Silly season has it's name for a reason, so here are some tools based in scientific evidence that you can use to manage the effects of stress that creeps up, because let's face it this time really does have the potential to be thoroughly enjoyed, if we take the time to slow down and let it be so.
Step 1: Build awareness of the stress response and how it manifests in your body
The first step to managing stress is to become aware of it, and it's potential effects that are unique to you. To be able to witness the self in the moment of stress is the gateway to intervening and changing perspective. This requires an honest look at the self. A step back. An honest chat. From a sports psychology perspective I've recently learned about how stress is managed by elite athletes, and to be honest, the tools can be implemented by anyone. But first, what is stress?
Stress is a substantial imbalance between demand (physical and psychological) and our ability to respond adequately under the conditions were presented with, where if we fail to meet the demand here may be important consequences. Our perception of the consequence and our attachment to it, is the key to finding an alternative view of the situation.
When our stress response is activated we go into the fight flight freeze - stress response. How can we recognise these effects in our body? Here are some clues...Under stress we experience sympathetic nervous system arousal, this happens directly and cues the following responses:
Adrenaline is release in the system within minutes
Cortisol - after 10 mins and continues for hours
If stress response continues for prolonged periods
Sleep quality decreases
Suppressed immune system
Increased muscle tone (chronic neck and back pain and tension headaches)
Increase heart rate and blood pressure (pounding heartbeat)
Decreased heart rate variability
Continued catabolic state, and little recovery (low repair and maintenance)
Step 2: Reframe the consequences of the outcome - dive back into self and reframe the situation to incorporate your personal needs.
You can't pour from an empty cup and you're no use to anyone if you're stressed and burnt out, but that's hard to do when we place so much weight onto a certain outcome. Self care is sometimes saying no, even to ourselves, especially when perfectionism is a thing for you (it is for me) and that's OK. Reframing the consequences of the outcome and detaching from its importance requires us to take a step back, and return to our mind body connection. Here, it's our responsibility to take care of ourselves, as we can't really expect anyone to pull us out of our own frenzy.
Mindfulness and gentle movement is proven to assist us to move out of our head and into our body. I have the perfect series for you to follow to help you glide back into a more regulated space. Some of us prefer slow gentle movement, and some of us prefer a high intensity hit of happy hormones, so here are three options for follow along series that are available on the catalogue:
30min DESK RELIEF: LEVEL ONE:
3 x 30min classes
20MIN PILATES HIIT: LEVEL THREE:
20, 30 & 45min options
60MIN YOGALATES FUSION: LEVEL 2
14 x 60min classes
Step 3: Other options to help yourself reframe your stressful situation and validate your experience include
Journalling can be a tough thing to do if you're not used to doing it so here are some helpful prompts to get you going
Time in Nature
Grab your raincoat, hiking boots and a bottle of H20 and head out on a hike or a long walk or cycle. Even 20 minutes of walking outdoors can inspire us, stop rumination and help us to breathe and calm down and reframe our thoughts. Here are some more insights into the benefits of spending time in nature for heart health and managing stress and anxiety
Music for Stress Relief
Putting on music and having a dance in your living room can feel liberating and add a sense of fun and playfulness to your day. Research findings indicate that music around 60 beats per minute can cause the brain to synchronize with the beat causing alpha brainwaves (frequencies from 8 - 14 hertz or cycles per second). Check out this incredible stress relief guide from the university of Nevada - releasing stress through the power of music.
Whatever you do, remember to take yourself and your capacity into consideration, take time to think about what brings you joy at Christmas, your need for rest, your time availability and whether or not the expectations upon you (from yourself or from others) are realistic.
Enjoy your silly season and see you on the mat!
- Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (2019). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology (7th ed.). Human Kinetics.
- Hanin, Y. (2000) Emotions in Sport (1st ed.) Human Kinetics. 44