How do the holidays usually go for you? Do you find yourself dealing with a physical stress response like a cold sore or canker sore? Do you always wind up with a terrible cold? Do you start snapping at your family in irritation? Or do you just get to the new year feeling run down and exhausted?

There is a lot of pressure put on us during the holidays, and because of the holidays we often respond to that stress with old unhealthy patterns. For example, your mother-in-law might be insisting on how holiday dinner is held at her house and “her way,” and to get through it you have an extra glass of wine (or two…or more). Or maybe instead of wine, you can’t stay away from the dessert table and find yourself with two pieces of pie and an assortment of cookies, fudge, and chocolates. Perhaps you are running yourself ragged trying to buy the perfect gift for each and every member of your family, bake cookies for everyone you know, and put in extra hours at the office…and so now you are skipping the gym, and still feeling more tired than before.

I believe that small changes are all we need to restore or maintain our health. During the holiday season is it easy to let our healthy habits slide, but if we take just a few minutes every day, we can get to the new year feeling healthy, happy, and hopeful.

Ways to Stay Healthy Through the Holidays

Keep white space on your calendar

White space is when you have no activities scheduled and you can take time for yourself, maybe just to relax, or perhaps to accomplish a few of the tasks we put off. During the holiday season, it is easy to RSVP for a party, and then realize it is the same weekend as your child’s recital, a school performance, and office holiday party. Work, church, children’s school and after school activities are all trying to fit in end-of-year or holiday parties, concerts, recitals, or awards ceremonies. And then we also add in commitments with extended family, which might include travel, and commitments with friends. No wonder it’s overwhelming!

This year, plan carefully. Choose now to decide what is important to you and get those events on the calendar. Decide what you will need to skip in order to keep the important things, and actually enjoy yourself at them. Then add white space. Keep this white space just as important as the events you’ve chosen. Don’t let last minute invites take over the time you’ve allotted for yourself.

Keep eating healthy food

The holidays and their delicious and tempting treats make it much harder to choose the healthy food. Added to that is the fact that most of us choose unhealthy food as comfort food when we are stressed, or eat poorer when we are tired. This combination is a recipe for illness and weight-gain. If we are stressed, our immune systems are compromised, and then we are overworking them by eating a lot of sugar.

There are two strategies for overcoming this and maintaining your healthy body through the holiday:

  1. Include vegetables at the beginning of your day. Get started on the right foot, and hopefully you’ll find it easier to make better food choices later. I love starting my day with vegetable juices and green smoothies. You can get the nutrients from 3 – 4 pounds of vegetables in one single glass of vegetable juice, and you can get up to a pound of vegetables in a green smoothie. Having a vegetable juice first thing in the morning can start your day off right and set you up to make more healthy choices.
  2. Plan your toxic. Look at your week and know which parties and events you are going to go to. Choose what treats you will have in advance. For example, if Thanksgiving dinner this year is at your Aunt Margaret’s and she makes the best pumpkin pie, decide that after dinner you will have a delicious slice of pumpkin pie. Enjoy the pie! Take the time to taste and savor it. But then go right back to your healthy eating habits. As you plan what you will indulge in, try to make it no more than 20% of your food. Having a plan and percentage allows you to enjoy your indulgence, maintain portion control, and keeps you from going off the rails with festive treats.

Practice Mindfulness

It is important to connect to our breath and practice mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us to manage stress because it helps us recognize what is actually happening and how we can respond. We can connect to our breath through a meditation practice, but during a busy holiday season, it can feel difficult to spend 10 or 20 minutes meditating. You can still get the benefits of connecting to your breath by taking 5 deep breaths before you get out of bed in the morning and 5 deep breaths before you fall asleep at night. It is also a helpful practice to take 5 deep breaths in a stressful situation.

I’ve already talked about many choices you’ll face during this holiday season; approach all your choices with mindfulness. This includes not just choices about food, but choices about travel, gifts, and other ways to celebrate the holiday. Be mindful about your choices, and then if a situation is suddenly stressful, take a mindful moment to remember why it was important.

These small changes can lead to a smoother, brighter holiday season, and can bring you to the new year happier, healthier, and with more hope.

Guest Post by: Dr. Michelle Robin  |  Published Date: November 27th, 2018

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