. According to a study from earlier this year, group workout sessions (like a boxing class) and team sports are associated with higher benefits for your mental health, when compared with individual forms of exercise.
Be that as it may, group workouts tend to make me a little anxious. In that sense, it's pretty helpful that most of the boxing studios I've tried in New York City mostly involve you and the bag, even if you're doing it in the company of at least 10 other people. While the setups vary from classes with individual bags to classes where you're in a ring with a few other people, for the most part, there's a lot of individual time for you to work on combinations alone. Sometimes, instructors will have you pair up for some hand-to-hand sparring, but that's why it's helpful to go with a friend.
And admittedly, if you're like me, and you don't love working out unless there is some kind of end goal, boxing can help you physically defend yourself if you ever need to.
With the world being a dumpster fire, boxing helps me feel some control over my life. And even if just for 50 minutes at a time, I feel like there's no problem I can't (safely) punch away. And hey, if it's good enough for Jack Pearson, it's good enough for me.

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