It started with the wayward holiday ornaments creeping into the isles at the craft store. And then it was the early appearance of the special holiday drinks at your favorite coffee shop. And now? Ads for toys and stocking stuffers and holiday food items and Black Friday deals are appearing in your email inbox and on your TV on an hourly basis with a frenzied enthusiasm, whether you’re ready for them or not.
Feeling stressed? If so, you’re likely experiencing some of stress’ ugly offspring, including bowel upset, trouble sleeping, raised blood pressure, and even chest pain. Not to mention the irritability and anxiety that can really squash the holiday spirit.
You’re not alone in this unfortunate mind frame. A 2006 study posted by the American Psychological Association found that over half of us feel fatigued, irritable, and even angry, either sometimes or often, during the holiday season. That doesn’t sound like “the most wonderful time of the year” to us!
It’s true – holiday stress happens. It’s inevitable when our once-routine days are suddenly filled with lists and shopping and high expectations and extra doses of family and friends and a ton of social engagements. What’s not inevitable, however, is letting stress negatively impact our minds and bodies.
One surefire way to help battle stress this holiday season is to keep making regular appointments with your trainer all throughout this winter. And not because your trainer has somehow morphed into a therapist/professional gift-wrapper/personal shopper/bartender, but rather because exercise happens to be one of the best, and more effective, stress-busters around.
Did you know that regular exercise keeps your body fueled with healthy amounts of serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine? In case you’re unclear about the impact of each of these happy hormones, here’s a little 101: Dopamine helps our desire to meet our goals and needs. Low levels of Dopamine can cause low motivation and procrastination. Endorphins released during exercise are a natural pain reliever, and can actually improve our sleep (yes, leading to less stress). They also help to reduce anxiety. And serotonin? This beauty is related to feelings of significance and importance. Low levels of serotonin can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. The fact that regular exercise can manage all of these is awfully impressive, especially given that this all happens with no drugs or alcohol needed!
Okay, so if you’re convinced that exercising is awfully important for stress management, the trick is to prioritize exercise so that you can reap its rewards. How so?
- Make sure your workouts are enjoyable. If your trainer has taken your workouts to a place that is not enjoyable for you, let them know. You’re much more likely to make time for something you enjoy.
- Use competition as motivation. Find a workout competitor, and have a contest to see who can work out the highest number of times between, say, November 20th and January 1st. If a prize, or your sense of pride, is on the line, we’re guessing you’ll make it a point to get your workouts in.
- Make a schedule, and stick to it no matter what. You wouldn’t brush off dinner with your best pal or a doctor’s appointment, right? Give your training sessions the same level of importance. After all, they are a significant piece of your holiday sanity puzzle.
Not only will exercise lessen the effects of your holiday stress, but it will help you to look great at those endless holiday parties and gatherings. You’ll feel more motivation to make smarter eating choices, and you’ll have energy to keep up with your busy schedule. Consider your exercise routine this holiday season a gift – to your body, your mind, and your loved ones.