Tips to stay healthy and happy this holiday season
The holiday season seems to bombard us as Halloween starts to roll in and out. My mom starts to ask about holiday plans starting in October. I understand that travel plans require planning, but why is it that blood pressures and stress levels begin to rise come November 1st? The season that is suppose to bring joy and togetherness often brings stress, fatigue and lowered immune systems. Why is this? I think many of us put the pressure on ourself to DO, to make things just so and we often anticipate angst be it from family issues, control, finances, loneliness- from missing a loved one or feeling disconnected…. The main culprits to holiday DIS-ease, in my opinion are:
- Depression/ Anxiety– Usually from living in the past or our “stories” or anticipating an uncomfortable or unknown situation. Seasonal affect disorder can hit this time of year as the daylight time is shorter, weather is getting cooler. There is even a term “Holiday Blues”. Research has disproven the theory that there are more suicide attempts in the Holiday Season (November/December). Studies show a 40% rise in suicide attempts after the holidays in fact. Bottom line is lots of “stuff” we often bury gets brought up during the holidays along with pressure to DO. It can be overwhelming.
- Power– We often give our power away, letting others decide our value and dictate what is important. We often react to things people say or do, or feel the need to “keep up” and put on a good show. This is not often authentic, and we are not being true to self when we do this. It is important to know what is important to us, be realistic in our expectations and to realize that you can only control and make changes with our self. We have power to influence what happens in our life and with our self. Hold on to it- don’t give it away. (I know, easier said than done… ) The first step is to voice our wants/feelings and not to REACT to things others do or say, but step back, evaluate, and say “that is not mine, that is yours” or let go, and respond.
- Self- Care- We get so busy DOING and overcommitting, that we forget to take time to slow down and nurture and care for our self to feed our soul and restore our energy. We stop being mindful of what our body needs and eat too much/too little or overindulge/over restrict and let ourself get run down thereby lowering our immune system. It is important to exercise, continue to eat healthy and fuel your body, indulging every now and then so as not to feel deprived. Listening to your body is key to health and wellbeing, especially during the Holidays.
So, that being said, what do you do about it? Here are 10 tips on how to stay healthy and happy during the holidays.
- Take time to slow down and smell the evergreen. Restore your energy and take moments to just BE. Take a walk, get a massage, take a warm bath, meditate, do yoga, read a book. Its OK to not be DOING every moment during this season. Give yourself permission to chill for a bit each day, or at least a few times a week to restore. Check out Hay House affirmations, meditations and self help.
- Listen to your body and its signals. Feel energized- go for a run, do a tabata, do your shopping, meet with friends, go to that holiday party. Feeling tired- then relax, recoup, take a bath or a walk, stay home and read or watch a movie. Feelings overwhelmed- put some perspective in the plan, simplify and/or delegate. Time for the holiday meal- listen to body signals that you are getting full. Do not stuff yourself like a turkey as your body will not feel good. (Neither will your mind)
- Make healthy food/drink choices- do not let the holiday derail your healthy habits. If you are coming off a diet, cleanse or elimination, be careful reintroducing food as it can shock your body system. Ease in with small amounts of eliminated or “questionable” foods, do not deprive yourself as you are more likely to overindulge, but allow yourself a little bit of foods that appeal to you. Watch your portions- (good tip is to use a salad plate vs. large dinner plate). Fill up your plate with veggies having meat and maybe the sweet potatoes as a smaller side. (The Wall St. Journal had an article on the trending of food to be mostly vegetables, with meat no longer as focus of meal, but as a side. November 1-2nd, 2014). Eat slowly and and be social to slow down vs. overeat. It takes 10-15 minutes for your body signal that you are satiated/full to reach your brain. Watch your Alcohol Consumption as they can add up in calories and can make people susceptible to increased sensitivity and depression.
- Simplify– Let go of perfection and all the “should’s” and “have to’s”. in Nov/Dec 2014 Fitness Magazine there was a great article “Get More Done”. Michelle Gielan, founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research in San Antonio said the secret to productivity is not doing more, but clearing away obstacles, prioritizing and simplifying. This frees you up to do more of what you enjoy. So, plan ahead, prioritize, delegate and let go of what does not serve you.
- Get Outside and Move– Studies show that being outside and exercise can both boost mood as well as immune system. Take a hike, play a flag or touch football game, play soccer or whatever you and your family will do and enjoy together. Don’t make the holiday all about food and football on TV.
- Let it Go… Family conflicts and control– Debbie Ford, author and Co-author of The Shadow Effect said “If you judge something in others, that is your shadow side”. People/situations often provide mirrors for us to reflect and see within our self. You cannot control or change others, just your self and your reactions. Studies have found that conflict and negative interactions among friends and family not only have a negative effect on emotional well being of women in particular, but on the physical health as well. So work on letting go of anger, conflict and judgment. Need help… deep breaths, try yoga, woodchoppers or kickboxing. Get a physical and vocal release in a positive and controlled way.
- Get your ZZZs– Getting enough sleep is vital to your immune system as cytokines, our anti-inflammatory messengers, get replenished in our deep sleep.
- Practice Daily Gratitude- It helps shift perspective and appreciation for what you have. Give thanks on Thanksgiving.
- Practice acts of kindness– Studies have shown the joy and happiness that comes from kindness towards others and the ripple effect that can cause. My mother used to say “kill them with kindness, Jenny”, which, at the time, I thought was ridiculous, but now I totally get it. If someone is grumpy or impatient, negative energy just fuels that negativity. Kindness and positivity can create a shift in mood so put a smile on someones face and it will put one on yours.
- Give the gift of self– Studies have shown that doing for others creates more feeling of satisfaction and happiness than doing for self. Volunteer, donate to charity, and spread the cheer of giving.