“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. Wishing you happiness.” – Helen Keller
The holiday season can be a frenetic time of year, fraught with numerous temptations and occasions to overindulge, drink or eat to excess, trying to get by on too little sleep, ignoring signs of distress, succumbing to family squabbles and turmoil and so much more. No wonder some of us look at the holidays with a mixture of anticipation and regret. Yet you can take proactive coping measures to keep your health and your spirits bright this holiday season with these 10 easy ways.
EATING AND DRINKING TIPS
Overloaded plates and endless buffet table offerings can put your mind into a spin. Not only are there too many choices, many of them are loaded with unnecessary fats, sugars and carbs. In other words, empty calories. Pay heed to the following tips to maintain a healthy balance with what you eat and drink.
1. Skip the seconds.
If one helping is good, two is not better. Do you really need that added load of calories? Think about portion control as well when it comes to putting food on your plate. Smile graciously when the host or hostess encourages you to have another helping. Say something like, “It was so deliciously satisfying that I can’t eat another bite.”
2. Grazing is a no-no.
Meal prep and clean-up are two times when the cook and his or her helpers often snack on (and fill up or overeat) what’s either being prepared or is ready to put away. Instead of telling yourself that the leftover turkey or pie or whatever is too small to package, so you might as well eat it, do yourself a favor and get out the storage containers, aluminum foil and/or plastic wrap and put the food away. The quicker you do this, the less likely you’ll be to pick it up and put it in your mouth.
3. Plan healthier food options.
If the traditional holiday get-together involves loads of carbohydrate-rich, high fat and high sugar content foods, make it a point this year to plan other food options that are healthier for everyone who’ll be dining with you. Check out recipes online for substitutions in your usual recipes. There’s always a way to reduce the sugar and fat content. Look for equivalent measurements for these healthier substitutions. Your guests likely won’t know the difference, and you’ll be a more thoughtful and health-conscious host or hostess by doing what you can to keep sugar and fat to a minimum in holiday foods.
4. Bring something healthy.
Suppose you’ve been invited to a holiday meal and the host or hostess asks you – or you offer – to bring a dish. It’s always a good idea to inquire what the meal is and what might be needed. It may be a side dish or a dessert. Once you know the main course and what else is needed, you can look for healthier recipes (or buy something healthy that’s ready-made) to bring to the get-together.
5. Speaking of parties, eat something small before you arrive.
Waiting hours after you get to a holiday get-together or family meal to eat will only result in your being ravenous and eating too much when you finally eat. On the other hand, you may wind up scarfing up empty calories in filler snacks prior to the meal itself. A good way to avoid either situation is to eat something small before you get to your holiday meal destination get-together. A handful of nuts, some fruit and cheese, maybe a protein snack will take the edge off your hunger, so you won’t overeat later.
6. Watch your alcoholic intake. Better yet, forego alcohol altogether.
Every family has stories of loved ones drinking too much and creating discord and strife during holiday get-togethers. The combination of drinking alcohol for hours before a meal and/or on an empty stomach never ends well. Even if you have a designated driver or alternative transportation, it’s no excuse to imbibe to the point of excess. Be responsible. Either severely limit your alcoholic intake or make a conscious decision to do no holiday drinking at all.
EXERCISE AND ACTIVITIES TIPS
Shopping for the holidays can be stressful. So can going to holiday meals, family reunions and parties. Cumulative stress wreaks havoc on your body and mind, so take the initiative to beef up your resilience and proactive coping strategies with generous exercise and healthier activities.
7. Add more steps to your errands.
Why fight for that parking space close to the door of the store or mall entrance? After all, everyone else is vying for that precious real estate. You can easily add a little cardio to your shopping and errands by parking at the end of the aisle or even a few aisles over. The exercise you get from the additional steps will be good for boosting your endorphins, helping to improve your mood, lower stress levels, even work off a few calories.
8. Do something besides watch TV.
When family members, loved ones and friends gather around for a holiday meal or get-together, do something else instead of plopping yourself down on the couch or chair to watch endless hours of sports on TV. Go outside for a walk with some of your party. Get in a game of touch football, or ask for others to help clear snow from the sidewalks and driveway. Such exercise can reduce stress and boost your energy at the same time. Caroling is a great way to get outside in the fresh air, be with others and enjoy the holiday spirit.
9. Add a little laughter to the mix.
According to numerous research studies, laughter is one of the healthiest things you can do for maintaining overall health. It’s a great tension reducer, helps ratchet down stress, even burn calories. No wonder you feel so good after a hearty laugh. Telling funny stories (as long as they’re not at anyone’s expense) about family activities in the past, or a few well-chosen jokes (make sure they’re clean and, of course, funny), or watching a comedy movie after the holiday meal can put everyone in a more jovial frame of mind.
Good self-care is critical to maintaining your health during the holidays. Be mindful of what you can do – and make sure you do it.
10. Get sufficient sleep, prioritize demands on your time, learn to say no.
The go-to items on your self-care list have to begin with getting the right amount of sleep. It’s too easy to hang around a few hours longer that you should at holiday parties, knowing it will cut into your sleep. That sleep, though, is necessary to restoring your energy, helping repair tissues and keeping mental and physical functioning optimal. Never shortchange your sleep. Research shows sleep is essential to your overall health.
There’s always another party invitation, more gifts to buy, shopping for that necessary meal ingredient, too many chores to attend to before the holiday meal or get-together. Instead of falling prey to trying to cram too much into too little time, figure out what’s really important and necessary and do that. Prioritize everything else, eliminating what you don’t need to do. This is an important part of navigating the holidays. In fact, now is a good time to learn how to say no – to yourself and that voice in your head urging you to do more, to keep going, and to others who make inordinate demands on your time.
Besides, the holiday season is an excellent time to reflect on the extraordinary riches and gifts you already have. This is a time to be grateful, compassionate, generous of heart and spirit toward others. In fact, spirituality is what the holidays are all about at the core. Keep this in mind and your holiday will be healthier for it.