Nicki Anderson: Five ways to keep holiday stress in check
By Nicki Anderson For The Sun November 19, 2012 2:40PM
Updated: December 22, 2012 6:13AM
For those who already exercise consistently, there’s no question that the holidays make staying on track more challenging.
For those who don’t exercise, the idea of adding in yet one more thing to an already overscheduled calendar is unlikely. Yet, the truth is that regular exercise not only increases energy it also improves sleep and reduces stress.
At a time of year where sleep is compromised, energy is tapped and stress is high, exercise is your best defense against seasonal overload.
Sure, we know that exercise isn’t a cure all because we know that stress has varying levels and sources. But, exercise works as therapy of sorts as it allows the good chemicals, endorphins, in your body to act as a natural antidepressant.
Further, releasing endorphins improves attitude and sense of self, so that the challenges that naturally accompany the holidays seem less bothersome. Bottom line, reduced stress.
So what kind of exercise is best? Well, any kind really. But cardiovascular exercise is a solid choice.
A power walk, a good run, a dance class, among others, will help to release the chemicals necessary for that mood-raising high.
However, yoga is also known for its ability to boost mood and bust stress. Though not a cardio “high,” yoga works differently in that it focuses on stretching, breathing and postures that release negative emotions in the body.
It can also facilitate a bit of disconnect from the outside chaos.
Remember, even if you only exercise for a short period of time, you’ll get an attitude adjustment.
Even 10 minutes of moderate exercise can make a difference by easing stress, reducing fatigue and prompting better nutrition choices.
Keep in mind, however, to get the ideal benefits of exercise, 30 minutes a day is best. If you spend that much time watching television or posting on Facebook, perhaps during this time of year you can allocate your time for exercise. Just start small and build up as is practical.
Here are five suggestions to help keep stress levels in check:
1. If you’re adding exercise to your routine, don’t look at it as a weight-loss strategy rather look at it as an opportunity to do something kind for yourself.
2. Don’t feel as though you have to spend hours at a gym somewhere. If 15 minutes is all you have, so be it.
Simply try to find more opportunities throughout your day to move. Get up from your desk more frequently, walk to nearby destinations, and the old standbys, stairs versus the elevator and parking further away.
3. Lower your expectations for the holidays. I was raised with the idea that the Walton’s were the real deal, and every holiday should be perfect.
Not the case. Keep your expectations realistic and don’t put pressure on yourself or your family to create a perfect holiday. Why not create you own tradition of celebration versus trying to recreate someone else’s?
4. If something goes wrong, the world isn’t ending. I remember one holiday I had made a delicious dish and en route I dropped it. The bowl shattered, and my salad was destroyed. I was devastated.
Of course, now I realize the importance of putting things in perspective and accepting that the holidays will go on with or without a salad.
5. Be kind. There’s a great saying by Richard Carlson, “Choose being kind over being right and you’ll be right every time.”
Being kind especially to yourself, takes the potential sting out of a season that can bury us.
If kindness becomes the natural course of each day, my hunch is stress will fade and your days would be lighter.
Here’s to celebrations with less stress and more laughter. Fewer expectations and more relaxation. Here’s to reducing the goal of perfection and simply appreciating connection. Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope to see you at the Lion’s Club 15th annual Turkey Trot in downtown Naperville!
Do you have an inspiring story about your journey to fitness? Share it with Nicki Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.