Although Iíd rather associate the coming season with more enjoyable thoughts, the reality is that holidays can bring on stress as well as joy. So, now is a good time to think about stress management strategies.
During the demanding days of college finals, I made many circuits of the university track to shake off tension. Perhaps, seeing the track from my bedroom window every morning kept the exercise strategy for battling stress at the forefront of my mind. I liked it because the endless oval required virtually no thought. I could just keep walking. I didnít even have to worry about losing track of my direction and getting lost.
After an hour or so, I felt considerably more relaxed, clearheaded, and energized. As a result, I studied better and slept more soundly at night.
When my professional life put me at a desk or on an airplane, exercise became more challenging to fit in. But I knew I couldnít do my best work without it. I sometimes paced an unused hallway while reading technical documents or made a few trips around the parking lot during lunch. I even resorted to walking to meetings on occasion.
When traveling, I rarely had time to actually get to the hotel pool or fitness room. Doing business in multiple time zones, breakfast meetings, dinner meetings, and extend office hours just didnít leave much room in my schedule. Undeterred, I walked laps in my room, did jumping jacks and other calisthenics, and jumped rope.
I also tried to slip in a hot shower and a good stretching session before settling into bed. For me, the routine helped me get to sleep even if I was in a radically different time zone. A good nightís sleep often makes the challenges of the day easier to handle.
By the time our kids came along, the stress busting attributes of exercise were well ingrained. But, sleepless nights often sent me looking for the backs of my eyelids instead of getting on my treadmill.
However, I did pursue a variety of ways to keep moving. I toted the kids in backpacks, pushed them in jogging strollers, and joined their play at the playground.
Now, I have a treadmill and exercise bike in my basement that I can jump on when I have that urge to pull my hair out. Getting on them regularly makes it easier to avoid stress in the first place, of course.
The second half of my teacherís statement works quite well too. If I have a physical issue thatís got me immobile, keeping my mental wheels humming makes coping easier.
Granted, if I have a simple cold or flu, extra sleep may be more important than mental stimulation. But, I can only sleep so much. If Iím feeling bored, Iím more likely to start working rather than lying still. In fact, I am often most able to rest physically by listening to an interesting audiobook.
The same strategy works when I just wonít be able to move to stay alert. Long drives are a good example. I can drive many miles with lots of energy if I have someone along for stimulating conversation or any audiobook with an intriguing plot.
Holidays really should be full of fun and fond memories, not stress. Picking ways to keep exercise in the mix now can open opportunities for moments youíll want your mind to remember, not to mention the extra movement will fight off the possibility of carrying extra pounds into the new year. Who needs a better bonus than that?
Published: October 22, 2011