Tips for a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season
As Thanksgiving rapidly closes in around us and Christmas is just around the corner, it seemed like a good time to look at ways to keep your smile and your waistline over the holiday's.
By now we have been seeing displays for Christmas for months and though there are those who've already completed their shopping, written out their Christmas Cards and planned their meals for the big days, many more of us have only just begun, if at all. It is a hugely, overwhelming holiday for most people. Well, if you are under the age of 12 it is probably simply the best holiday of the year! Hands down. What's not to like? Christmas movies, music and treats. Candy, trips to the Mall and sitting on Santa's lap. Family dinners and more treats. Yep, I have some mighty fond memories of Christmas as a child. There is not the worry about shopping or budget. No concern over what to make for the big meal; what to feed Aunt Henrietta who can't tolerate any seasoning or Uncle Bert who always eats all the mashed potato's no matter how many you make. Nope, you just sit down and make out your list for Santa. You might get an allowance from a parent to buy said parent a gift and maybe even shop for a sibling. But, this one is on the parents and not a big stressor. The biggest hassle if any can be found here is in having to maybe miss out on a favorite show or some play time to go shopping.
Fast forward 20 years or so. By now you have your own family and meals to be made. Shopping lists in the multiples and planning for multiple events that all could derail at any moment. This is when you have to choose; do you want a joyful holiday season or a "perfect" holiday?! I think in order to minimize the stress that is inherent this time of year, it is best to focus on the joy and allow for your holiday festivities to be enjoyable if not perfect. I will give several examples to have you celebrating happily and singing "Deck the Halls" versus drinking too much, yelling at the family and getting headache's and nausea from trying too hard to please everybody.
1) Breathe! That's right, just breathe in and out. I know this sounds obvious, but it actually is one of the first things to go when we are under stress. Oh, we keep breathing as our brains are wonderful computer's and wouldn't allow us to stop breathing. I am referring to conscious, deep, cleansing breaths. Take a few minutes whenever you are feeling stress coming on and sit; place both feet on the floor and close your eyes. Inhale deeply through your nose and feel your stomach rise. Exhale fully from your nose and relax. Do this three or four times and you should start to feel grounded and centered and able to carry on.
2) Make time for yourself! I can't stress this step enough. You simply must guard your own health and strength in order to not have any health concerns related to stress. Lack of sleep, poor diet, lack of exercise all can occur during times of stress such as this. But, then you are less able to stay strong and focused to continue to deal with the stress as it keeps coming at you. If you can make your well being and health a priority your family and friends will ultimately thank you. Be sure to relax when you need to, sleep as much as you are able and take care of yourself. Eat properly and exercise when at all possible.
3) Try to eat well and get regular exercise: Do make time and effort to keep a healthy diet and even a modicum of daily activity toward keeping the toll of stress in check. I know it may not be possible to go to the Gym like you usually do as many days a week as usual. But, you can park further from your destinations to add steps. Take the stairs over the elevator when at all possible. Make an effort to walk; even if you take 5 10 minute walks per day, the added time will actually be beneficial. It can be hard to take a block of 30minutes to an hour to work out; but add up multiple episodes of activity for an all over total of time spent being active. You will feel so much better if you just get some fresh air and time in nature to walk. If you can exercise, yoga might help de stress more than weightlifting at this time of year. Whatever is your usual "go to" routine don't neglect it if you can keep up somewhat.
Diet is also one of the first things to go and one area where people often regret the holiday and "pay" for it well into the following year.
But, all those tempting goodies, all the parties; all the wine and liquor! Well, I'm not suggesting you say no, but say yes to the good stuff first! Drink water; start the day with 8 oz of warm water and lemon. This detoxifies the liver, hydrates your organs and helps the metabolism stay active. Don't skip meals! Sure, it's tempting to save the calories for the big party later today. But, if you arrive at that party hungry, you are much more likely to eat too much and drink too much. If, however, you keep yourself fed with light, energy rich foods during the day and drink plenty of water it will be easier to make healthier choices at social events or other person's homes.
I always suggest that you drink a glass of water after any alcoholic beverage. One way this helps is simply having less alcohol to worry about. The other thing is that you will stay hydrated, so even if you do indulge in a spiked eggnog later on, or one more glass of wine than might have been wise, your body will not be as miserable the next day for having stayed hydrated.
When eating through a buffet, load up on vegetables (minus fattening dip) and be careful with those lovely cubes of cheese. One good sized cube is an ounce and could be as much as 100 calories! Just be smart, and try to avoid large portions of anything "naughty". You can allow yourself an indulgence, but be frugal about the amount that you partake of.
I spent many years thinking I could eat as I wished and work out to burn off the calories. Well, studies have shown that what we eat is 80% of the issue in controlling weight and exercise accounts for only 20%. So, you might be spending an entire day doing aerobics or have to run 6 hours to burn off that extra glass of eggnog, or large slab of pie. Savor small bites of these foods like they are rare, expensive caviar. Then go back to your veggies and fruit. You can maintain your weight without diet by following some of these tips.
4) Stay organized: Make lists and stick to them. Avoid impulse buying. Plan ahead before you leave the house what items you want to purchase and for whom. If you have a budget, stick to it! The lack of budget will cause you to overspend and you don't want to spend all of the coming year paying off the Holiday!
Be strategic about shopping. Make one trip but accomplish 5 things. You can do this! You have been shopping for many years, and just because it's crowded, rude people abound and there are deadlines involved, remember your normal habits for staying on budget and on schedule. Yes, you want to get the "perfect" gift for your significant other, but he also deserves to have a partner that is not stressed out and taking that stress out on the family. Be generous, but be realistic!
5) Miscellaneous: Take care of yourself. Remember that the holiday season is one of joy. This is not the Spanish Inquisition! It is a time to show your love for those in your life and celebrate with others the gift of the holiday season. Be it Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza or any other type of holiday, it is about being present and full of joy. Yes, it may be fantastic to find the perfect gift for your beloved partner, but not if it comes at the cost of your sanity! You and your partner deserve to be unstressed and in the moment. So, laugh, breathe, meditate, pray....eat, drink and be merry! All of these are possible and more when you let go and relax and enjoy the Holiday season. View it as any other planned for event and allow for imperfection where necessary. Just be and it will all work out for the best!
In closing I think the key is to keep things light and enjoyable and don't push yourself to do everything just so. Have fun, laugh, be silly and most of all enjoy your holiday. Whether you are trimming the tree, lighting the menorah or whatever tradition you partake of, find the joy and love and laughter that the holiday is really all about!
Be the ray of light and joy in the world gone mad with sales, crowds, traffic and woe! You just might find yourself smiling more and enjoying more too.
May the holiday season bless you all with love and joy.