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Ask Dr. Salada – How can I combat holiday stress and its effects?

Q:  The holidays are so stressful with all of the “to-dos” and little time to get it all done. How can I ease the holiday stress?

A:  That’s a great question that not only applies to the holidays, but to the stress of “life” in general.  When our bodies experience “stress,” our adrenal glands, that sit just above our kidneys, release a combination of hormones that include cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. The term “adrenal” fatigue occurs when we have prolonged periods of stress, resulting in the prolonged release of stress hormones. The symptoms of adrenal fatigue can include decreased energy, body and muscle aches, extreme exhaustion, poor quality or interrupted sleep, lack of mental clarity, or “brain fog,” and sometimes depression.

Exercise can help overcome the effects of stress by shutting off the adrenal hormones and instead causing the release of substances that our brain produce called endorphins. Endorphins result in feelings of relaxation, peacefulness and calmness. Exercise also helps to relax our bodies and our cardiovascular system, which helps to enhance our quality of and depth of sleep, which results in more restorative sleep.

How much exercise a person needs to maximize the release of endorphins varies from person to person and with the aerobic activity being performed. Generally, a minimum of 20-30 minutes a day of moderate intensity aerobic activity that elevates your heart rate above 100 beats per minute should be enough to at least “take the edge off” of those stressful feelings and clear your mind so that you can focus better.

So, with the stress of the holidays bearing down on us, make sure to use your Total Gym daily to relieve those “holiday blues.” Daily exercise will also help fight the weight gain that is so common this time of year!

Until next time, have a wonderful, safe, healthy and blessed Holiday Season and New Year!

Dr. Salada is board certified in Internal Medicine and has been in practice in San Diego since 1996. She attended medical school at Wake Forest University where she received high honors in Family Practice and Internal Medicine. Her final training was obtained from Pennsylvania State University where she completed her residency in Internal Medicine.


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