Your Guide to a Happier and Healthier Holiday Season
Hello DECEMBER! It’s the last month of the year and officially the holiday season. With both of those things in mind, I know that December can come with both motivation and inspiration to finish the year off on a positive note, to spread good, generous vibes, and to make beautiful memories with our loved ones.
That being said, December is also often accompanied with stress, pressure and anxieties that can leave us feeling worn down, exhausted, and maybe even a little ill come the new year. Maybe you…
- Feel pressure from all the diet-related media to adhere to a healthy eating and exercise regimen in order to avoid “holiday weight gain”
- Are a college or university student enduring finals season full of long days (and nights) sitting and studying the at library and only sleeping 4-5 hours per night
- Have social anxiety and don’t know how you’re going to make it through 4 weekends of holiday parties back to back to back
- Are an entrepreneur or have a side-hustle and this holiday season is your busiest yet. You need all the business you can get but looking at your December calendar sends your anxiety through the roof
- Are a parent tasked with fulfilling wish lists, decorating, baking, hosting, cooking, and wrapping and sticking to the budget
Maybe you can relate to more than one thing on that list. It’s even more likely that there’s a handful of several other things making you feel a little (or a lot) more stressed this time of year than you’d like to be. I see you. I feel you. So – in the spirit of giving 😉 I’ve created a list of things you can do in order to have your healthiest, happiest holiday season. And no, doing 100 burpees to burn off Christmas dinner is not on the list.
DITCH THE DIET TALK
There is so much diet-talk around most holidays – but even more so in December. Not only are we attending more gatherings with more “fun food” than usual, but guess what comes right after December? New Years. So, this doubles as the prime time for fitness and diet brands to convince you that you need to “pay” for your holiday meals through diet and exercsise (in addition to your well-earned dollars). We’re told all through the holiday season through television, magazines and social media (which then gets passed on in conversation) that two Christmas cookies will cost us “x” many minutes on the treadmill. Or we’re constantly reminded to have a snack (but not too much to eat) before the office holiday party to avoid overdoing it on the hors d’oeuvres and the accompanying calories.
Consuming and even engaging in this diet-talk (I know it’s hard to avoid) can make us feel a lil’ crazy around food. While some of these holiday eating and exercise tips that we see are well intentioned, they often make us feel pressured, anxious, and afraid of “slipping up” over the holidays. So much so that if we do have more to eat than usual or we do leave the party feeling a little over-full we feel that we’re no longer “on track” and must do something to fix it. I’ve been there, too.
I want you to know that there is no “slipping up” or “getting off track”. It is perfectly okay – it’s more than okay – it’s perfectly normal and healthy to eat and or drink more indulgent foods and beverages some days versus others. And it is perfectly fine to do so without an ounce of guilt or worry.
So this holiday season, I want you to try your best to disengage from diet-talk and rather focus on enjoyment. Not stress, pressure, and “slipping up”. Eat what you’ll enjoy, and you may even find that after a holiday party or two (or three) you don’t feel so much like eating all the treats anymore anyways. That’s the beauty of listening to our cravings and eliminating rules from eating. And remember that after all, that our health is not determined by one day or one week or even one month of eating.
I know how crazy the holidays can be. Honestly though, it’s not until I started #adulting – for lack of a better term – that I really understood how hectic December shapes up to be. I’m sure once I become a parent this understanding will deepen even further, but between work, events, gift shopping, wrapping, cooking, and more and more and more, the stress can build up.
For me, keeping a handle on my stress levels in a non-negotiable. Chronic stress (like, for a month straight) will do us no good so it’s important to find ways that you can release – or even better – prevent it.
I’m sure we all have ways we like to de-stress, whether it be getting a massage, taking the night off to watch a movie, a bath, a long walk, reading, and the list goes on. Whatever it is, I want you to prioritize it. Like, once a week. At least. Think of it as a way to give a gift to yourself this holiday season. Do something for yourself each week of this month that will help you relax and stress less. To some it may seem unproductive, but I feel that it’s quite the opposite. When we take some time to de-stress and recharge, we tend to come back more focused and productive than before.
MAKE MOVING FUN
I promise this has nothing to do with burning calories to make up for the wine. For one, exercise is proven to boost our moods and keep stress at bay. So if you’re looking for a way to bump-up your holiday cheer – this might be it!
You might feel like you don’t have time right now, but even doing some form of movement for like, 10 minutes can help to get that pep back in to your step that you’ve been losing as the month progresses. It’s also a perfect way to bond with family or friends over the holidays! Maybe you can take a yoga class with a parent, friend or sibling. Head out for a family walk with the dogs, or take a fun workout class with your girlfriends who are in town. I assure you, a little bit goes a long way for our moods, our energy levels and our immune systems!
CHECK IN WITH YOURSELF
If you’re worried about feeling run down, burnt out, and maybe even coming down with a cold come 2019, I encourage you to check in with yourself regularly. Ideally we do this every day, but because time is tight this month try once a week or even just half way through the month. You could even schedule a “check-in” with yourself in your planner! It will literally take 5 minutes or less of your time. When you check in, ask yourself questions like…
- “How am I feeling?”
- “What do I need?”
- “What is going well?”
- “What could be better?”
For example, you could writer in a journal or even just reflect in your head: “This week I am feeling tired and slightly overwhelmed but productive and looking forward to seeing my good friends this weekend. I need to prioritize going to sleep earlier on weeknights and to remind myself to take things one task at a time. I have taken time this week to exercise and decorate the house but I could make a better to put my phone away when getting work done.”
For self-reflective people, checking in may seem like a no-brainer. Some others may find it a little weird at first, but checking-in with ourselves helps to prioritize, reorganize, and calm feelings of overwhelm during busy times of the year.
Lol, cheesy? I’m sorry.
What I’m trying to get at is that the month of December is already pretty full. It’s important to know your limits and when you’ve added enough to your plate already (your figurative plate, I mean). While the holidays are absolutely meant for gatherings, giving, and hosting, you actually need to have time to enjoy the holidays for yourself, too.
As a dietitian wearing several hats, for me that means setting work-related boundaries. While I value working hard, I also value my time with friends and family, relaxation, and my own health and wellness. I know that saying “yes” to too much – whether that be work opportunities, holiday parties, etcetera – it will only leave me feeling stressed and exhausted with less energy to truly enjoy the time I do have to celebrate the holidays. So if you’re already feeling like you have a full plate this holiday season, start saying no to things that may not necessarily bring you all the joy and warmth that this season is all about.
GRATITUDE ALL MONTH LONG
Gratitude is something that always brings me back when I’m in over my head. If there’s anything that you have going on this month that is giving you anxiety, I recommend writing down a list (again, a written or mental list will do) of things that you’re grateful for right here and now.
Experiencing gratitude has been studied and seen to improve things like sleep, overall well-being and the way we handle stress. It’s super easy to worry about your to-do list, your holiday spending, your in-laws in town and everything else but it’s way harder to do so when you’re reminded how much you have to be grateful for. Go ahead, try it. In a season full of wish lists and gifts, we all need a reminder to be a little more grateful for what we already have.
NEW YEARS INTENTIONS
The last tip I have for you is to take a moment to think about your goals, resolutions or intentions for the upcoming New Year. You’re probably like “you think I have time for that?” or “that’s what New Years Day is for!” but just hear me out.
Planning for the New Year (hello, next month) now means that there’s no panic come January 1st. Can anyone relate to that? I sure can. This way, you’re not scrambling to think of the things you want to do, work towards, and achieve in 2019 on the first day. You’ve already got them in the back of your head or even written down. So really, you’re already more prepared to follow through right out of the gate. And you get to spend more of January 1st recharging your batteries and soaking in the last of the holiday season.
I’m not saying you have to have your resolutions set in stone, and maybe you’re not even a resolution kind of person. But there is just something about reflecting on the last year and thinking of my intentions and goals (even if there are no actions planned yet) that make me happier, more motivated, and more focused even doing unrelated tasks. Thinking about what I want to achieve in 2019 only helps me focus on getting my final 2018 tasks done, and done well. Maybe that’s just me.
So, I want to know – what are your intentions for 2019 going to be? 🙂 Any ideas? Leave a comment and let me know!