Brooklyn Wiley, Performance Coach at ATH-North Houston
Stress is something that comes along with the joys of the holiday season and it is important that we prepare ourselves. One of the most important things is staying close to the daily or weekly routine that you and your family have in place. In this post we will give a variety of suggestions to help keep your stress levels under control and be able to enjoy the holidays. Don't let holiday stress keep you down this year by following these four simple tips.
1. PRIORITIZE SLEEP
With everything going on during the holidays it is important to maintain some sort of routine, which includes waking up around the same time and completing your day as you normally would. Making sure to prioritize sleep during time off is important for your family as a whole. With kids out of school, they might want to stay up later than they would be able to when school is in. However, changing sleep hours in our off time can have a negative impact on holiday vacations, even more so when we finally go back to work and school. As adults, we need an average of 7-9 hours of sleep, but more importantly, the quality of sleep matters the most.
The two most important stages of our sleep cycle are deep sleep and rapid eye movement or REM sleep. REM sleep is the stage of sleep where we experience dreams, it is when brain activity increases to a more wakeful state, this is the stage right before you wake up. The deep sleep stage is vital in that it helps us to feel refreshed and replenished when we wake up. Some of the benefits of deep sleep are: energy restoration, increased blood supply to the muscles, promotion of growth and repair of tissues, and strengthening of your immune system. For adults who workout 3-5x a week getting adequate rest is important in the recovery process.
Here are a couple of things that can be done to ensure that we take care of our sleeping habits:
- A consistent bedtime routine where you go to bed and wake-up at the same time
- Plenty of exercise during regular hours and avoiding working out several hours before bedtime
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day and try to avoid drinks with caffeine before bed
- Develop a bedtime routine of possibly reading, taking a bath, or meditation to relax the brain and body
- Reduce bright lights and noises from your room. Too much screen time can cause the brain to stay alert when you are ready for sleep
2. DON'T NEGLECT YOUR EXERCISE ROUTINE
Exercising during the holidays can be tedious and seem like a task that can’t be done due to how busy we all are during this season, but it is important to continue with daily exercise for several reasons. Taking an hour to go work out can help relax your mind and body. Active movement helps supply our brains with new oxygen and promotes cell growth, but most importantly helps our body to secrete endorphins, also known as “the happy hormone.”
Allowing your body to have a fast-paced, or HIIT style workout prompts the body to release these endorphins. The hormone can leave us feeling in a happy and relaxed state after the workout, which can be impactful during this stressful holiday time. Giving your body a chance to move and enjoy a workout is a great way to naturally relieve any stress as well as promote feelings of well-being and is a great way to keep our cardiovascular, digestive, and immune systems working optimally during times of high stress.
A couple of tips to keep your exercise routine the same:
- Schedule your exercise routine at a consistent time if possible
- If your schedule is jam-packed consider making exercise a family activity, something simple as taking a mid-day or morning walk together can be greatly beneficial
- In a pinch, you can try an at-home bodyweight workout with little to no equipment
- If you need to break up your normal hour workout routine, two 30-minute workouts throughout the day work great
3. INCORPORATE STRETCHING
Keeping with the same workout theme, it is also important to maintain your mobility and stretching as well. As it relates to stress, it is important to understand how your body functions and where you may hold onto stress. Some common places that people hold their stress is in their shoulders, jaw and neck area.
If during times of stress you find a certain area of your body becomes more sensitive, or may hurt, a simple solution would be to find some stretches and mobility exercises to help loosen and relax those areas. One thing that can help is starting a morning and evening stretching routine, these can even be done around the house or office. Implementing these is a way to instantly relax you because you are in a comfortable and recognizable environment. Starting your day with some simple stretches increases blood flow to the targeted muscles after being in a stagnant state while you were asleep.
Another suggestion is to do a mid-day yoga or stretching session. Doing a 5-10 minute yoga or stretch session can help relax your body and prepare it for the remainder of the day. Completing this mid-day can help to improve your mood and increase mental clarity and set you up for a positive and productive second half of the workday.
4. TRY MEDITATION AND BREATHWORK
One of the easiest things to start practicing is meditation and/or breathing techniques. Starting your day with some simple deep breathing and relaxing of the mind will also allow you to gain some mental clarity and preparedness for the rest of your day. An easy way to begin meditation practices is by using a variety of meditation apps such as ‘Headspace’ or ‘Calm’ on your phone or guided meditation videos on youtube. Both avenues give you guided practice with an experienced practitioner which takes all of the guesswork out of the process.
The holiday season can be stressful and in times of high stress, it is important to take time throughout the day for yourself to keep your brain and body calm. Using some of these suggestions may help you find ways to relieve some stress, and hopefully able to keep your holiday season as enjoyable as possible.