Managing holiday stress

This time of year brings food, gifts, relatives and stress; manage stress by taking a time-out to ignite “feel good” neurotransmitters.

Stress is a part of life, and with the holidays in full gear, some of us are probably feeling more stressed than usual. According to a recent survey by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, seven out of 10 adults in the United States say they experience stress or anxiety daily and most say it interferes moderately with their lives. Although it’s impossible to totally eliminate stress from our lives, we can learn to manage it, and physical activity is a healthy way to maintain mental fitness.

How does exercise help relieve stress? Mayo Clinic provides the following explanations:

  • Physical activity increases the brain’s endorphins, which are like feel good neurotransmitters. Those who have experienced a surge of energy or “runners high” after exercising should understand this feeling.
  • Exercise is like meditation in motion because it allows a person time to concentrate on their body’s movement and focus on a single task – results often include having more energy and optimism.
  • Regular exercise can improve your mood, increase self-confidence and lower symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. It also helps improve sleep which can be disrupted by stress.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that you check with a health professional if you have a chronic health condition such as arthritis, diabetes or heart disease before starting an exercise regimen, to avoid injury or discomfort. It’s also important to talk to a doctor if the stress in your life is causing unusual feelings of depression, anxiety and/or it is affecting your sleep.

For more information about the benefits of exercise in reducing stress visit the following websites:

 American Psychological Association, the exercise effect

 Harvard Health Publications

 Stress Management Society

Make sure you are taking time to enjoy the holiday season. If you catch yourself stressing –which we all do, take a quick break to get your heart rate pumping. For exercise ideas visit the MSU Extension physical activity webpage.

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