You made it through the holidays! Relieved the busyness is done, it’s finally time to relax. You sit down to breathe and reflect and then…
Bam! Reality kicks in. Deadlines at work are approaching! Your bank account is shrinking! Kids’ schedules are dominating your calendar! You’re trying to make positive lifestyle changes but suddenly, the stress is building all over again. How can one manage this stress rollercoaster?
Although exercise won’t make stress disappear, it can definitely prepare your mind and body to deal with its effects.
Exercise encourages your brain to produce a special chemical messenger called norepinephrine. This chemical becomes especially abundant in the part of the brain that controls your emotions and manages your response to stress. Nobody knows exactly what message norepinephrine is sending, but the American Psychological Association (APA) reports that it could prime the brain to efficiently handle stress.
Exercise may also help the rest of your body respond to stressful situations. Consider how much a workout has in common with a stressful situation: your pulse races, your breath quickens and your sweat glands work overtime. According to the APA, exercise is like a trial run for actual stress. The parts of the body that are sensitive to stress learn how to communicate and cooperate, leaving you much better prepared to face life beyond the gym.
I think we can all agree that exercise is important, but does the thought of adding regular exercise to your already busy life stress you out even more? Does the following sound familiar?
“I used to exercise four or five days per week, and I felt great. I had more energy. I was sleeping better. I was more focused. Now, I haven’t exercised in so long because… I’m too busy; there’s no time; I can’t afford a gym membership; I walk outside but now it’s too hot/too cold/too wet/too dark, etc.”
It is hard to argue with the fact that our society has become way too busy. However, this is even more reason to find time to be active. You need balance.
So how can you fit activity into an already hectic schedule? Start slowly and don’t let missing a day or two discourage you. Being active will eventually become a stress reducer. Exercise should be safe, fun and rewarding. Combine these three elements with the following tips, and you’ll be in shape for the stresses that come your way.
Get rid of the rules. Forget about what you used to do for exercise or what the latest craze is. Let go of what you think you should be doing. Get rid of the “all or nothing” mindset. If you don’t have time to get to the gym, that’s okay, but take time to do something.
Do what you love. Find exercise as something enjoyable vs. another item on your to-do list. It’s amazing what can be accomplished if we change how we view things. Find your fitness personality.
Socialize on the move. Ask a friend to join you. Register for a fun event like a mud run or color run (or Run For Your Buns!). If family obligations prevent you from fitting in regular exercise, plan active outings with the family.
Make a plan. Spend time on the weekend planning the week ahead. Schedule exercise sessions just like a regular appointment. If you see your exercise plan, there is a greater chance that it won’t get missed. Need help adding activity to your day? Try these Workday Workouts.
Audit your schedule. How are you spending your time? It may seem like there’s no time for exercise but if we dig deep, we can usually find it. Can you limit screen time? How much time are you spending on Facebook?
Become a “tracker.” Wear a fitness tracker to monitor your daily activity or download an app to track nutrition and fitness goals.
Rise & shine. For most people, the day only gets more demanding as it goes on. Exercising first thing in the morning will ensure you fit it in. Get ready the night before, physically and mentally.
Take a stretch break. Feeling stressed at work? Been working on your computer all day, trying to meet a deadline? Try these desk stretches for a quick stress relief.
Give yourself a break. You didn’t get to the gym or do your exercise video at home. Be okay with that. Some days it’s going to happen; just don’t let it ruin your week. Make a plan to fit it in tomorrow.
Rachel Aure, Altru’s Health and Wellness Specialist, performs health risk assessments and fitness assessments, develops exercise prescriptions, provides medically supervised exercise sessions and applies behavioral and motivational strategies to support clients in adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyles. She is a Certified Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist and a Wellcoaches Certified Health and Wellness Coach. She has over 15 years of experience in medical fitness and the health and wellness field. Outside of work, Rachel enjoys spending time with her family and friends.