6 Tips for Managing Wellness During the Holidays
With all the merrymaking of gift-giving, decorating, feasts, and parties, personal wellness can take a back seat during the holidays — there just isn’t time to plan, shop, prep, and cook healthy meals or hit the gym for your daily exercise. Stress can also be a factor, especially if your work life gets busier during the holidays, you are stretched for gift-giving cash, and your family engages in boisterous conversations over the dinner table. All of these factors can affect your wellness.
According to the Global Wellness Institute, wellness is an active pursuit that involves maintaining awareness of the ever-changing factors affecting your health and making choices that lead toward optimal well-being.
There are several dimensions of wellness: physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and intellectual. The holidays can take a toll on your wellness, particularly when it comes to your physical and emotional health. If you aren’t careful, you can come away from the season feeling physically unwell and emotionally exhausted. Fortunately, you can take steps to manage your wellness from Thanksgiving Day through New Year’s Eve.
1. Practice mindful eating
Stress eating, also known as emotional eating, can derail even the best of diets. Stress can cause a surge in cortisol, which is the body’s main stress hormone. High cortisol levels can trigger cravings for sugary or fatty foods. Stress can also stimulate the body’s production of hunger hormones. Mindful eating can combat stress eating.
Mindful eating is an approach in which you pay careful attention to the act of eating with the intention of savoring every moment. In many ways, mindful eating is the exact opposite of stress eating. While mindful eating is not a weight loss diet, it can help you avoid the overeating associated with the holidays.
2. Prioritize sleep
Sleep is important at any time of the year, of course, but it can be hard to find enough time to sleep in the rush to celebrate the holidays. Not sleeping enough, or getting poor-quality sleep, can leave you feeling sluggish, stressed, and in a fog — especially if you add holiday parties and alcohol to the mix.
If you are an adult aged 18 to 64, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that you get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
3. Get up and move
Exercise is an excellent way to alleviate stress and burn those extra calories from holiday dinners and Christmas cookies. In a perfect world, you’ll maintain your regular exercise routine throughout the holiday season. Chances are good, though, that holiday gatherings, changes in work schedules, holiday parties, and late nights will get in the way of your regular workout. If you aren’t getting to the gym as much as you would like, try doing a shortened workout at home or go for extra walks throughout the day.
4. Manage your stress
If you feel pressured by the gift-giving, financial stress, and frenzied pace during the holidays, you are not alone. According to the American Institute of Stress, 69% of people feel stressed about the lack of money and lack of time, and more than half feel the pressures of giving or receiving gifts. Clearly, the holidays are not all sugarplum fairies and cheer for many of us.
Stress can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including headaches and other aches and pains, trouble sleeping, high blood pressure, muscle tension, and more. These symptoms can certainly take the joy out of the season. Fortunately, you can take steps to rein in your holiday stress. These steps may include:
- Practicing mindfulness – Mindfulness is a technique in which you are fully present and aware of where you are and what you are doing, without feeling overly reactive or overwhelmed by your current environment.
- Eating a nutritious diet
- Avoiding alcohol or nicotine
- Identifying and reducing triggers of stress
- Set realistic goals and expectations for the holiday season
- Engage in stretching exercises to release “feel good” chemicals that relieve stress and pain
5. Anticipate family drama
Your family can be a great source of joy throughout the year, but family get-togethers during the holidays can provide ample opportunities for drama. Being around relatives can bring back bad memories, reignite old arguments, and even spark political conversations.
To avoid getting caught in the middle of the drama, be aware of what may trigger conflict and plan how to deal with it when it develops. Find a spot to engage in some meditation, for example, or plan to walk around the block.
6. Practice self-care
During the holidays, you work hard to take care of the decorations, meals, shopping, party planning, and more, but do you care for yourself? Self-care is important to maintaining a good relationship with yourself and for maintaining every dimension of wellness. Try meditation or walking in nature for your emotional wellness, for example. To improve your physical wellness by resolving pain and inflammation, make an appointment for laser therapy.
Most of all, go easy on yourself — we all struggle with the holidays at some point in life, and most of us make a few mistakes along the way. With just a little planning and effort, you can manage your wellness and make this the most joyous holiday season ever.