As we hear through both traditional and social media along with the messaging we receive from the entertainment industry, the holiday season can be “the most wonderful time of the year” … for some of us. For others however, the holiday season can prove to be a very difficult time. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 38% of people said their stress level increases during the holidays. The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that 64% of people with diagnosed mental illness say the holidays make their conditions worse. And, as indicated in a study done by WebMD, weight gained over the winter holidays isn't typically lost during the rest of the year. By keeping a few key things in mind, you can help make your holiday season be wonderful!
5 health and wellness tips to you help you enjoy the festivities of the holidays in a mindful way
Stay on Track, no matter what’s cooking
Parties, big family meals, special treats, and gift baskets make it the most challenging time of year to maintain discipline when it comes to a healthy diet. Avoiding weight gain during the holidays isn’t easy, but with some effort you can be successful at maintaining your weight and feeling good about it! Allow yourself to indulge a bit but stick to smaller portions and balance out the treats with healthier options like whole grains, vegetables, and unprocessed foods. Choose fresh fruit over sugary deserts, limit fats, and enjoy alcoholic beverages in moderation.
Get your sleep
You need the energy to choose healthy foods and to be physically active throughout the holidays so be sure to make sleep a priority. As indicated by the National Institute of Health, people who have shortened or disrupted sleep cycles have elevated ghrelin levels. Ghrelin is known as the hunger hormone and is likely to increase the appetite leading to overeating. Also it’s important to remember during the holidays that a good night’s sleep will help you tackle stress more easily. Enjoy your friends and family and holiday celebrations (in person and virtually) but try to aim for 7 or 8 hours of sleep per night to help guard against mindless eating and increase your ability to manage stress.
Along with helping you maintain a healthy weight, regular exercise releases endorphins and serotonin in your brain, decreasing stress levels and fighting anxiety and depression. Don’t skip out on your regular workouts, even if you need to spend less time working out because of holiday commitments. Look for opportunities to work physical activities into your holiday: go for a stroll after a family meal, take a walk at the mall, or dance to your favorite holiday music. Aim to get at least 20 minutes of physical activity in, five days a week. Getting your blood pumping for a little while does a world of good for your body and mind. Extra bonus points if you can walk, hike or bike in nature. Studies have proven that being in nature boosts mood, sharpens thinking and makes you feel calmer.
The holidays are all about giving to others, but don’t forget to schedule in time for self-care. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in all of the details and holiday preparation that you forget to take care of yourself. Whatever you choose as self-care activities, as long as it’s a healthy choice and allows you to relax and decompress, it can help you survive the stress of the holiday season. Self-care can mean taking a walk with your dog, watching an episode of your favorite TV show, listening to a podcast, reading a book, meditation, and many other activities. Meditation in particular helps clear your mind and reduces stress levels which are heightened during the holiday season. Sit with your back supported and your head and neck relaxed. Start by simply closing your eyes, regulating your breath, and noticing your thoughts.
Give yourself a break!
Do your best to stay off social media. Social media can be a great way to stay in touch with people near and far, but it’s also the perfect environment to get an inside glimpse of other people’s picture-perfect holiday celebrations, whether or not they are real or just an illusion. Rather than setting yourself up for negative comparisons and feelings of inadequacy, it may be a great time to give social media a break. You may also need a break from confrontive family members during the holidays. Family dynamics can be complicated and difficult to navigate. Keep in mind that you can only control your own reactions. If needed, respectfully limit your time with family members to avoid an uncomfortable situation. Make it a point to meet up with friends you enjoy spending time with — your chosen family!
Follow these tips to help lighten the load of the stress that comes with the holiday season and take care of yourself. Happy, healthy holidays!