The holiday season is one full of emotions: joy, laughter, and love, but also stress, grief, loneliness, and busyness. It’s a time of celebrations and events where sweet goodies abound. It’s a season of baking and cooking all of the treasured family recipes and traditional dishes that help us to remember years past and those who are no longer with us physically.
All of these things can make it hard to stick with our healthy routines as we wind down the year; often leaving us entering the new year with extra weight, feeling run down, worn out, and not like our best self.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
You can navigate the holiday season and enjoy yourself without entering the new year feeling run down and out of shape. Check out these tips to help you reduce stress and thrive this holiday season.
During the holiday season, there are so many activities we can participate in, but when we are overwhelmed by our schedules and events, extra activities can add stress to our lives.
Be careful about the invitations you accept. Be sure that you are truly excited by the events that you agree to attend. Drop the desire to please everyone and accept every invite and embrace the power of no.
“I’m so sorry but I won’t be able to attend.” You don’t need to provide a reason or explanation. Allowing some down time for yourself during a busy season can be one of the best things you can do for in terms of self-care. This may even give you more energy for your workouts, cooking, shopping, and family time.
When attending or hosting a holiday gathering, it’s easy to skip meals leading up to the event. Whether it’s because you are so busy cooking and prepping for the event, or because you think skipping a meal ahead of an event will save you calories, or you simply run out of time to eat ahead of a gathering.
Skipping meals is a quick recipe to becoming hangry. You know the feeling. That feeling when you are so hungry that only 3 spoonfuls of peanut butter straight from the jar will settle you while you are looking for what you are really going to eat. Wink Wink.
Strive to eat a balanced snack or meal leading up to holiday gatherings or on busy days. A balanced snack includes healthy fats to keep you full along with fruits and veggies and/or lean protein.
Examples of a balanced snack that won’t let your blood sugar spike, creating cravings, and leave you hungry are veggie sticks and hummus, greek yogurt with berries and nuts, an apple with sugar free nut butter, or rolled up turkey and cheese with lettuce and tomato. Plan ahead to bring something like this with you if you are on-the-go.
If you enjoy a balanced snack before your gathering, you won’t be so hungry that you overeat and can truly savor the items you enjoy and that bring up fond memories.
When you are in the throes of a stressful situation it is not the time to add a new coping strategy. Be proactive and start a new habit now. Adding some breathing exercises and/or a gentle stretching routine will help you to reduce stress.
Breathing exercises can be as simple as breathing in for a count of 3-4, hold for a count of 3-4, and breathe out for a count of 3-4. Do a few rounds. When adding a new routine, the best way to ensure you will stick with it is to pair it with an activity that already comes naturally to your routine.
Maybe each time you sit down to have a meal you do 2 rounds of deep breathing first. Or each time you are driving in the car, or first thing when you wake up or while the coffee is brewing, or right before bedtime. Having a routine in place that helps to reduce stress before you enter stressful situations will allow you to reach for that routine more easily when things get tough.
Gentle stretching is another way to improve your mobility and flexibility in your body but also a good grounding technique to reduce stress. Check out this 10-minute gentle stretching routine:
I love it when I see people create new traditions that keep them active during the holiday season. You can still enjoy the holiday time even if you don’t keep everything exactly the same as generations past.
Go for a hike to enjoy nature in a different season, participate in a 5K as a family, take a walk to see the decorations and lights together, and don’t be afraid to add some healthy recipes to the mix at your holiday table.
This doesn’t mean you have to ditch your grandmother’s biscuit recipe, but maybe one of the dishes that feels like tradition can be upgraded to a healthier version that becomes the new family favorite.
I know, I know – you don’t need one more thing to do this holiday season. Between gathering, shopping, baking, cooking, and more, it can feel like exercise is the last item on your to-do list. But sticking with your exercise routine can actually give you the energy you need to feel your best during a busy season.
Not only that, but exercise can give you good endorphins to help you reduce stress. Check out this quick low-impact 10-minute exercise routine:
Don’t let the holiday season leave you feeling run down, tired, and worn out while carrying extra pounds into the new year. Try these tips this holiday season and register for my next FREE workshop: The 3 Secrets to Avoiding Stress + Weight Gain while enjoying the Holidays to the Fullest! (….and start 2024 feeling great!).
What stresses you the most around the holidays you celebrate this time of year? How do you relax and find your balance amidst the chaos?