3 ways to de-stress this holiday season

We’ve passed Thanksgiving. That means the holiday craziness is in full swing now. There seem to be two kinds of personalities prevalent around the holiday season: Cheerful or snarling. It’s easy to get frazzled. To let your nerves and anxiety get the best of us. But it’s important to manage stress especially for our healthy aging. We feel calmer and more able to tackle future problems, plus our immune system can even be stronger when we experience less stress. Here are some easy tips to turn your snarls into grins. Your 3 ways to de-stress this holiday season:

Plan for the tough stuff

Don’t have your shopping done yet? List all the people who you have to buy gifts for. Have an idea of what you’ll get them and plan your shopping trip(s) accordingly. And don’t forget the wrapping paper or gift bags. Now schedule your shopping runs and wrapping parties. If you’re cooking, plan your menus and shopping for that too. Chef Alex Guarnaschelli recently shared her timeline for prepping for Thanksgiving. Take a lesson from Chef Alex! Plan for the tough stuff.

Have a plan to de-stress

Easy ways to de-stress this holiday season.
A short guided meditation can also help you de-stress

Inevitably, some things will get to you. Your annoying student went one step too far. Or your mom poked her nose into your family’s business one time too many. So, have a plan to distract yourself from the stress when you’re feeling the tension. Play a short game of Fishdom on your phone. Take a bath. Go for a walk. Exercise. Dance to your favorite tune. It won’t take long. 5 to 10 minutes should be enough time to feel calmer.

Recognize things you’re grateful for

The Thanksgiving holiday may be in the rear view mirror, but being thankful should be an everyday occurrence. You may be frustrated with some things in your life. And you may feel something akin to desperation about others. But there will always be things you’re grateful for. Remind yourself of them. Yes, some days it’s harder than others to see the bright spots. But they’re there if you open your eyes. Feeling gratitude in your life leads to optimism and hope.

The American Heart Association has identified these and other activities to manage stress. But these easy 3 will get you started.

3 tips to glide through the holiday season. There will still be stress – no getting around it. But you’ll be prepared and ready to meet it head on.

Exercise intensity after menopause

Exercise is for everyone.
Exercise is for everyone

Here’s something we can all agree on: no one is getting younger. It’s also a fact that women go through menopause at some time mid-life. The CDC has emphasized the importance of exercise for everyone, at every age. So, even though women’s bodies are changing, does that mean that our exercise should change? If we’re used to intense exercise, can we continue with that intensity? Or, if we need to start doing something, what’s the right intensity level? What’s the proper exercise intensity after menopause?

The short answer

Everyone is different. You know your own body, so do what feels right.You still should challenge yourself, but you might want to be creative about the challenge. 

Former First Lady Michelle Obama is quite open about her menopause experience. If you recall, when she lived in the White House she famously led “fitness boot camps” for friends and came to be known as the “Drillmaster.” Everyone wanted Michelle Obama’s beautifully toned arms. Mrs. Obama still exercises, but she admits that she’s toned down the intensity. She has found that she cannot push herself as hard as she used to. Obama and her friends turn more to flexibility rather than cardio workouts. Not only that, Obama no longer leads all the workouts, but her group of friends keeps everyone fit and healthy.

The answer for me

As you know, if you’ve been reading my articles, I work out regularly. I’ve challenged myself and as a consequence can run faster now than I ever could before – because I committed to it. I still don’t enjoy it and probably never will, but that’s not why I run. 

The answer for everyone

Listen to your body. If you’re feeling good, perhaps push yourself a little harder. If an exercise is especially tough, ease up. Perhaps focus a little more on lower intensity moves or work in an extra Yoga or Pilates program.

Watch the “slow weight creep”

Mrs. Obama admitted to the “slow weight creep” of menopause. As she wasn’t able to maintain the intensity, she wasn’t burning the calories that she used to. And so had to be mindful of her intake. “I have to be more mindful, not obsessive, but more mindful,” she said.

The Mayo Clinic agrees with Michelle Obama’s assessment: “Women tend to lose muscle mass and gain abdominal fat around menopause. Regular physical activity can help prevent weight gain.”

Now’s the time to improve your balance too

The Mayo Clinic also recommends working on your balance to improve stability and prevent falls. “Try simple exercises, such as standing on one leg while brushing your teeth. Activities such as tai chi also can be helpful.” Please note, though, that while tai chi improves balance over time, the improvement is cumulative. Tai Chi practice over a period of time will help your balance. The simple exercises found in the Week of Core-Centered Balance Moves can start helping you in just a couple of minutes a day.

Never stop

I’ve known many people who view retirement and aging as an excuse to quit their exercise programs. But, now is the time to get fit and strong and live our best lives – actually do the things we worked for, for all those years. Listen to your body. If you’re feeling good and things don’t hurt, your exercise intensity after menopause does not have to decrease. Take the time your body needs to recover, but don’t stop.

Keep your exercise low impact

I’m crazy, and I know it. Don’t be like me on those two days a week that I consciously engage in something that I’m telling you not to do. I run two days a week, but I’m telling you to keep your exercise low impact. Save your knees, your back and your hips. Keep a foot on the floor when you exercise. 

First I’ll tell you why I do it.

Agility is not low impact. But I enjoy it.
Running Agility with Booker.

I run twice a week to increase my speed and my stamina so that I can run my dog in Agility and be where he needs me to be. My dog will always be faster than I am. I know that. But I can be in the right place to give him his cue for the next obstacle he has to do. So I need to be faster than I am now. And, perhaps more importantly, not run out of breath when I get there. This is why I keep getting on that treadmill, even though I don’t enjoy it. I’m building my speed with run / walk intervals, and going easy on my old knees. It’s taking a while, but I’m getting there. Some days are definitely easier than others, but the overall trend is faster.

High impact is not for everyone

Yes, you can burn more calories faster with a high impact workout, but low impact can be just as effective for your fitness and your healthy aging! Even though it’s easier on the joints, low impact exercise is not necessarily less stressful on the body. CITYROW founding instructor Annie Mulgrew says, “We want the body to be able to respond to stress effectively — that’s one reason why we exercise.”

Low impact exercise means that one foot is always on the floor during exercise – at least when you’re upright. Seated exercises and mat-work are different animals altogether, but they’re definitely low impact as well.

Low impact does not mean low intensity

For maximum benefit, we want our exercise to be high intensity – we’re challenging ourselves and raising our heart rate. Low impact, high intensity workouts can include speed walking with arm pumps, weight training, rowing, or cycling. 

So, put a little less stress on your joints but still make it tough for yourself with your workouts.

Challenge yourself to exercise

Has your exercise routine gotten kind of flat? Are you doing the moves but feel like you’re just going through the motions? Try a challenge to give your workouts a spark. That’s right: Challenge yourself to exercise.

You’ve probably seen groups, pages and influencers on Facebook run 5- or 7-day challenges to drink more water, or use your Instant Pot every week. It’s the same idea, but with this, you challenge yourself. You’ll change your mindset and look forward to exercise because you’re getting closer to the prize you will set for yourself. Set your challenge and a time limit – for example, exercise for 30 minutes every day for 30 days. And be sure to set a prize for succeeding in your challenge! Say, download Taylor Swift’s new album.

Kelly Froelich, an NASM- and ACE-certified trainer and cofounder of the digital fitness platform Balanced, finds that self-challenges are a great way to self-motivate. “Intrinsic motivation, such as an internal desire to do something, is great to stick to something in the long run, but sometimes you need a bit of extrinsic motivation, such as a prize, to start you off,” she says. So, make that prize something you really want. And don’t get it before you complete your Challenge! That’s cheating!

Challenge ideas

Try a Plank Challenge!
Try a Plank Challenge!

If you need ideas for your Challenge, or if you need a theme, try a step challenge for walking. Be sure to increase the number of steps you have to take each day, week-by-week. Or if you’re a runner, increase the miles you run! Or try a plank challenge. Increasing the time you’re in plank position. If the plank is old hat, then try a plank variation a day! To increase strength, do a weight challenge – but you might have to buy heavier weights by the end of your challenge time. Or try a Body-Weight Strength Challenge! This article describes some of your options for this.

Be mindful of the exercises you do

Exercise is great, but we must be mindful of the exercises we do every day and the toll they take on our bodies.

Yes, exercise makes us happier. And expending energy gives us more energy, as surprising as that sounds. Exercise is a natural way to fight depression, and it also helps us sleep better. Exercise has a zillion benefits. But we have to remember that our bodies need rest and recovery too. 

Build rest days into your challenge

I’m not advocating exercising at full impact and intensity every day. Especially if you’re doing a weight challenge, build lower intensity or non-lifting days into your challenge. Take a speed-walk a couple days a week and a stroll or a yoga practice on Sundays. Be sure to do the work to meet your challenge goals, but be mindful of what your body needs. Schedule your workouts, including the exercises you plan on so you don’t lose track of your intense days and your rest days.

Challenge yourself to exercise. Don’t forget that you’ll get two prizes at the end: your Challenge prize and the prize of being more fit!