Irritability, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, tense muscles, headache, upset stomach - we all have experienced at least one of these symptoms when under stress. The best approach in managing stress is to take measures to avoid or prevent the triggers. But, sometimes that just is not possible, especially during a holiday celebration when family and friends are gathered in close quarters. For these situations, you need to arm yourself with "in-the-moment" coping techniques that offer a break in the stress cycle. Below you will find 5 stress-reducing moves that will help you to "blow off steam" (and get a little exercise) so that the only thing you will notice bubbling over this holiday season is the champagne.
- Stretch It Out: When muscles are tense, a good stretch will work wonders. For tight neck muscles, place your arms behind your back and slowly tilt your head to the right until you feel the stretch on the left side of your neck. Hold the stretch for a count of 10. Repeat the exercise to the left. Next bring your chin toward your chest and hold for a count of 10 (you should feel the stretch in the back of your neck). If you are experiencing tension in your shoulders and upper back, then cross your arms in front of your body while bending forward at the hips. Hold for a count of 10.
- Mountain Climber's Oasis: Have a little extra energy that needs to be burned off before everyone arrives? Take it to the stairs. Climb up and down the staircase for 5 minutes. No staircase? A porch stoop or raised hearth works just as well.
- The Kitchen Is Your Gym: Is Aunt Mildred frowning upon the taste of your holiday feast? Excuse yourself from the table and perform 3 sets of 10 countertop push-ups in the kitchen. Need to get that serving tray from the top shelf of the cupboard? Perform 1 set of 10 heel raises before you do, then perform an additional 2 sets of 10 with it in your hands.
- Fighter's Reprieve: Sometimes nothing would feel better than being able to give the ol' 1, 2, punch. Try this exercise to relieve the tension - while out of the way of others, assume a boxing position (feet staggered with knees slightly flexed and elbows bent at your sides with hands formed into fists). Into the air (or mattress or pillow - please not another person!), jab your right fist to the left, then your left fist to the right. Repeat this sequence until you have completed 10 punches per fist. Perform 3 sets. To increase your energy release, and to sneak in a little core strengthening, tighten your core stabilizers while performing this activity.
- Laugh: While laughter is not often thought of as exercise, it really is. It requires contraction of your core stabilizers and facial muscles (and, if you are an animated laugher, even your arm and leg muscles). Intense laughter raises your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood flow during the episode. After a bout of laughter, your muscles relax - this can last up to 45 minutes. Your blood pressure may be lower after laughing as well.
Stress doesn't have to put a damper on the holiday spirit. With a little planning to minimize triggers, and the development of a coping strategy, you should be able to enjoy the festivities of the season to the fullest.
Labels: Christmas, Christmas Eve, exercise, holiday stress, laughter, New Year's Day, New Year's Eve, stress management, stretching