How to Stay Mentally & Physically Healthy During the Holidays
This can be a time of year when it’s really hard to focus on our personal wellness, but it’s important to do our best to stay healthy during the holidays. We’re so wrapped up in finding the perfect gifts, attending and hosting parties, creating elaborate holiday traditions and experiences for our families (by the way, if you’re looking for holiday traditions that won’t add a ton of time or strain on the wallet, read my suggestions here), and overall trying to be all things to all the people. We adopt a “What the hell!? What’s one more (fill in the blank) ” attitude when it comes to just about everything including our time, nutrition, and bank account.
I hate to break it to you, but by doing this you’re setting yourself to go crashing into the New Year feeling pretty worn out and overextended. Here are some of my favorite tips to stay mentally and physically healthy during the holidays that you can carry into the New Year, and ultimately, into all the months after that, too.
Don’t Deprive Yourself, But Be Mindful
One of the reasons I love this season so much is because I love the food and fun parties that go along with it! Listen to me friend, it is IRRATIONAL to think you are going to go through the entire holiday season with nary a cookie, slice of pie, rich meal, or alcoholic beverage. If that is your expectation and you “cheat” (hate that mentality, by the way), you end up in a shame spiral that can be hard to climb out of.
Here’s my advice – for all the meals and snacks that aren’t going to be at parties or special events (aka what you have at home and work on a daily basis), make a plan. Choose foods that fuel you and make you feel great! When it’s time for the office party or to make your favorite cookies, know that you’re going to enjoy those foods, too and that’s A-OK, baby! If you’re worried about overdoing it and feeling badly about it later, try having a protein-packed meal or snack beforehand so you aren’t famished by the time the event happens. And, if you do end up eating as many delicious cheesy hors d’oeuvres as you can stand, IT’S OK. Don’t beat yourself up and know that you can go home, drink lots of water and have still carry out your life as normal. The sun will still rise.
Prepare Yourself Mentally for Tough Situations
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Right….? It’s also one of the most stressful, busy, full of high expectations times of the year. HOORAY.
While there are a lot of things to look forward to at this time of year, for many people there are also situations that can bring on a lot of anxiety and worry. Whether it’s being in a lot more social gatherings than normal, dealing with tough family gatherings, or being around people who don’t necessarily bring out the best in you, there are some things you can do to walk into these situations prepared to be the best version of your self.
- Acknowledge how you are feeling and know that it’s ok. You don’t have to force yourself to feel a certain way just because it’s the holidays.
- Know that you can’t control someone’s actions, but you can have ownership over your response. Take some time to think about the situations that put in defense mode, cause you the most stress, or send you into a spiral. What are those situations, and what is your usual go-to reaction? Once you’ve figured that out, come up with ways to replace your less than desirable response with something else. Do this work ahead of time so you’re prepared when you get there. Let’s say a family member always brings up their political views, and it makes you angry and you get into an argument with them every time. Recognize that you can’t control the actions of others and that it’s probably going to happen again. Decide that instead of buying into it and getting stuck in the argument, when it happens you are going to go into another room and strike up a conversation with someone else.
- Reach out for support. Find someone you trust and let them know you’re having a hard time. Ask if you can check in with them before, during or after situations that you know will be tough for you.
- Use visualization. Envision beforehand how an event will go. While you visualize it, focus on how you want to feel as the event unfolds. Do you want to feel calm and present? Do you want to feel confident? See yourself feeling that way before you walk in.
It’s Not Going to Be Like the Movies
We give ourselves such unrealistic expectations for this time of year. The perfect gift, an extravagant party, gorgeous decorations, a jam-packed schedule. You know how in the movie Christmas Vacation Clark has these ridiculous standards for his holiday and then everything comes crashing down towards the end? Yeah. All that perfection is never going to happen. So give yourself a break ahead of time. Appreciate the small things. Know that families change and grow and that it won’t always be like it was last year or like it was when you were a kid. Keeping your expectations in check can do wonders for feeling healthy during the holidays. (And if you’re looking for some holiday traditions for your family that are doable and won’t break the bank, check out my ideas here!)
Commit to Moving Your Body
Exercise is SO important, guys! Not because of reaching a number on the scale or wanting to look a certain way. Because it makes FEEL amazing. Ok, so the first week or so might feel like death, but trust me on this one. Once you start to get into a pattern of regular exercise, you will start to see how obvious the difference is in the way you feel. For me, I have more energy, I am more present and focused, I have more confidence, I am more patient, and I love the fact that I know I’m doing something great for myself. Your body is an incredible, miraculous thing and it deserves to be taken care of!! Here are some ideas that you can incorporate immediately and pretty simply into your life:
- go for a walk or jog
- find free YouTube video workouts (there are thousands for every style of workout imaginable) and do them from home
- find a local class you would enjoy (dance, yoga, spin, etc.)
My suggestions would be to find 20-30 minutes of your day to commit to getting your heart rate up!
Stop Building Up the New Year
Oh Lord, I’ll be totally honest. New Year’s resolutions have become a pet peeve of mine. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of committing to be a better version of yourself, and I think it’s great that at this time of year so many people start to focus on it.
But here’s the thing, if you are sitting here right now and thinking about the things you’re going to do in a month to be a better person, WHY AREN’T YOU STARTING TO DO THOSE THINGS RIGHT NOW!? How many years in a row have you crashed into January feeling burnt out and lethargic, but it’s ok because now you’ll start your annual push for wellness (and dangit!!!), this time it’s definitely going to stick?
Like your over the top holiday expectations, it’s not realistic my friends. If health and wellness are part of your yearly resolutions, you have to start thinking now about the ways you can turn them into a habit and not a three week stint. Here are some of my suggestions:
- Don’t do IT ALL at once. If you are exercising zero times a week, you are not going to suddenly go to the gym 5 days a week. If you have never done healthy meal prep before, it is going to be super overwhelming to try to plan and prep and entire week’s worth of meals. Start now, and start small. Make it a goal to exercise twice a week, then three times, and then four. Start by prepping something healthy for breakfast, then add in new recipes and more meals as you get comfortable with it.
- Have accountability. Find a friend or family member that wants to do this with you. If there’s no one in your immediate circle to cheer you on, there are vast communities online to give you support. (That’s how I finally stuck to my fitness – by being part of a virtual community!) If you feel like you’re going to have to confess to someone when you don’t get your workout in, you’ll be more motivated to do it.
- Choose something you actually enjoy. If you hate running, why in the world would you decide to suddenly become a runner. I promise, if you try different things out, you will find something that, once you get over the initial everything hurts and I’m dying phase, you will find out you do in fact, like it!
So there you have it! I hope these tips will help you stay happy and healthy this holiday!
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