Stay Active to Decrease Holiday Stress Levels
Struggling to find the holiday spirit? You are not alone.
Many people find that the holidays bring as much stress as joy.
Even in a typical year, the holidays can be overwhelming. It’s common to be feeling increased stress or anxiety this time of year.
The holidays are typically stressful enough, but this year, typical holiday stress is compounded by COVID-19 pandemic stress. By doing scientific research on the brain, stress and the holidays, medical professionals know that one area impacts the other. This means that there is a perfectly logical explanation for you to feel the way you do – and that means you can take steps to change the way you feel.
Stress Management Starts With Making These Small Changes
The truth is, to reduce stress and anxiety, change is necessary. You may be thinking “my routine is already different. What else can I do?” That’s a valid question, but there are answers. Take simple steps to change your mindset and focus on the most important areas of your life.
Be realistic about your goals. Wanting to make big changes and eliminate all stress at once is a normal way of thinking, but it’s nearly impossible. Start small. Think about practical ways to make changes that are achievable. Make lists, create a calendar, set reminders. But most of all, understand that it’s alright to feel overwhelmed; many other people do, too.
Setting realistic goals makes it more likely that you will meet them – and in turn, relieve unnecessary stress.
Make small changes. You can’t turn your life around overnight. Focus instead on completing small tasks and meeting small goals. These achievements set the tone for progress over time, making it easier to incorporate them into your routine long term. All it takes is a few minutes a day.
These changes shouldn’t disrupt your routine; instead, they should enhance it. Examples of small additions to your routine include the following.
- Sitting quietly or meditating
- Taking a five minute break to stretch
- Disconnecting from technology for a few minutes as time
- Adding one nutritious meal or snack per day
- Picking one new area of focus or “special” task you want to complete
Don’t overextend yourself. It’s easy to stay busy from morning to night during the holidays, but it doesn’t mean you should. There are only so many hours in the day, and it’s important to prioritize healthy habits like eating at normal times, exercise, and getting enough sleep.
Staying busy isn’t the same as staying active. Agreeing to too much adds stress to your life – and that includes both work and family or friend commitments. Don’t stress yourself out by trying to accomplish everything in an unrealistic amount of time. It’s alright to say no.
Exercise Allows You to Stay Active – And Decrease Holiday Stress
It may seem as though you are always active throughout the holiday season, but it’s about more than simply doing errands. Research shows that exercise is a mood-booster, and a good mood helps to decrease stress levels. For many, stress leads to a depressed mood, which in turn leads to frustration and disinterest in even celebrating the holidays.
Don’t let this happen to you.
In addition to the tips above, consider making time for exercise and self-care throughout the holiday season to decrease stress.
How can exercise decrease stress and improve mood?
You may lack energy and motivation during cooler months with shorter daylight hours. This is normal for millions of people. You are not alone.
Exercise improves mental health in both short and long term. How? Various types of exercise help decrease stress, anxiety and depression by:
- Releasing endorphins
- Relaxing muscles
- Increasing energy levels
- Relieving tension
- Improving concentration
- Increasing self-esteem
- Improving sleep
There are plenty of other benefits, too, but these are some of the most helpful for those in need of a change.
Stay Active With These Socially Distant Exercise Options for This Holiday Season
In many cases, stress levels increase during the holiday season due to added expectations and responsibilities. People often attempt to pack more activities and tasks into their waking hours, leading to a feeling of urgency. If – and when – these tasks aren’t completed, anxiety and more stress come into play.
Even taking action in small ways makes a difference. Everyone’s options for socially distant and safe exercise during the holiday season are varied. Take advantage of the time, opportunities, and space you have. Consider using the following exercise options to “break up” the busy season.
Spend Time Outside
Walking is one of the best – and simplest – ways to increase your activity level. Considered safe because you can do it alone, doctors, nutritionists, and physical therapists all recommend getting outside and taking a walk. When you can’t get outside or the weather isn’t cooperating, doing laps around your home, office or school are great ways to walk indoors.
For those who are able to be more physically active, running and hiking are other options for outdoor activity. Trails, parks, and even running around your neighborhood are safe, solo activities that help you stay active and decrease holiday stress.
Make the Most of Indoor Space
Everyone’s home environment is different, so adapting your surroundings to meet your needs might take some planning.
Treadmills, stationary bikes, weights, and exercise balls and bands are great options if you have the space. Luckily for those that live in smaller homes or apartments, there are exercise options that do not require additional equipment.
- Yoga: Many instructors offer free and paid classes online.
- Stretching: This exercise requires only enough space for your body and a few minutes at a time.
- Jumping rope: This does require one extra piece of equipment, but it doesn’t have to be an actual jump rope. You may substitute with a piece of rope, twine, or any similar object.
- Dancing: This exercise only requires music – and in some cases, people don’t even need that. This activity is a great form of exercise because it gets the entire body moving and can be done anywhere.
- Cleaning: Household chores are an opportunity for physical activity, especially deep cleaning.
Use What you Have Available for Exercise Options
Don’t have weights? Use jugs full of liquids or heavy boxes as replacements. Can’t get to the gym? Consider watching online guided videos designed for home exercise at various levels. Need to get out of the house? Do it.
The more creative you are, the better. Exercise and staying active aren’t always about gaining muscle or losing weight – sometimes, you just need to move.
Only you can decide what will help to improve your mood and reduce stress levels during the holidays. But rather than simply deciding that you don’t have the time or the necessary equipment, be creative. Think outside the box. Your mood – and body – will benefit.
Unsure Where to Begin With Activity? Consult the Pros!
The holidays are busy, sure. But they are not the time to neglect your health, even if they look a little different this year. If you’re not sure how to add physical activity to your routine, or which exercises are safe for you, consult a physical therapy professional.
With experience in creating effective programs for patients of all ages and activity levels, physical therapists can help you.
Consider Physical Therapy to Help You Stay Active and Reduce Holiday Stress
As trained movement specialists, physical therapists can help treat nagging injuries, back pain, and even create a home exercise program for people looking to be more active.
During a consultation with a physical therapist, you’ll discuss your goals and current routine. From there, they can help you by:
- Recommending exercises that make sense for you in your daily life.
- Putting together a home exercise plan that includes options and varying lengths. For example, a 5-minute stretching circuit or a 15-minute workout plan that involves strength and cardio.
- Answering questions you may have about what you need to do to get those endorphins flowing, how long it will take for you to see and feel progress, and what to do when you’re discouraged.
- Assessing your home office or sleep environments and making recommendations to improve comfort and efficiency.
- Making nutritional recommendations in order to boost your mood. While a physical therapist is not a nutritionist, they break down the basics of eating for health and wellness.
Make Changes Today – Find a Physical Therapist
You already have a lot on your mind this holiday season, so why worry about creating your own exercise and activity plan? Reach out to a physical therapy provider near you and begin taking steps to boost your mood today.
Anxious about finding the time to travel to a clinic? Many physical therapists provide sessions via Telehealth, helping you make the most of your time and begin your journey to staying (or getting) active.
Find a physical therapist near you using the BetterPT clinic location tool or the accompanying mobile app. These tools allow you to connect with local physical therapy providers for both in-person and Telehealth sessions. Plus, you don’t need a doctor’s referral to get started!
You may think that you’re active enough, but are you? Holiday stress manifests itself in many ways, and seeking advice and guidance from a physical therapist is a great starting point. Stay active, stay focused and stay healthy, even during the busiest time of the year.