Stress is the body's natural response to danger. However, stress is an emotion meant to be felt in emergencies and serious circumstances -- not something that occurs on a daily basis. However, daily stress has become commonplace for many Americans. Because chronic stress leads to inflammation, depression and affects your sleep, it's important to take steps to relieve your stress. Exercise's effects on the body help to relieve stress -- and hitting a punching bag can have a cathartic effect on your stress levels.
Hitting a punching bag can be a physical and symbolic expression of stress or anger. Physically, hitting a punching bag produces a response in your body that helps to relieve tension. Symbolically, you may picture the punching bag or pillow as representative of your stress. Imagining a troublesome situation or person in your life and punching at the bag allows you to express anger in a healthier way than becoming physical with another person. However, it is a good idea to combine a physical expression of your anger with mental expressions, including writing your thoughts on paper or talking through your frustrations with a medical professional, according to "Psychology Today." This combination of physical and mental stress relief can help you relieve stress for good.
When hitting a punching bag, it's important to protect vulnerable areas, including your wrists and hands, before hitting. Wearing protective gloves, wrist wraps or tape can help prevent injury. Warm up with jumping jacks or jogging in place before punching. Aim for the middle of a punching bag, which tends to be softer than the upper or lower portions. Work your way up to hitting the bag for three minutes. Be sure to rest for a few minutes between rounds to avoid muscle strain. When you feel enough stress has left your body, drink water and take a few deep breaths to further ease tension. If you don't have a punching bag handy, you also can shadowbox, which is punching without actually hitting a target. Stay conservative with your shadow boxing punches to avoid hyper-extending your arm at the elbow.
Exercise of any kind, including hitting a punching bag, offers many stress-relieving benefits. When hitting the punching bag, your brain increases production of endorphins, neurotransmitters that create feel-good thoughts in your brain. Punching helps to relieve muscle tension that can collect when you experience stress. As you continue to punch, you will find your focus is improved, increasing your concentration and helping you forget the reasons why you are stressed.
While punching a punching bag can temporarily relieve stress, it may not be a permanent solution for chronic anger or stress, according to Dr. Stephen Diamond, a forensic psychologist writing on "Psychology Today." "Striking a pillow, bag or bed when one is not already angry can be an effective technique … for inducing, evoking or becoming more aware of one's repressed rage," Diamond says. "But one cannot 'drain' or empty the anger permanently in this way." If you find your stress and/or anger is interfering with your life or you need stress relief beyond punching a bag, seek medical help.