Holiday Stresses - Exercise Helps
By Carol Woodbury, CES
Unless you are a Chinese Monk living in the mountains of China, eating, sleeping and meditating, all of your days, you will at some point experience stress. Stress can be elevated around holidays. We place unreasonable demands upon ourselves. Others place grand expectations on us of what we are to do for them during the holidays. Although knowing what produces our stress is important, the way in which we deal with that stress can be even more significant. Some people, especially women, worry a lot; they are often times worrying about more than one thing at the same time. Talking with friends or a therapist, eating (not the healthiest), meditating, spending time with your pet(s), etc. are some ways of dealing with stress/worry. Another healthy alternative for reducing stress is exercise.
Exercise allows our bodies to release endorphins that elevate our mood. As a general rule when your mood is elevated, you feel more able to deal with issues in your life. Exercise also gives you more energy. More energy in turn allows you to get more things done and when you can check off items on your “To Do List”; it is an empowering feeling. In addition to elevating mood, exercise is an outlet for other negative emotions such as frustration, anger and irritability. Exercise can reduce the amount of adrenal hormones your body releases in response to stress thereby helping to balance the neuro-chemicals in the body.
There are many forms of exercise both cardiovascular and strength. You need to pick the form(s) that feels best to you. Make certain it is easy for you to get to the form of exercise you like and the place where you want to do the exercise. You can exercise with a friend or in a group setting or with a personal trainer for added motivation and exercise consistency. Consistency is an important factor with exercise.
“Biologically, exercise seems to give the body a chance to practice dealing with stress. It forces the body's physiological systems-all of which are involved in the stress response-to communicate much more closely than usual: The cardiovascular system communicates with the renal system, which communicates with the muscular system. And all of these are controlled by the central and sympathetic nervous systems, which also must communicate with each other. This workout of the body's communication system may be the true value of exercise,” said Sothmann.
"As one becomes deconditioned, either through sedentary living or forced bed rest due to illness or injury, the physiological stress system becomes less efficient in its ability to respond to a variety of stressors," he said. "No other type of clinical intervention [for disorders like depression] forces such dynamic communication as exercise." This is according to the American Psychology Association and a study conducted in 1996.
Coupled with exercise, you will want to be paying attention to the foods you are eating. Getting a balanced diet and fueling your body with foods that enhance rather than detract from it is important. It is difficult during the holidays to be as diligent as we would otherwise be, because if your family is anything like mine, there is a lot of baking going on and extra candy around, and we tend to perhaps drink a little more alcohol to celebrate. When we are stressed or tired the foods we crave are as a general rule, the high calorie low nutritional type foods. The sugar that these foods and beverages contain is not the best for your bodies. The free radicals in these foods can create chronic stress on your genes that can lead to other health issues.
Carol Woodbury is co-owner of Optimum Performance Personal Training and Group Exercise. She is certified as a Clinical Exercise Specialist, Personal Trainer and Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant with the American Council on Exercise. She has been a personal trainer for the past five years and a T’ai Chi and Chi Kung instructor for the past 16 years. She is certified to teach T’ai Chi through American Aerobics Association International and International Sports Medicine Association and is a Reiki Master.
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