We all know what the festive period is about right – yes, you guessed it; mince pies and mulled wine. However, it can be a rather stressful time too – from looming deadlines, to family conflict and busy social schedules. Therefore, taking time for yourself can positively impact your mental and physical health. Allocating time to exercise, particularly outdoors, could leave you feeling renewed and calm.
Below are my top 3 suggestions to help you de-stress over the festive period:
- Christmas Day Dip
The ‘annual’ Christmas Day dip is becoming ever more popular and accessible. Biologically, immersing yourself in cold water (15°C or colder) triggers our mammalian ‘diving reflex’, the same response a new born baby has when submerged in water (instantaneously holding its breath). This reflex forces us to relax by slowing our heart and breathing rate. It is very effective at calming down our bodily stress response and relieving the inflammation build up from chronic stress.
In recent years, doctors have called on the government to introduce or provide services via the NHS for outdoor swimming as it has been found to effectively treat a range of mental health illnesses, including depression.
Fancy a dip? You can find your local events over the Christmas period here.
- Walking Outdoors
If swimming isn’t your thing, how about taking a walk outdoors surrounded by nature. Despite the festive period being centred around family it is important to realise that personal space and time away is healthy. Walking among nature can provide a sense of escapism, a new environment through which to problem-solve and think. At JCA Global, we talk about the important balance of both Self Regard and Regard for Others. By prioritising other’s happiness or well-being before your own, you run the risk of becoming tired, drained and burnt-out. In contrast, by valuing your own needs alongside the needs of others, you will inevitably have more internal resource to look after yourself and others. Taking time out in the fresh air gives the opportunity to empty our minds and prioritise thoughts.
- Do something you enjoy
Diet and exercise are arguably the most popular New Year resolutions made every year. However, the research is clear; if you don’t enjoy it and you don’t make it a daily or even weekly routine, then you will struggle to commit to it long-term. In our cash-rich time-poor society, it’s important to find physical activities that you enjoy. Remember, it’s not the type of activity that is important but rather the time spent performing it. And if you still enjoy doing it during these cold, dark, winter nights then you are onto a winner.
Regardless of which form of exercise you choose, the thing to remember is that it gives us the opportunity to relax and reflect, ultimately giving us the chance to renew. This, in turn, will hopefully lead to a stress-free and happy festive break.
 Huttunen, P., Kokko, L., & Ylijukuri, V. (2004). Winter swimming improves general well-being. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 63(2), 140-144.
 (Kahneman, 2011).
 Heinrich, K. M., Patel, P. M., O’Neal, J. L., & Heinrich, B. S. (2014). High-intensity compared to moderate-intensity training for exercise initiation, enjoyment, adherence, and intentions: an intervention study. BMC public health, 14, 789. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-789