Have you ever heard the Christmas carol that calls the holiday season ” the most wonderful time of the year?” Although I love the holidays and the festivities that go along with them, the reality is there’s also a TON of stress around this season.
A survey from the American Psychological Association showed that 22% of Americans describe themselves as being under an “extreme level” of stress in general. The holidays can easily bring that to a whole other level. The other thing that can contribute to feelings of stress, anxiety and depression this time of year is the fact that winter days are shorter and we’re getting less exposure to sunlight.
There are lots of ways to cope with the stresses of the season, but the one health practitioners recommend most – besides avoiding your in-laws – is exercise. The reason is that in addition to improving your physical fitness, exercise has been scientifically proven to improve your mental fitness, too. Studies show that if you’re feeling fatigued, having a hard time focusing or in general feeling fuzzy, exercise is a quick and effective remedy.
Physical exercise actually reduces the levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol in your body. It also stimulates the production of serotonin and endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins are the reason behind the euphoric feeling known as the “runner’s high” and for the feelings of relaxation and optimism you experience after a strenuous workout.
So while your social calendar may be full and you’re feeling over-committed and over-booked, resist the urge the blow off your workouts. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed during these coming weeks, instead of trying to sleep it off, bingeing on Netflix and comfort food or overindulging on alcohol, make time for a few good sweat sessions. You’ll find yourself feeling jolly in no time.