On Your Health

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Caring for Yourself During the Holidays

The hustle and bustle of the holidays can leave many feeling stressed, tired and unable to enjoy themselves. The holidays can also trigger emotional reactions due to difficult family dynamics, mental health symptoms or grief for those who are missing. It’s important to take time for yourself to recharge your body and mind. We’ve compiled our top tips for putting the “me” back in merry this holiday season.

Make a plan

Advance planning can curb stress. If you travel for the holidays, keeping a travel schedule can help you accommodate for holiday traffic, flight delays and stops along your route, and a packing list will come in handy if you are using every square inch in your car to transport gifts, food and baggage.

Figure out ahead of time what you'll do if you’re feeling stressed or triggered. Whether it’s relying on tried-and-true breathing techniques, keeping a phone list of your support system in case you need to reach out, or asking a trusted friend or family member to help you schedule a short break, a self-care plan can help you set boundaries and navigate holiday social situations.

Stick to a sleep schedule

Poor sleep can have a negative effect on mental and physical health with symptoms including weight gain, irritability and stress. The holidays are full of parties, events and late-night wrapping sessions that can mess with your sleep schedule.

When you find yourself celebrating past your regular bedtime, try to wake up at your usual time so your body can maintain its circadian rhythm. Other tips include limiting caffeine during the day, avoiding it after 2 p.m. and resisting late-night snacking to prevent heartburn or indigestion from keeping you awake.

Connect with your breath

Meditation and breathing exercises can be a quick way to combat stress. While some relaxation techniques such as tai chi, massage or yoga require carving out time to practice, meditation can be done anywhere.

With training, conscious breathing can calm your mind and body when you feel overwhelmed. You can even supplement your meditation with the calming effects of essential oils — a holiday essential oil blend will keep you in the seasonal spirit.

Practice a healthy relationship with food

The average person gains approximately one pound over the holidays. That's significant when you learn the average annual weight gain for most people is two pounds. Luckily, there are several tactics to prevent weight gain when those holiday delicacies are hard to resist.

  • Watch your alcohol intake during events, and make sure to increase your water intake to stay properly hydrated.
  • Fill up first on protein-heavy hors d’oeurves such as chicken or shrimp to prevent overeating sweets later in the party.
  • If you don’t trust yourself to resist the less-healthy options at an event, have a healthy snack beforehand so you aren't famished before the night even begins.
  • Determine which indulgences you want before the party so that you won't mindlessly fill your plate with every delicious treat once you're there.

There are also many substitutes for healthier food options while still enjoying your holiday favorites. Here are a few of our top choices.

Get out and move

As little as ten minutes of physical activity can improve mood and concentration and reduce stress. Releasing endorphins can also help combat the dreaded food coma experienced after holiday feasts.

By the way, exercise can also be a fun way to spend time with a visiting family member or to get some time alone with your thoughts. If you don’t have time to squeeze in a workout, take an extra lap in the mall while holiday shopping to get your steps in. Or, get your fitness inspiration from these exercise routines.

Embrace your emotions

It’s okay to feel sadness and grief if you’ve recently lost someone or can’t be with family over the holidays. If this is a season of grief for you, take time to express your feelings.

While for many this is a time of cheer, you do not need to force yourself to be happy. Open yourself up and talk to a trusted person if you’re feeling sad, lonely or isolated. If your emotions become more than holiday stress, speak to your doctor. Health professionals are ready to help.

Volunteer

Donating your time to volunteer for those in need can lessen feelings of loneliness. Whether you lend a hand at a soup kitchen, toy drive, local hospital or nursing home, choose to volunteer at an organization that has meaning to you.

Not only does volunteer work increase empathy, but it can increase improve mood and lower depression and anxiety rates. Volunteer as a family to spend extra quality time together.

Pamper yourself 

It’s easy to forget about yourself while shopping for family and friends. Make sure to carve out time to give yourself a gift, too. Take advantage of holiday discounts on things you enjoy, such as a travel deal or spa treatment (flotation therapy, anyone?) so you have something to look forward to after the festivities have ended.

Practice self-care between events by taking a relaxing bubble bath, throwing a football with friends, drinking a cup of tea, writing in a journal, watching a game, reading a book, going to the movies or any other activity you enjoy.

Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holiday season detract from your well-being. Carve out time to take care of yourself amidst the festivities. For more self-care and wellness tips, read the On Your Health blog or sign up for our weekly newsletter.

 

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