Recently, we’ve been talking to a lot of people who have rediscovered activity and outdoor adventures again once their younger children have grown up and flown the nest. Once the commitments and the ‘ought to dos’ diminish in number, some people have said that they no longer feel guilty about heading into the outdoors for some ‘me time’. With a busy holiday period coming up (let’s face it, it’s already here!) how is it possible to make sure those feelings of guilt remained banished as we make way for more commitments?
Organise your Priorities
Does it feel like you’re getting busier and busier each year in the build up to Christmas? More people to see, more events to go to and less time to yourself. If anything, these are the times when it’s more important to get outside, breathing in the fresh, crisp air. But how can you fit all of this in with such a demanding schedule?
There always seems to be something more urgent; the house needs decorating, the cat needs feeding, the sheets need changing for the imminent arrival of family members. There’s a million other things we could be doing besides going for a walk or a run and we always want to be productive.
The change comes when we see taking care of ourselves, including our minds, as being productive. It’s about making it a priority. That’s not selfish; it’s best for everyone around us – if we’re less stressed then we’re more focused at home. If you put exercise near the top of your priorities list, you might find that you’re making the time for it rather than finding the time for it! Perhaps we should take some advice from Barack Obama when he was President of the USA – each day he scheduled in an hour’s workout time so the rest of his day was more productive. He once told Vanity Fair, “You have to exercise, or at some point you’ll just break down.”
Exercise and Endorphins
Our bodies are very quick to release endorphins (aka happy hormones) once we start exercising, so even if your time is pressed you don’t need to find much time to feel the positive benefits of exercise at this busy time of year. Endorphins are a natural painkiller and can help you sleep better, thereby aiding stress reduction.
“Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, known as a “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energising outlook on life.”
Don’t think that you need to be the next best ultra-runner to make the most of exercise in your routine. Examples of moderate exercise can include walking, swimming, jogging, gardening, yoga and cycling. In fact, some studies show that walking is better for stress management than running, but it can be very much down to the individual.
It’s also important to manage our expectations with what’s possible. Have you “only” managed to get outside for a few minutes today? A few minutes is better than no minutes – allow yourself that and be kind to yourself! Perhaps your daily exercise is walking to a local cafe or walking to the corner shop for the milk. It still counts but when you’re doing, it take a take a deep breath and appreciate those quiet moments. To starting managing your expectations of what’s achievable, consider whether it has to be all or nothing? Can you find a middle ground?
Before you start burning out, put those trainers on.
A Family Affair
The list of those we need to see over December and January always seems to be increasing, especially as children grow older and start their own families. Instead of dividing everybody up and seeing them all separately, why not try and gather everyone together for a Christmas walk? Enjoying the outdoors together not only strengthens bonds through memories, but makes sure everyone benefits from the exercise. You never know, a friend of relative may have been feeling like they needed to get outside, too, but couldn’t find the time either.