Staying Healthy, Physically & Mentally, This Holiday Season
When you think of the holidays, do you think of the shiny magazine covers showcasing the perfect formal holiday dinner, joyful children gleefully opening presents around the fire, or a family singing carols with the snow gently falling in the background? Or, do stressful thoughts such as a long “to do” list, juggling the holiday work parties and awkward conversations with your cousin enter your mind? If these stressful thoughts are what come to mind rather than what the media wants us to believe are the “typical” holiday scenes, you are not alone. The holidays are a stressful time for most of us.
As we enter the holiday season, it’s a great time to check in with yourself and assess what you need for self-care during this stressful time of year. Check out our holiday tips for managing your nutrition, activity, sleep, and stress management during this stressful time. If you’ve yet to schedule your annual well woman check up, you can do so here, before we get to the end of the year!
Maintaining Nutrition this Holiday Season:
- If you’re attending a potluck, bring a dish or treat that you will enjoy and find nourishing. This helps you ensure that there is something nourishing for you to eat at the gathering and that you will have food to enjoy!
- Check-in with yourself throughout the gathering and ask what would be most nourishing to your mind and body. You might feel most comfortable in a quieter area of the gathering, sitting in a cozy chair while talking to others, or perhaps you’d like to take some time for a walk outside to get a breath of fresh air and a break before rejoining the group.
- Don’t deprive yourself of your favorite holiday treats, but keep portions in mind! Focus on nourishing yourself with plenty of whole or minimally processed foods, like fruit, vegetables, and nuts, in addition to the treats.
Food is meant to be celebrated and enjoyed and is deeply intertwined with our cultures and celebrations. If you can’t imagine the holidays without making cookies – go ahead and enjoy making them and eating them! But, be mindful of what else fills up your plate during the day, too.
Staying Active During the Holidays:
- Although many of us now do much of our shopping online, consider getting out into your community and power walk while shopping. You can walk with purpose and get in your daily steps, while you cross off items on your to-do list.
- Park a little further away from the store to engage in a little more activity too, before even arriving in the store. If you’re carrying some heavy bags by the time your shopping is done, you may even get in some resistance training too!
- If you don’t have time for a 30 minute workout, you can just turn on a fun holiday song and dance for 5 minutes. If your schedule is too packed for your typical workout, try to move for 5 minutes every hour throughout the day to decrease your time sitting and move a little more? Think of ways that you can sneak in exercise “snacks” throughout the day to support your mood, energy, and to help manage this often stressful time of year.
- Your hydration is especially important to be mindful of when life gets busy during the holidays. Consider taking a water bottle with you when you’re out shopping or visiting others. Adequate hydration supports your energy level as well as decreases the chances of overeating.
Recharge Your Body & Mind With Good Sleep:
- Check in with yourself regularly. It’s not just about time management during the holidays, but about energy management too. Throughout the day, check in with your energy level.
- If you have the most energy in the morning, schedule the tasks that require the most focused attention at that time.
- If you’re feeling exhausted by the late afternoon, eat a healthy snack like an apple with nut butter or refill your water bottle.
- Be gentle with yourself and leave the holiday party when it feels right for you. There’s no need to be the “perfect” party goer and close down every party. When you are tired, it’s okay to excuse yourself and retire for the night.
- When our to-do list gets long, it’s easy to try to add more time to the day by decreasing our sleep. However, when we are stressed, this is when prioritizing sleep is the most important (and often we’re least likely to do this). In order to make it through the holiday marathon, you need to recharge yourself by prioritizing sleep, aiming for at least 7 hours of sleep a night. By setting boundaries and letting others know that you prioritize sleep in order to recharge, you’ll be setting healthy examples for others too.
Stress Management Tips For the Holidays:
- Remember that magazines and commercials are just advertising and not reality. The pictures have been staged and are airbrushed. Most families/friend groups are not the stereotypical families and friend groups. Embrace your group, however it looks. Extended family, step-family, family that is related genetically or chosen family, and others that join as friends. Try to appreciate the beauty of the meaningful connections in your life this holiday season.
- Reach out and express gratitude, whether you’re using zoom because you’re on opposite sides of the globe or whether it’s your second-cousin who you haven’t seen in decade.
- Be kind to yourself. The holidays can be stressful and emotionally difficult for many of us. Whether it’s infertility, a recent death in your family, separation from those you love during the holidays, a job loss or ending of a relationship, loneliness or debt, many people struggle during the holidays. Just knowing that you are not alone can be beneficial.
- Reach out and connect with others, if you feel lonely. Your healthcare provider at Diana Health (or another healthcare provider) is here to help. You are not alone. If you are in crisis, please reach out to a crisis line such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association’s National Helpline is free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service. If you or someone close to you is dealing with a mental and/or substance use disorder, please reach out.
- You get more “bang for your buck” when you incorporate the three Diana Health pillars of nourishing foods, increased movement and getting adequate sleep. The three of these pillars work together synergistically as we know that prioritizing sleep often leads to healthier eating and decreased stress which may increase your motivation to exercise!
As the holidays approach, take time to pause and consider why the holidays are truly meaningful to you. It’s probably not the perfect holiday table or the perfect present. Rather, it’s more likely to be the celebration of something larger than ourselves. Whether that involves nature, volunteering, a faith family, or another meaningful connection, you deserve to be nourished, active, refreshed, and resilient through the holidays and always. You are amazing and you are loved! See you in 2023!