When you feel moody, run
This year, don’t let the stress, depression and lack of time the busy holiday season leaves with you get in your way of enjoying being with your family and friends.
During a recent visit my doctor — who is a long distance runner — said, “During times of stress we should all find our natural Prozac.” He and I agreed running provides that for both of us.
More than 21 million people worldwide use Prozac or other antidepressants, but researchers are looking for drug-free ways to fight depression. Exercise and diet are receiving attention in this area as ways to restore harmony to brain chemistry.
The brain controls your moods, so boosting your levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin can help you relax, calm down and relieve stress. Activities such as running boost your norepinephrine and dopamine levels, which make you more alert, reduce your doldrums and increase your energy levels. Test it to see if it works for you. Prior to doing something that may bring on negative feelings, go for a run. You’ll see your tolerance levels increase as well as your patience.
Family gatherings can be fun, but they may disrupt your schedule. Be flexible. If it means cutting your run short, running earlier or later in the day, splitting your long run into two runs or opting for taking a day off — do it. Don’t fret over not getting your mileage in, or having to run at a different time. Even a short run is better than none at all.
Choose a peaceful location for your run that embraces the holiday spirit. If you can, run on a bike path or area where there’s no traffic, and put some holiday music on your MP3 player. If you’re like me and enjoy the sounds of nature while you run, play holiday music in your car on the way to your run.
Wear your holiday T-shirt, candy cane socks, and jingle bells on your shoelaces. It’s just another way to let loose and get into the holiday spirit.
Food Can Be Stressful
It’s hard to turn away all those high-sugar goodies, alcohol and fattening foods during the holidays. These add to your stress, causing mood swings and what I call “post-eating regrets.” The best thing to do is never go to a party hungry. Eat something healthy and filling before you leave your house and you won’t be as tempted to go overboard. Choose spritzers over wine and mixed drinks. They’re tasty and you can adjust the alcohol content by adding soda water.