Are you enjoying the final stretch of 2018? It’s a fantastic and fun time of the year. Unfortunately, it’s also a difficult period for maintaining healthy habits. Check out our list of the top 10 ways to stay healthy and happy over the holiday season.
1. Reframe your holiday expectations.
Consider this: If you think of the holidays as an exhausting test of your endurance and holiday treats as evil temptations of your willpower, how will your body react?
That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but many patients come into our office at this time of the year showing signs of anxiety and tension. In fact, one study found that 90 percent of adults feel stressed over the holidays. Isn’t this supposed to be a joyous time?
These high-stress levels may be at least partly attributed to the fact that many of us simply have more to do at this time of the year. Because we have more tasks to keep track of (even if those tasks are going to parties, buying gifts, and other fun stuff), our prefrontal cortex (in our brain) is overtaxed.
This can affect our memory and overall ability to cope. Add in the extra pressure of maintaining a good diet, workout schedule, self-care rituals and you have a recipe for sleep problems, anxiety, and tense muscles – all of which can add to our stress… and when we’re stressed, we tend to overeat. You can probably see why holiday stress can create a vicious cycle.
Reframing the expectations that we need to have a “perfect” holiday while staying disciplined can end the frustration. So don’t beat yourself up if everything doesn’t go as planned. Letting go of expectations of perfection (from ourselves and others) will ultimately help your health.
2. Play games.
If you get together with family or friends in the next weeks, why not introduce a low-tech way to have some old-fashioned fun by playing board games? Board games can also offer cognitive benefits, they are a great way to spend quality time with your family and by allowing your inner child to come out, you will increase creativity and decrease stress!
3. Get moving.
Fitting in some exercise can be easier when you mix it up by doing physical social activities with loved ones. Snowshoeing, making snowmen, skating – there are plenty of options. If you’re not a cold-weather person, try bowling or a trip to the pool. You may not end up with six-pack abs but might start a new holiday tradition. Suggesting fun activities for social gatherings also helps take the focus off food.
4. Stay mindful.
Mindfulness practice has obvious benefits when we’re extremely busy. Even if you’re not a regular meditator, just five minutes a day of meditation can help you cope with the holiday stress. And why not share the love? Suggest a short meditation before holiday meals. It can set the tone for a peaceful celebration. Studies show that group meditation can have powerful results.
5. Go green.
When you’re thinking about ways to keep your body healthy over the holidays, don’t forget that the planet deserves love too. It’s easy to have a green holiday season (even if it’s snowing). Use recycled wrapping paper, serve food on real plates (not paper), and consider turning the heat down a degree or two for large gatherings. To conserve electricity, use LED lights only and defrost your freezer before you load it up with holiday baking.
6. Cook up some love.
Looking for a unique gift idea? Want to stay away from the mall and its atmosphere of seemingly relentless consumerism? Try baking some holiday gifts. For example, put some homemade sweet and spicy holiday almonds into a fancy jar (you can find a good recipe here: https://mywholefoodlife.com/2012/11/28/sweet-and-spicy-holiday-almonds/). Or wrap up a box of vegan hazelnut cups. (This recipe is amazing! https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-16557/like-nutella-try-these-vegan-hazelnut-cups.html) or even start making some natural soaps as gifts, it’s easy, natural and fun!
7. Learn to say no.
This is a tough one for many people, however sometimes refusing a social invitation or a request to do work is the healthiest choice for everyone involved. If you find it hard to turn down an invitation or request, remember that you don’t have to apologize. Decline right away and resist the urge to make up an elaborate excuse. Suggest an alternative activity or a later date – but only if you really want to.
8. Keep your gut healthy.
Sugar-laden holiday treats, cocktails and parties galore can really put a damper on your gut health. An imbalance of extra sugar lowers both your immune system and can lead to an imbalance of healthy bacteria in the gut. Take some high-quality probiotics and some digestive enzymes prior to meals to give your gut a healthy boost and some likely much-needed assistance!
9. Start some healthy food traditions.
The internet is bursting with healthy holiday recipes. Think about your loved ones’ food preferences and find some yummy dishes to bring to gatherings. For example, here are some outstanding vegan dishes: https://minimalistbaker.com/christmas-recipe-roundup/. Try replacing carb-heavy side dishes with healthy ones like Rutabaga, cauliflower rice, carrot mash or creamy butternut squash!
10. Be grateful.
The holidays don’t always go as planned. Sometimes we have to go to work instead of eating great meals. Sometimes we miss people who are no longer in our lives. It’s normal to experience sadness at this time of the year. Acknowledge your feelings and be gentle with yourself. Take some time to think of the good things (even if they’re not always picture-perfect). Grateful people experience better sleep, more optimism, and improved relationships. And we could all use a bit of that at this time of the year.
From our team at the Hormone Rebalance Centre, we would like to wish you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year! We look forward to working with you to create a fulfilling and healthy start to 2019!