Being healthy during the holidays has a nice ring to it, but anyone who has lived through the holiday season knows that this is no easy feat. Some argue that it is impossible to be healthy during this time of year. Holiday parties, happy hours, gift-shopping, long to-do lists, and other festivities make it difficult to maintain physical and mental health. In fact, it’s safe to say that most people neglect themselves until New Year’s Day.
A recent survey found that 63% of people feel too much pressure during the holiday season. This pressure can result from obligations to social events, travel, incoming family, buying gifts, and more. There’s no need to let the holiday season serve you sickness or stress on a silver platter, though. You have the ability to avoid the Christmas cold and holiday stress eating! You have the power to create a safe space for your mental health and avoid weight gain during the holiday festivities. All it takes is a little bit of balance, and the following tips aim to help you achieve that balance.
Indulge With Intention
When you completely deny yourself everything, you often find yourself face first in a cake. While that may not be the case for everyone, it is very common to lash out against yourself when you are so worried about not cheating on your diet. The all-or-nothing mindset is what can get you into trouble. Life is the best when you can enjoy it, so the secret to seasonal success is indulging with intention. When you have a plan and color outside the lines of your diet on purpose, you won’t feel guilty. Survey the holiday spread at a party, for example, and identify what matters to you the most. If you allow yourself the fullest version of what you want, you’ll realize that you don’t need that much of it.
Make Movement Merry
Between holiday travel, end of the year projects, and children home from school, it is very easy to feel overwhelmed. The holidays are not synonymous with normalcy! Carving out time to go to the gym or jog around the neighborhood can be very difficult. That’s why most people call December a wash and start anew in January. Since you are going to be with family, though, schedule activities that involve movement. Snow tubing or sledding is a great activity because you have to walk up the hill in order to slide back down. Elevate that experience by heading to the mountain to ski or snowboard. That is a great way to burn some calories and strengthen your legs. Consider taking the kids to a holiday ice rink and don’t forget about all the steps you get when you shop for gifts.
Relieve Financial Strain
Out of all the holiday responsibilities, buying and giving gifts may be the biggest contributor to stress, not to mention commercialism and materialism. When it comes to managing holiday stress, you want to give yourself permission to not buy gifts for everyone. What is going to bring the people you love joy? Is it the gift of material possessions? Perhaps a homemade sugar scrub or handmade book of coupons would be more appreciated. If spending money stresses you out, set boundaries for yourself and put a limit on your spending. What are smaller things that you can give or do for your family or friends? Figure out what they are and focus your efforts on that to alleviate the burden on your wallet.
Trust Your Gut
Let’s push weight gain to the side for a second and bring the focus back to your gut. What you eat has a big influence on your body, especially your gut. An unhealthy gut is a serious risk factor for weak immune function, since roughly 70% of the immune system exists in the gut. The last thing you want to do is provide your gut with unhealthy foods that cause an overproduction of bad bacteria. Ideally, you want to optimize your microbiome by eating both prebiotic and probiotic foods. According to several studies, these foods encourage a healthier gut, enhancing the body’s ability to fight off infection, viruses, and disease. In order to keep your gut healthy, it’s going to take more than abstaining from the occasional candy cane. Always include fruits or vegetables with your meals, eat more fermented foods, drink plenty of water, eat fiber-rich foods, and get enough sleep to optimize gut health.