It’s that time of year again, when the holiday decorations are up, and suddenly it’s all holidays, all the time, in stores and on TV.
Everywhere you turn, it’s trees, and lights, and gifts, and STRESS. I love the holidays -- I really do. That doesn’t mean they’re not stressful, though. And this year, with Hanukkah earlier than usual, and Thanksgiving falling late in the month, bringing it that much closer to Christmas, it feels like all the holidays are combining into one big stress ball.
I’m not going to tell you that you need to get up at 5 a.m. every morning to make sure your workout happens during the holidays ... but I am going to suggest trying a few workouts specifically aimed at making you less stressed out this holiday season.
With all the obligations that come with family holidays, take some pressure off yourself by committing to only doing the workouts you enjoy during the next couple of months. If you like doing something, you’re more likely to get your exercise in, as well as benefiting from the mood boost that doing something fun will give you. (Of course, if you loathe boot-camp but love the feeling you get afterwards, then go ahead and continue to love to hate it, just for the afterglow!)
Cardio is key for stress relief. Getting your heart pumping and the blood moving will raise levels of endorphins (your brain’s ‘feel-good’ chemical). Regular cardio can also lower your resting heart rate and lower blood pressure. If you walk or run outside, it can also be a chance for you to get some fresh air and enjoy nature, both of which you might be missing out on during the holiday season if you live in a cold climate.
Also helpful for stress reduction is weight lifting. When you’re doing strength training, something called vasodilation occurs in your body. Vasodilation means your blood vessels are widening, increasing blood flow, and reducing blood pressure. Essentially, vasodilation will make you feel good. Yet another reason to lift!
Yoga can be another great choice for a stress-relieving workout. It’s one of the least competitive forms of exercise, which means you can focus on your own workout without worrying about how you look or what others are able to do. The emphasis on breathing techniques as well as meditative elements of many yoga classes can also contribute to you feeling great by the end of a class. And come on, a yoga class ends with you lying flat on your back, relaxing for a couple of minutes -- the ultimate in stress relief!
Other stress-busting tips to incorporate into your holiday season workouts include taking extra time to stretch at the end of your workout, or even cutting a workout a couple of minutes short to stretch; organizing a workout date with a friend or two to give you a chance to catch up; or having fun exercising with your kids.
Most of all, don’t be too hard on yourself about a couple of skipped workouts with all the added pressures of the season. Don’t forget that shopping for hours and standing up cooking a holiday meal can totally count as part of your physical activity!
What’s your favorite exercise for de-stressing?