Gift yourself some active ‘you time’ this year.
Can you hear it yet? It’s the sound of a house full of hungry family members, the doorbell ringing with some unexpected drop-in guests and that catchy seasonal commercial blaring through the T.V. for (at least) the 20th time today — you guessed it, the holiday season is almost here. Feeling stressed yet? It’s all good, it happens. Canadians are already reporting high levels of stress, so between shopping, travelling and family commitments, it’s not surprising that we are feeling even more stressed during the holidays.
In fact, we’re becoming so stressed out over the holidays, that the Canadian Psychology Association put together a stress fact sheet to help us cope with the stress that comes along with celebrating and preparing for the season’s festivities.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Now’s the time to lean on physical activity as your guide.
It’s time to make the holidays relaxing again.
The festive season doesn’t have to be as stress-filled as we’ve come to accept. In fact, it can actually be a relaxing and enjoyable occasion if you take the time to incorporate physical activity into your family functions, office gatherings and get-togethers with friends. Being active can help your everyday life in so many ways, including your ability to Unwind and Breathe Better, two things that don’t always come easy when your waking hours are spent balancing work commitments, cooking for guests and driving from shop to shop in search of that perfect gift.
What’s more, when you get your heart pumping, the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) circulating in your body decrease, while the feel-good chemicals like dopamine increase, allowing you to feel more relaxed and upbeat.
Too much of this stress hormone can make it difficult for your brain to process things the way it should be. This can disrupt your sleep, suppress your immune system and result in symptoms of depression and anxiety. So next time you’re feeling a bit run-down or overwhelmed, grab your sneakers (and even a friend!) and head outdoors for a much-needed stroll.
Use physical activity to get your ‘Zen on’
Below are six fun activities that you can add to your weekly holiday schedule. The best part – you can do all of them solo or with friends and family, and also ensure you are still getting the relaxing ‘you time’ we all crave during the festive season.
Swimming – Obviously the outdoor options aren’t happening for a few more months (unless you’re into the polar bear style), but there are tons of local pools and community centres that you can visit on a drop-in basis. Sneak a swim session in between family get-togethers and let the warm water soothe your body and mind. Check out NVRC's drop-in swim schedules.
Walking or Dog walking – Take your furry (or non-furry) friend for a stroll through the neighbourhood or nearby park. Check out the holiday lights adorning the houses or keep your ears open for some nearby carollers. Getting active while breathing in some fresh air is the perfect way to de-stress. Check out NVRC's walking programs.
Yoga – Either at home or in a studio, yoga is a great activity that can allow you to take back some active ‘you time’ and still rack up some of the 150 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You could even switch it up and try a different kind, like hot yoga, to get that sweat pouring. Check out NVRC's registered yoga programs and drop-in fitness classes.
Tai Chi – Commonly referred to as mediation through movement, tai chi is an excellent way to be active while taking some time for inner reflection and thought. Focus on your breathing and let the stress of the season fade away. Check out NVRC's Tai Chi programs by typing in Tai Chi into the Search located at the top right of this page.
Pilates – Register for a holiday class or run your own session at home, Pilates can strengthen stability and improve breathing while also giving your body a much-needed stretch after all those hours spent sitting around tables and living rooms. Check out NVRC's Pilates programs.
Hiking – Another great excuse to get outside and escape from the hustle and bustle of the holidays, hiking can leave you feeling refreshed and relaxed. You could even try going for a winter hike; enjoy the snowy trails or even strap on the snowshoes and go off-road to switch things up a bit. Did you know? NVRC's Trail Trekkers hiking program offers up to four guided hikes each week. The hikes are free for fitness members or non-members can just pay an adult drop-in.
Take 5 minutes and check yourself out
Another way to make sure you are taking care of yourself over the holidays is the Canadian Men’s Health foundation’s ‘You Check’ tool. A completely free online service that allows men to get a full profile of their health and any associated health risks.
Re-published from ParticipACTION's website by permission.