Parties, gifts, delicious meals, packed calendars and beautiful decorations… While we love to think of the holiday season as joyful, full of happiness, friends and family – along with that often comes packed calendars, stress and exhaustion.
In this blog, we will discuss many ways to keep your whole body healthy and review a few methods to help manage stress during the ever-busy holiday season.
Food is synonymous with the holidays. Big meals, baked treats and special holiday snacks surround most festivities. There are several tips that can help keep your gut functioning well which in turn, will help keep your whole body feeling well!
It can be expected that we will partake in larger-than-normal meals throughout the busy holiday season. Try not to beat yourself up about enjoying it. But do try to be aware of how often and how much you are enjoying. Maybe try an extra serving of the healthier option and avoid seconds on the richer choices.
Fiber is vital for proper digestion and regular bowels. Fiber is also called “prebiotics.” Our bodies do not digest fiber, however, the “good bacteria” in your gut need fiber to survive. When there isn’t enough fiber for these microorganisms to eat, they will often begin to break down the natural mucus barrier in the gut. This can lead to leaky gut syndrome, inflammation, colitis and more.
Make sure that you choose healthier food options during the holidays, and all year round, that contain an ample supply of fiber.
Treat your plate similar to the way you decorate – choose a variety of colors! Seasonal fruits and vegetables can add a beautiful array of colors, vitamins and minerals to your holiday meals and celebrations.
Try the buddy system! See too many desserts or food options that you want to try? Grab a buddy to split portions and avoid waste! Dessert buddies are the best buddies!
You can also try making a few simple swaps to help “lighten-up” some of your holiday favorites:
- Try using spices, fresh herbs and citrus zest and juice to add flavor instead of excess salt and sugar.
- Reduce processed sweeteners and opt for more natural varieties such as pure, natural maple syrup and honey.
- Choose whole-grain breads and pastas over white, highly-processed varieties.
- Try replacing sugars with extracts of almond, vanilla and peppermint.
- Try replacing heavy cream with low-fat or fat-free milk or try nut or oak milk!
Exercise is important to almost every aspect of your health all year round. Going for a walk with friends, family, or even by yourself is a great way to clear your mind, as well as a great way to keep active. Maybe have a dance party in the living room to your favorite holiday tunes. Getting your heart rate up is not only good for the waistline, but has also been proven to help lift a person’s mood.
Maybe try a new tradition of a walk together to enjoy the neighborhood decorations before or after a big meal. Maybe a friendly game of soccer or touch football is a better fit for your family. Involving the group in healthy activities will encourage everyone to participate.
Give Yourself a Break
It’s okay to say no.
If you find your calendar filling up to the brink, and you begin feeling overwhelmed and/or overscheduled, don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. Maybe you need a quiet night in. Or maybe that road trip, for just one-holiday gathering, isn’t quite the best option for you this year. Maybe you can plan for a post-holiday get together with some friends or family to help space out all of the activities. A little blank space on your calendar may be just “what the doctor ordered.”
Make time to de-stress. Exercise, as mentioned previously, can be very good for your overall wellbeing and stress levels. When feeling overwhelmed, try yoga or meditation. Allowing for the intentional time to slow down can be very good for you. Another great choice may be journaling, coloring or perhaps a new hobby. Whatever it may be, set aside some time to unwind and take a few quiet moments.
Dealing with Sadness or Loneliness
On the other hand, if the holidays are a difficult time for you that bring feelings of loneliness or sadness, try to plan your calendar to include activities to keep you busy, in a healthy way.
Give to Others
Consider finding a local charity that can use your help. Often, the holidays are a time where local food banks and kitchens need all the additional help they can get. Giving to others in need can help lift your spirit, as well as theirs!
Groups & Hobbies
Another great option may be to try a new hobby or craft. Studies have also shown that art, even when you are not “good at it,” can be very therapeutic. Support groups or clubs may also be an excellent choice if you may need extra support around the holiday time.
Keep Expectations in Check
Many of us dream about the holiday season all year. We picture the perfect decorations, matching family outfits for the ideal holiday picture, deliciously baked treats and divinely set tables full of smiles and love. But let’s get real. Very rarely do our holiday seasons go off as perfectly executed plans. We may have the crying babies, burned pies and flat tires. Know that it will be okay.
Remember not to compare your holiday season with the “highlight reel” you see on the internet and in movies. The memories you are creating, even if they are not exactly as expected, will be memories cherished down the road. Think back to a moment that may have seemed rough in the moment, that now you can look back on and laugh.
Remember to make the time to step back, take it all in and enjoy the moment. Stay healthy and enjoy your holiday season.
Written by S. Campbell for Access Health Care Physicians, LLC.