Top 3 Strategies for Managing Stress During the Holidays
Growing up, we learn a lot of things in school. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to teach us how to adult very well, and we are often left unequipped to deal with the realities of life. Managing money, credit scores, dealing with smelly co-workers…there really should be a class on this stuff!!
One of the biggest things most people seem to be ill prepared for is STRESS. By definition, our very existence is stressful. As we grow into adulthood, gain full time employment, have spouses and kids, in-laws and pets, volunteer duties and chores, workout routines, etc, the wheel never seems to stop spinning and we easily find ourselves in the land of overwhelm.
There is no “right” way to deal with this, as we all respond differently. However, I want to share 3 strategies I have found helpful in my own life, and in the lives of some of my clients as well.
#1 Say NO!
I know many of us want to do all the things, all the time, with all the people. And during the holidays, that’s exacerbated even more due to a plethora of parties, gatherings, gift exchanges, happy hours, and family. Time is our most precious commodity, and we would all be served better saying no to more things, and prioritizing what’s really important. Of course you want to support Susan’s wreath making party on a Tuesday evening, but if you haven’t slept well, you didn’t work out, and you haven’t had much face time with your family the last two days, it’s ok to skip it…and you can let Susan know I said so (plus, you don’t really like her anyway;-)).
Say Yes to the things most important and fulfilling to you, and say NO to the rest.
We are surrounded by chatter from the moment we wake up until our head hits the pillow at night. Our phones, music, traffic, family, friends, co-workers, etc, are all constantly stimulating our minds. I hear more and more people complain of sleeping problems, and I truly believe those are caused by the incessant mental stimulus we are inundated with.
When was the last time you sat in silence for 10-15 minutes?
We need this downtime to allow our minds to relax, and to accept all the crazy thoughts roaming around and then let them pass. We need a break to just sit and listen (preferably in a quiet place…even if it has to be your car) to our surroundings. We need a few moments of time to ourselves to breathe deeply and remind ourselves life is beautiful and we have to stop to appreciate that beauty.
EVERYONE has at least 10 minutes to make this happen every day, and if you don’t, you’re wasting 10 minutes somewhere which could be better spent praying and/or mediating.
Come on, you knew I was going there! Look, exercise can (and should) be challenging. But the amazing benefits are a mile long. Increased endorphins, better self image, the ability to take out your aggression on a barbell so you don’t take it out on someone else. It’s a wondrous thing;-)
When we start to let external pressures (i.e. wreath making parties) interrupt our self care, it can slowly erode our sense of wellness and homeostasis. For those of you who work out on a regular basis, you know how short of a time it takes to get irritable when you haven’t moved your body enough. Too many people view exercise as adding to their stress, when in reality it can help alleviate stress in ways many other avenue cannot.
This doesn’t always have to be a long, drawn out process, either. Even a quick 20 minute circuit of body weight exercises done in your living room on a consistent basis can do wonders for your health and your stress levels.
As I said, not everyone responds the same way to these strategies, and not everyone allows life to stress them in the same manner. But when you do find yourself stressing out more than usual (which will happen to ALL OF US), I would encourage you to implement the aforementioned techniques for at least a week, and reap the positive benefits.
One of the most discussed goals in fitness is always “a flat stomach” or “abs”. Look at any fitness magazine cover and you’re bound to find an article about the “secrets” to a six-pack. A quick peruse of social media fitness models will show more of the same.
Here’s the deal. Visible abs and/or a flat stomach are typically the result of low body fat, which is the result of ALL THE THINGS that revolve around your fitness/nutrition/sleep/stress regimen.
Let me share some educational information to help you understand the situation better.
Often when people start a new exercise program, we can see weight gain in the short term. Resistance training can cause temporary water retention in the muscles, resulting in more bodyweight overall. If positive diet changes are occurring at the same time, this can sometimes be avoided, but unfortunately many people are not willing to accept that diet has to change in order for visible results to occur.
So...resistance training will continue to build lean muscle mass, which is awesome, but if you do not create a caloric deficit, your new found muscle will just keep growing under your fat tissue.
Which is why all the situps and leg raises and ab wheels in the world won’t give you six-pack abs or a flat stomach.
What they will do is make your abs stronger, just like squats make your legs stronger or curls make your biceps stronger. They serve their purpose, and it’s never a waste of time. However, if the visible physical representation is what you’re looking for, it will always be much more than “Do these 5 simple moves for a toned midsection.”
Unless those 5 simple moves are lift heavier, create a caloric deficit, get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, manage your stress appropriately, and do all those things over an extended period of time. Simple, right?? :-)
Oops, I just gave you the secret!!
Here are a few more things to consider. Your body type may not be conducive to having a flat stomach. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but YOU may have a harder time than most. My short Mexi-Russian self is a great example. The very last place I lose body fat is my midsection. At my leanest, I can have good definition everywhere else on my body, and still not have the magazine abs. Self admittedly, I’m also not willing to take my nutrition to that level of discipline to attain that because it’s just not that important to me.
Which brings me to my final point. If having great abs is a goal of yours, I applaud you. At the same time, I would encourage you to really ask yourself WHY it’s important. Is it to be more attractive to potential mates? Is it to have more confidence taking off your shirt on the beach or wearing a two-piece bikini? Is it something you want to achieve just to know what you’re capable of?
There’s no right or wrong with this, but just like any other goal, please make sure it’s meaningful and has purpose behind it. And know you could do everything “right” and still not get there, which is ok, too.
In fitness, and life, all we can truly control is the process and daily actions we take to achieve our goals. The outcome may or may not be what we desire, but if our actions are consistently in alignment with our goals, then we stand a much better chance of reaching them.
If there’s anything I can do to help you with your fitness, nutrition, and/or mindset, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I would love to help YOU live a happier, healthier life.
"I need to lose weight before I start working out"
If I had a dollar for every time I heard some version of this, I wouldn’t be very rich, but I could probably take my fiancé out for a fancy dinner.
This statement used to make me shake my head with confusion. Internally I was saying “Uh, hey dumbass, that’s what exercise is for!!”
Thankfully I never said that out loud, and even more thankfullier (that’s a word now) I learned what people making that statement actually meant.
Humans have a great aversion to risk, and will largely avoid unnecessary risk as much as possible. “Getting in shape” is a daunting task, and comes with a large set of fears and unknowns.
If you already lack confidence in your physical appearance and abilities, walking into a place you perceive everyone else to be in great shape is intimidating. And what if someone makes fun of you, or judges you, or laughs at your inability, or mocks you, or tells you you’re a big dummy face poopy pants who doesn’t belong in the gym??🤣
I’ve never seen any of those things happen, but those are the thoughts going thru some people’s minds. So when someone says they need to lose weight before they start working out or going to a gym, it’s really a self protecting mechanism to avert as much uncomfortableness as possible. It’s an attempt to fit in before they try to fit in. It’s a mental block and a story people tell themselves to stop them from taking action.
In almost two decades as a health and wellness coach, I’ve heard all the excuses. However, this one is often a clue that someone really does want to do something, they’re just scared.
And that’s ok!
If this is you, the question you must ask is this: how much of a priority is my health, and will I allow my fear to keep me from moving towards my most elite self?
There are times in life we will all be scared. The first day of kindergarten, the first time you drive alone, when you move out on your own, when you hold a baby, when you lose your job, when you lose a loved one, when you get a bad diagnosis, and the list goes on. We live in a dynamic environment and it doesn’t always go as planned.
But if we truly want to LIVE, then we must face the fear head on, acknowledge it, then take away its power and move forward. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s the correct and necessary course of action.
What do you keep telling yourself has to happen before you can ________? Health, relationships, business, finances...you can fill in the blanks in any area and uncover where you’re holding yourself back. Once it’s revealed, you can then take action.
Face your fear, and do it anyway! You’ll never regret doing anything to make yourself better. And if there’s anything I can help you with to improve your fitness, nutrition, and mindset, let me know!
In addition to coaching people to better fitness and nutrition, Marc enjoys writing and helping expand people's minds to live their best life.
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