Stress is a normal part of life but when the holiday season comes along, it can become downright overwhelming! Check out today’s guest post by Dixie Somers to find a few tips in handling this year’s holiday hustle.
Whether you feel stressed because of your demanding job, busy schedule, or complicated relationships, you will eventually need an outlet for pent up stress. Prolonged stress can make you feel moody, depressed, anxious, isolated or overwhelmed.
Stress isn’t just a product of negative events, like financial problems and work deadlines. Even positive changes, such as marriage or a promotion, can cause stress.
Your body releases hormones called endorphins during exercise. Endorphins make you feel good. They improve pain tolerance, boost energy and alleviate fatigue. No matter the reason for your stress, here are the best ways to relieve it through physical activity:
A brisk stroll will get your heart pumping and release endorphins. A scenic outdoor environment reduces mental fatigue and can produce an almost meditative state, according to research from the University of Washington and the United Kingdom’s Heriot-Watt University. Walk with a friend to ease feelings of isolation. Have a dog? Take him with you. In addition to giving you another reason to get moving, spending time with pets can increase your dopamine and serotonin levels. These chemicals help you sleep better, improve your concentration and memory, and balance your mood.
Among many benefits, yoga can help you learn breathing techniques called pranayama. Controlled breathing reduces stress hormones like cortisol, increases your energy, lowers your blood pressure and promotes a sense of calm. Yoga also improves your strength, flexibility and balance; lowers your resting heart rate; and helps you focus on yourself instead of stressful situations.
Get ready to tango with your partner or take a group class like belly dancing, Zumba, hip-hop or jazz. Dancing boosts your mood and reduces stress. If you don’t want to take a formal class, you can dance at home so you can listen to your favorite music. Pick upbeat songs and sing along to help release tension. Or, you can play dance video games sans a controller just for fun.
Socialization should be a part of any stress management plan. Sign up for an intramural sport to combine companionship with the benefits of exercise. Options may include such sports as baseball, softball, ultimate Frisbee and basketball. If your community or area doesn’t offer organized sports, think about starting your own group among friends or within your neighborhood. If you have access to a court or field, you can enjoy weekly pickup games that provide socialization and exercise in one activity.
If you hate to sweat, this is the best stress-reducing exercise. Like yoga, it forces you to focus on your body and breathing to properly perform such strokes as the butterfly. According to the professional swim teachers at SwimJim, long-term swimming also can increase your lung capacity. This improves your energy and concentration so you’re better able to handle stress.
Adults need at least 150 minutes of brisk exercise a week. Don’t let these numbers intimidate you—spread out your exercises to make them seem more manageable. You don’t want exercise to add to your stressful day, so make sure you schedule activities that feel like a release. Being in good physical shape, enjoying fresh air, and releasing those endorphins will all help to relieve your stress so that it can’t negatively affect your mental or physical health.
About the Author
Dixie Somers is a freelance writer from Arizona. You can find her on Google+.
What do you do to sweat out the stress in your life?