When you think about the upcoming holidays, do you feel anxious and uneasy or happy and excited ? Does your heart pound, and mind race with details of the gathering that you plan to be the best ever?
For most of us we look forward to what should be a slower more peaceful time of the year.
THE REALITY for most of us, is that it's very busy and not so peaceful. There are extra errands to run for that perfect gift and chores to do in preparation of our house guests, add that to our day to day responsibilities and you have HOLIDAY STRESS.
The extra stressors of the holiday acts as immediate stress to the body, signaling a fight or flight response from the central nervous system. The brain tells the Hypothalamus to tell the adrenal glands to release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. When the immediate stress is over, the central nervous system tells the body to return to its normal state. However, if the body can not return to its normal state because the stressor, (the holiday season) is still present or there was no physical release of these hormones, they will build up in the system and cause havoc to the mind and body.
Our body in response to the added responsibilities of the holidays will go into over drive and release additional cortisol and adrenaline to help us adapt. In the short term this may be helpful but if we don’t manage it head on we are setting ourselves up for what could be a challenging start to a healthy new year.
Here are 3 things to help combat and meet the effects of stress head on so that it does not interrupt the spirit of the upcoming holidays
- Eat foods that lower stress -
- Foods like Steel Cut Oatmeal boosts the levels of Serotonin and calm the brain
- Oranges decrease levels os stress hormones and strengthen the immune system.
- Spinach and leafy greens have magnesium which can help fight stress headaches and fatigue
- Omega 3 fatty fish can prevent surges of the stress hormones and fight against winter depression
- Avocados high in potassium reduce high blood pressure and can curve your craving for a high-fat treat this holiday season
- Almonds full of vitamins like Vitamin E to boost your immune system and can make you more resilient to the holiday stress and depression
- Exercise - We all know that exercise is important AND during this holiday season probably a little more challenging to get to the gym. But even 20-30 minutes of aerobic activity a couple times a week; i.e. walking , running elliptical ,will help the body recreate the “flight” response releasing the stress hormones and decreasing the cortisol levels in our body. Can’t fit 20 minutes that into your day? Break it up, do stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, park a good distance away from the front of the store. Every little bit helps
- Take some time to breath and be mindful - It may seem like the impossible to take 5 minutes during this season for yourself but research shows that giving yourself time to “just be” will help bring you back to the present where you can make more conscious sound decisions, even i rewards to your spending. It can also help you relax and decompress during stressful times by slowing your heart rate , lowering your blood pressure and decreasing your cortisol levels.
Make this the year that you enjoy your holidays and go into the new year feeling healthy and prepared instead of making That your new years resolution.
- Donna Taylor
Many runners and athletes have a lot in common, talking about the latest gear, new exercises, the weather, and of course, injuries. One in particular is Achilles tendinitis. In high school I was a sprinter and a long jumper, practicing 6 days a week for basically 4 years straight. Of course, I ended up in a boot up to my knee and missing the end of my senior season from Achilles Tendinitis, which Physio Works says “refers to tiny tears in the tissue in and around the tendon caused by overuse.”
The Achilles is a thick tendon that attaches your Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscle to your heel; it is one of the thickest tendons in our body. According to Physio Works “ Achilles Tendinitis is a term used that commonly refers to an inflammation of the Achilles tendon or its covering. It is in overuse injury that is common especially to joggers and jumpers, due to the repetitive action and so may occur in other activities that require the same repetitive action.” Runners are especially prone to injury there due to the repetitive foot strike of our sport. If we do not have hip flexibility this makes our foot strike shorter and in turn puts more strain on the back of our lower leg. Another common cause of Achilles tendinitis is over pronation, this occurs when your foot strikes the ground and rolls inward. Pronation is our bodies natural response to gravity and ground reaction force, this is how we naturally move, but over-pronating puts extra stress on our calf muscles and pulls on the Achilles.
One of the best ways to prevent Achilles tendinitis is to keep your hips and calves loose.
- For the hip: place one foot on a stair or a secure chair, stand nice and tall while holding on to a wall or railing and with your rear foot and front foot both pointing straight ahead, gently shift your weight to the front leg until you feel a stretch in front of your hip, hold for 30-60 seconds, gently release the stretch and duplicate on your other leg. (1st picture below)
- As for your Gastrocnemius muscle: borrow a tennis ball from your dog or child and place it under your lower leg, while sitting with legs straight on the ground, find a tender spot and hold for 30-120 seconds, once complete slowly come off of that spot and repeat until you have found all of the tight spots. For an example of this please checkout our IBJI HPI Wellness video from January. After that you can do a traditional calf stretch. (Second picture below)
These two tips not only help with prevention but are also good for recovering from an injury. Following these easy steps will keep you outside enjoying these beautiful days on a nice long run. For me, these two key stretches and releases allowed me to still participate in a sport that I love and also to complete my first half marathon.
As the great George Sheehan said “ Running is play; racing is sport. Play is the preparation; sport is the performance. My training is play; my race is sport in its purest expression (Sheehan 128).” Keep yourself healthy so that you can keep playing.
- Angie Gonzalez, LMT
Sheehan, George. The Essential Sheehan: A lifetime of Running Wisdom from the legendary Dr. George Sheehan. Rodale, 2013. Book