It is officially the holiday season, and that means you’ve got the added stress of family obligations, shopping, planning, cooking, and other holiday commitments in addition to your regular day-to-day stress, not to mention the extra stress that 2020 has brought. It’s enough to make anyone want to retreat to his or her house and stay in pajamas watching Netflix until after the New Year. Unfortunately, that option is not realistic for most people, so finding ways to manage stress this time of year is more important than ever.
One of the best ways to help reduce stress is through exercise. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are hormones that fight stress. It can also help calm your mind to help you avoid focussing on your problems and all of the things you need to do.
Yet exercise is one of the things that tends to take a backseat during the holidays when so many other obligations take up your time. But it’s important to find the time to fit in exercise during this busy holiday season. Some types of exercises are better for stress relief than others. Most importantly though, find an activity that you enjoy, look forward to doing, and will stick to.
The exercises and activities below are really good for helping to manage stress.
Any activity that increases your heart rate will cause your body to release endorphins, the feel-good hormone. Activities such as running, swimming, spinning, cycling, or a high-energy fitness class such as Zumba or kickboxing all offer aerobic benefits that will get your heart rate up and leave you feeling happy and refreshed.
Yoga is one of the best activities for overall stress relief. Yoga combines deep breathing with a series of stretches and poses that can strengthen your body’s natural relaxation response and help bring your body and mind to a healthy balance. There are many types of yoga, but the best types for stress relief are gentle yoga or a beginner level class. Power yoga or “hot” yoga may be too intense if you are looking for an activity to help ease stress.
With its roots in martial arts, the flowing body movements and breathing techniques of Tai Chi are a great choice for easing stress. This mind-body practice can also offer many other health benefits such as building strong bones, reducing blood pressure, boosting the immune system, and easing symptoms of certain health conditions. Once you have learned the basic moves of Tai Chi, it can be practiced anywhere and is appropriate for all ages and skill levels.
Created by Joseph Pilates, Pilates is an anaerobic exercise that uses a series of controlled movements and mat exercises that build flexibility and strength and is beneficial for stress relief. Pilates also tones your muscles and can make you look and feel better, which in itself, helps lowers stress. You can take a Pilates class at a studio or gym, or use DVDs at home.
Joining a team is another great way to get in exercise and reduce stress. The social aspect is great for your sense of well-being and stress levels, while the activity gets you moving, working up a sweat, and releasing endorphins. Consider what type of sports you enjoy and look for opportunities in your area. You can find adult leagues for sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, and even kickball in most cities.
One of the easiest activities that most anyone can do is also one of the best for stress relief walking. Taking a brisk walk outdoors for as little as 10 minutes can restore a sense of calm when you are under a great deal of stress. Walking your dog or walking with a friend daily is a great way to fit in exercise and reduce stress.
If you’re feeling a lot of stress, turn on some music and bust a move! Dancing to music you enjoy is one of the best ways to instantly feel good. And it’s a great workout. Or enroll in a dance class and enjoy the benefits of dance and social interaction, which are both great for stress relief.
Working outdoors in your garden is more physically active than you might realize, and being outdoors in a beautiful space can do wonders for your state of mind. Stretching, bending, carrying plants, watering, and digging in the soil uses a variety of muscles and gets your heart rate up, while easing your mind of whatever stress you may be experiencing.