Maintaining good health through the holidays is a challenge. Most times we equate this with gleeful parties filled with decadent treats and merry-making alcoholic beverages. The stress of being over scheduled is recognized as a contributing factor to health being put on the back burner but for many there is an underlying stress that often goes unrecognized. The same holiday gatherings that bring us together with loved ones can also be poignant reminders of those we are missing. I can’t think of Christmas without thinking there should be a “baby’s first” in front of it and New Year’s Day will forever be the day Eve died. In preparation for the upcoming holiday season I’ve been putting together a toolbox of sorts. If you are among the many grieving a loved one this holiday season the following are some ideas for a healthy, if not altogether happy, holiday season.
Make time for stillness- It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of the season no matter what your take on the holidays. Making time for stillness, even if it is just 5 minutes a day, can go a long way towards recognizing what your body truly needs. If you are not one for formal meditation something as simple as sitting quietly in the glow of your Christmas tree could suffice.
Let go of expectations- Trying to create the perfect holiday often ends up more miserable than merry (think National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation). On a holiday, much like any other day, it is impossible to predict what will happen. Accepting that a holiday, like any other day, will have moments of joy, sorrow, and everything in between can turn a stressful day into a more peaceful one.
Moderate your food, moderate your mood- Emotional stress leads to the release of stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine. Both of these hormones cause blood glucose levels to rise. Consuming excess sugar in the form of holiday treats or alcohol can exacerbate this response. High blood glucose levels can lead to fatigue and depression so while a treat or beverage in moderation may raise your spirits, too many could have the opposite effect.
Celebrate with self care- Indulge in some self-care. A long winter walk away from the
craziness festivities can be even more relaxing than a glass of mulled wine. A long, hot bath can be more delicious than a second cookie. During the holidays, and especially when grieving a loved one, we long for comfort. There is nothing wrong with finding it in food every now and then but realizing there are many other ways to comfort yourself can be very empowering. Never underestimate the power of a comfy robe, slippers, soft blankets, a favorite holiday tune, etc.
And last but not least…exercise!- Yes, this is still a fitness blog and it is my duty to tout movement throughout the holiday season. There are endless ways to move your body even when the gym is closed. Practice yoga at home to combat stress, take an evening walk and check out the neighborhood Christmas lights, dance around the house to your favorite holiday music. Instead of taking a vacation from exercise entirely take a vacation from the norm.
Like the old saying goes, you have to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. By taking care of yourself this holiday season you will be better able to give to the loved ones you are with and honor those you are without.