Starting to feel a little cooped up? Physical and psychological well-being go hand in hand. Not only can the winter weather put a halt to many of our regular routines, but it can also be extremely stressful. You might be re-arranging your schedule due to nasty commuting conditions, straining to keep the driveway and walkways shoveled, salted, and sanded or simply cooped up indoors with anxious pets and energetic children. Regardless, you are feeling the stress and stress is harmful to your well-being.
Too much stress can expedite the aging process and increase your risk for heart conditions.
Regular exercise is an extremely effective way to reduce stress. Not only does regular exercise decrease stress but it increases the oxygen supply to your brain, stimulating that “feel good” sensation that seems to be missing right now. For some, getting away from the cramped quarters and finding 30 minutes of time to take a walk, do some cardio, or see your personal trainer is exactly what you need to relieve the tension. For others, escaping from the seclusion of your snowed-in house and meeting a friend or simply enjoying the social interaction of others while enjoying group-exercise is what you need. For many of us, the thought of doing anything outdoors is unbearable, but that doesn’t mean you should huddle up and let the stress take over.
Don’t let yourself stress about fitting exercise into your routine when the weather takes over.
Reduce your stress and plan ahead for your visit to the gym.
Step one in stress reduction: Be prepared.
Don’t plan on exercising in your boots. The night before, grab a gym bag, backpack, or plastic bag. If you want to do some land exercise pack your sneakers, a t-shirt and your favorite pair of yoga pants or shorts. If you want to enjoy the heated indoor pool (88°), pack your suit, towel, and flip-flops. Don’t forget that water bottle! Packing before will decrease your worries about “having enough time” and increase your likelihood of following through with your commitment.
Less people outdoors means more people indoors. Don’t let yourself miss out on that SPIN, YOGA, or WATER INTERVAL class. Call ahead and reserve a spot on the list and you can check another stressor off your list.
The roads may or may not be plowed, salted, or sanded. Some people are in a rush, but you don’t need to be! Everyone knows that travel conditions are poor; don’t take the blame but don’t let it stress you out either. Leaving just five minutes early can make all the difference in the world and there is no guilt in arriving early to the gym.
Step two in stress reduction: Take care of yourself.
Leave work at work and home at home. Let yourself slip away into the oasis of the pool, listen to the beat of your feet on the treadmill or your favorite music-mix, or simply focus on your breathing. Being mindful decreases anxiety and depression. Focus your mind inward, bringing your attention to your body and the sensations of the moment. Feel the stress leaving your body as you exercise. You deserve this.
Rest & Recover
Finish off your routine with a little stretching, a hot shower, or sitting for a few minutes in the pool jets. Hydrate and fill up on a nutritional winter meal. I recommend crock-pot meals for stress reduction (easy prep and clean-up). Try spaghetti squash with meat sauce in the crockpot – one of my personal favorites! For a low calorie hold-the-guilt beverage try adding cut up fruit to your water (strawberries, kiwis, or lemons).
Step three: Relax.
Congratulate yourself on sticking to your commitment and taking a little time for yourself. Take a deep breath and kick back your feet. You earned it!
Blog post by Gladys Hester.