Ladies, I know what you are thinking: “It’s the holiday season. My needs go on the back burner until January.”

I’ve observed this trend with many of my clients (and myself) over the years. Most people I talk to feel too busy as we go towards the “finish line” of the year. As women, we often sacrifice our exercise, sleep, or “down time” to fit in all the things we feel we must do.

When we feel tired, we may be drawn to sugar, caffeine, and indulgence foods to keep our energy up – and they’re easy to reach around the holidays!

As a woman over 50, you may be juggling multiple generations of family members, hostessing, and travelling. You may feel you need to have your home beautifully decorated, gifts purchased and wrapped, and the perfect holiday meals prepared.

You are likely balancing all of these holiday demands with your normal demands of work, volunteering, family, or community responsibilities.

The truth is that our closest loved ones will continue to love us even if we have not done those things. Our challenge is to love ourselves even if we skip the usual commotion!

In the spirit of keeping yourself happy, healthy, and SANE during the holidays, please enjoy these 12 tips. I encourage you to try them as a 12-day challenge between now and the New Year. You can print out this follow-along challenge guide, and watch these 12 short complementary videos (one for each day).

Take A Walk

Now is the time to keep your exercise plan simple, flexible, and portable. Take a walk at any pace. If being with others at this time feels fun, include friends and family members on your walk. If you need to be alone to recoup some energy, use your walk to get your alone time.

Monitor Your Speech

Around the holidays, I hear lots of women say things like, “I always eat too much during the holidays,” or “Travelling is tough. I know I’ll gain weight.”

What you say is powerful! It enforces these limiting beliefs inside our own heads and hearts, and it impacts the people around us.

When you catch yourself talking like this, pause. Refresh, rethink, and rephrase. Ask a loved one to be a “speech monitor” with you, and help each other speak only the words you want to be true.

Put Your Feet Up!

Legs up the wall is my favorite yoga pose. Even if I only have a few minutes, it makes a huge difference in my energy level. If you cannot do that one, lie on the couch, floor, or bed with your legs and feet elevated.

Take a break from “running around.” This is especially helpful if you have had a busy day, and you also have a busy evening ahead of you.

Use the Rule of the Four “Reallys”

During the holidays, we are often surrounded by foods we don’t normally eat. There’s more sugar, more fat, more salt, more oil, more of everything! You may not even care about some of these foods, but somehow when they are in front of us at a party or buffet, we eat them even if we don’t love them.

In her book, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat, Dr. Michelle May describes the rule of four reallys. I love using this rule for holiday parties – and when I am given sweets as a gift. If I “really, really, really, really” love it, I eat it and enjoy it! If I don’t, I pass and choose something with more nutrition value.

Turn Your Phone Off

These days, people seem to carry their phones everywhere and look at them often. This behavior is not limited to the younger generations either.

During holiday gatherings, be an example of a wise woman who is fully present to the day and the people around you. Get where you are going, be where you are, and leave your phone off in your purse or another room.

Play Like a Kid and Have Fun

You may have children around you during the holidays. If you do, that’s an easy way to join in their fun and games. Children laugh easily and often, and you can join in! If you don’t have children as part of your holiday plans, find ways to be more playful. For instance, try some laughter yoga!

Get Your Heart Rate Up and Sweat

Walk, hike, bike, laugh, or move in any way your body allows. Again, keep it simple!

Prioritize Sleep

Your evenings may be disrupted by parties, guests, travel, or holiday activities. Nap when you need to. Most of the time, I limit daytime naps to 30 minutes. During the holidays, I have a “take it when I can get it” approach, and sleep whenever I feel I need it and am able to do so.

Anchor Your Healthy Habits to Your “Normal Days”

Even though most of the holiday season we have normal days and not-so-ordinary days. Firm up your resolve when your schedule is mostly typical. Make sure that whenever you can, you “stock up” with good food, sleep, and exercise.

Then when you cannot, the impact will not be as negative on your overall health. What we do most of the time is more important than what we do every once in a while.

Be a Nutritarian

Dr. Joel Fuhrman coined the term “nutritarian.” I’ve adapted from his original meaning. Aim for three one-half cup servings of vegetables each day. That is only 1.5 cups total. Get a head start by having vegetables for breakfast. If the rest of the day goes downhill, you’ve already gotten some good nutrition.

Go Outside

Go outside even if you have to bundle up. If you can exercise, do it outside. If you cannot exercise, you will still benefit from the sunshine and fresh air and new sights.

Breathe

Take three long, deep, wide, smooth breaths. Exhale completely. Do this when you wake up, before bed, before eating, before you drive your car, and before you say something you might regret. It’s always a good idea to take three breaths. It’s especially important during the holidays!

What will you do this holiday season to stay healthy, happy, and sane? Will you do it alone or with a friend? How often will you have normal days in-between the not-so-ordinary ones? How do you plan to spend them? Please share with our community!

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