The holidays are supposed to be a time of cheerful celebrations, so why are so many of us left feeling stressed and exhausted when the merriment ends? After years of helping clients navigate the simultaneous highs and lows of the holiday season, I have noticed a recurring theme; when clients aren’t attuned to prioritizing their healthy habits due to the added pressures of the holiday season; traveling, gift giving, depriving themselves of sleep or relying on substances to help make it all happen, they are often left feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and sometimes even quite depressed. A growing body of evidence in Lifestyle Medicine shows us how our behavior impacts our mental health. Here are six tips to help you prioritize your overall wellness for a truly enjoyable holiday season. Here are six tips to prioritize your health and wellness this holiday season.
Prioritize Whole Foods
Holiday food is typically high in sugar, salt, and saturated fats, which can all have a negative impact on how you are feeling physically, and, less obviously, mentally as well. Try preparing a vegetable dish in a healthy fat, such as olive oil, for your holiday gathering this year. Fall and winter produce like beets, squash, brussel sprouts, and cabbage are packed with health-promoting fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants that are important for your overall health. If you fill your plate up with vegetables, you may be less likely to grab that extra cookie at the end of the night.
Stick to Your Normal Sleep Schedule
Sleep deprivation can undoubtedly leave people feeling irritable and anxious. During holiday breaks, try to get to bed and wake up at the same time you usually would. Sleeping in late on days off may feel like a restorative treat, but it is actually setting you up for difficulty falling asleep the next night.
Schedule Time to Exercise
Don’t wait until the New Year to get serious about your exercise routine. Take some time to engage in an exercise routine that feels good to you. A long walk on a brisk fall morning, a turkey trot with the family, or ice skating with friends are fun ways to work exercise into your holiday calendar.
Watch Your Alcohol Consumption
Despite what society may lead you to believe, partaking in alcohol consumption is not mandatory at holiday events! Excessive alcohol intake has been shown to exacerbate fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Try bringing your favorite nonalcoholic drink of choice to your gathering. You can take it up a notch and create an aesthetically pleasing holiday drink, like a cranberry seltzer garnished with fresh herbs. If you are planning a holiday event, ask the venue to include a festive holiday mocktail on the bar menu.
Foster Positive Social Connections
Make an effort to spend time with loved ones who bring positivity and support into your life. More often than not, people feel obligated to spend holidays with family members, even if they are toxic. Prioritize your time with positive connections this holiday season, and limit time spent with connections purely out of self-imposed obligation.
Practice Stress Management Techniques
Take time to practice meditation or take a gentle yoga class. If you practice a religion, make time for prayer or attend a service. Consider keeping a daily gratitude journal and writing about things you are thankful for. Evidence has shown that a grateful approach can overshadow perceived hassles and leave you feeling happy, peaceful, and more satisfied in your relationships rather than stressed, anxious, or angry when glitches come up during your holiday celebrations.
Remember, your choices are powerful and will affect you for better and worse, but they are ultimately yours. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional at The Midtown Practice to help guide you through this season and into the new year. Wishing you and your loved ones joyful memories.
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