A Guide for Successfully Navigating the Holidays
With the holidays right around the corner, thoughts turn to holiday parties, family gatherings, day-long shopping excursions, and late nights. With these come the pressure of finding just the right gift for everyone, family pressures and stress, increased alcohol and sugar consumption, the pressure of staying on target with your exercise or weight loss program, mentally draining stress of standing in long checkout lines, preparing and cooking the perfect meal, and everything else that comes with the holidays. So how do we navigate the holidays so that we can come out on the other side in a better place or at least no worse off? Here is a guide to help you have a successful and happy holiday season. Some of it will be tips or strategies depending on your goals or health, others will be more of a mental exercise.
Take a moment before the day starts
Before your day begins, take a moment, 5 minutes or so, to simply breathe; taking long, slow, meditative breaths to help clear your mind, reflect, relax, and plan your day. Clear your mind of all the extra thoughts that will distract you from performing the tasks you need to get done. Reflect on what that day is really all about, being thankful and grateful for those in your life and all that is positive and good. Relax and let go of the negative and the stress that it brings. Studies have shown that taking some deep breaths can move you from a sympathetic (heightened stressful state) to a parasympathetic (relaxed) state which can lower your blood pressure, resting HR, and even improve pain in the body. Plan your day so that you know exactly what you are going to do. Uncertainty and the unplanned leads to added stress and becoming overwhelmed.
Allow yourself some simple pleasures
You’ve been working really hard on your diet and have been faithful with your exercise, seeing really great results. Maybe you’ve lost weight, gotten stronger, or are simply feeling better about how your clothes fit. The last thing that you want to do is to ruin that with a party, right? The fact is that one party, an occasional drink, or the occasional dessert isn’t going to set you back. If you have been working hard, you most likely have developed some great habits and one day won’t change those. Trust in what has gotten you to where you are. The stress that you might place on yourself can actually have more harm than having that piece of cake or that drink. Stress will increase the hormone cortisol in your body, which is the hormone that responds to flight or fight. It is also a hormone directly responsible for increasing abdominal fat. Calories are calories, and while some have better benefits in terms of nutritional value, eating too much of anything is still eating too much. Instead of worrying about it, strategize. Maybe you have a healthy snack prior to going to the party so that you are craving food when you get there. Maybe you fill a small plate and then leave the room so you aren’t standing next to the food table, mindlessly eating. Maybe you allow yourself a drink or 2 but have a glass of water or some other non-alcoholic low calorie beverage or 2 in between. Allow yourself to have some of the simple pleasures and enjoy the company of those around you for that day or night and get back on those great habits the next day.
Long Day of Shopping……here are a few tips
Going out during the holidays and being in the decorated stores amongst the hustle and bustle is something that some people just can’t go without. If that’s you, there are a few things to do to help you feel better, more energetic, less painful later that day or the next, so that you can enjoy all that holiday shopping brings. First, plan ahead and pack a few healthy snacks and maybe a bottle of water or two. We all know that walking the mall or going from store to store can be a long drawn out affair, especially during the holidays. We will often go for long periods of time without eating, pushing ourselves because it’s only one more store or one more gift to find. Keeping a healthy snack on hand will keep your blood sugar levels more consistent, keeping you energized, but also keeping your body burning calories instead of allowing your metabolism to slow down. Having water on hand to drink throughout the day will help keep you hydrated which will help keep the muscles from tightening up, feeling tired, or even cramping. Second, give yourself a couple minutes every hour to sit down, breathe, and do a couple of stretches. Stretch your hips (sit tall and cross one ankle over the other knee and hinge forward slightly), hamstrings (sit on the edge of the bench, straighten one leg and pull those toes towards your shin and maintaining a tall posture, hinge forward slightly), and quadriceps (standing near a wall, grab one ankle and bring the heel back to your butt, stretching the front of the thigh). This will take a lot of pressure off your back and keep you more aligned, feeling better and more energetic. Finally, do some of the shopping online and save yourself some time to do the things you really enjoy or to go for a walk instead of standing in long, check out lines. 😊
Strive for Great NOT Perfect
Trying to find that perfect gift can be extremely stressful and time consuming. The reality is that there may not be anything that will be the perfect gift. Instead, strive for a great gift that highlights their interests, personality, or a connection that you share. It really is the thought that counts, so having that person in mind when getting the gift will ultimately make it a great gift. This also applies to preparing and cooking the food. Having the perfect presentation or worrying about everything tasting perfect adds a ton of stress. Instead, focus on enjoying a great meal with your family/friends and know that they will remember the time and conversation they had over the meal more than every aspect of the meal itself. Perfection is rarely attainable but striving for many small great achievements/victories leads to a “perfect” experience.
If you can pull one or two things out of these suggestions, it’s this. Holidays are the time to reflect on what matters most in your life, enjoy the company of loved ones, and to be thankful and grateful for all that is good in your life. All of the rest is just the fluff that fills the plate or the stress that we place on ourselves. Be mindful of your needs and your happiness. Have a plan for dealing with the stress and allow yourself a chance to breathe and relax. Happy Holidays and a blessed tomorrow!