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Your Ultimate Guide to Staying Healthy Through the Holidays

 

‘TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY – so why are so many of us unhappy during what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year? Welcome to the holiday season—that whirlwind of gift-giving, marketing blitzes, holiday parties, and activities galore that begin right after Halloween, build through Thanksgiving, and continue gaining momentum until the end of the year.

 

While this season is meant to bring feelings of love and cheer, it is also the start of a season of stress and unhealthy lifestyle choices for many. According to The American Psychology Association, more than 80% of us find the holiday season to be ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ stressful, leading to feeling unhealthy and/or unwell. Another survey by the investment firm, Principal Financial Group, revealed that 53 percent of people feel financially stressed by holiday spending, even though more than half of the 1,000 respondents had created spending budgets. Families can also add stress to the holidays and 50 percent of people feel an added obligation to tend to family they may not otherwise see. Forty percent of adults reported overeating foods because of stress with 50 percent of those reporting an increase in stress due to added worry of weight gain. It is a vicious cycle.

 

The holiday season affects health physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, with little effort you can maintain full-spectrum health through the holiday chaos!

Effect On Physical Well Being

The holidays can really take a toll on our bodies physically. Stress alone can result in lack of energy, headaches, sensitive stomach, muscle tension, poor sleep quality, weakened immunity, hair loss, and more. As this is the season of germ infestation, we recommend giving your body a little extra help during the holiday season:

  • Stick to your healthy eating habits. Just because the temptation of sugar-coated goodies are all around, you should not give up on your wellness goals! Keep eating your rainbow of nutrients, drinking your water, and supplementing when needed. Enjoy your favorite holiday classics, but try to pick the most healthfully ones – minimally processed, homemade with REAL ingredients, and limited intake. Dr. Carmen Keith’s go-to for keeping a healthy balance during the holidays (and the entire year) is the 80/20 rule. Stick to your eating plan 80% of the time and allow for 20% relaxed consumption. The worst thing you can do is cause more stress and unhappiness by depriving yourself of what brings you joy! There are also a lot of great recipes out there to recreate your favorite goodies in a way that benefits all aspects of your health!
  • Keep moving! The colder months tend to be when people feel the least motivated to get outside and move. Our suggestions are to try something new that is exciting and fun such as a yoga class, winter cycling, sunrise walks, dancing to your favorite holiday songs, and/or jumping rope! These are all simple yet highly effective ways you can reap the physical benefits of movement in the winter months!
  • Do not let your immune system weaken! Keeping your immune system healthy is a huge factor in enjoying all that the holidays have to offer. Moving, maintaining proper rest, and eating well are great ways to ensure you are doing all that you can for your immune system. However, sometimes this is not enough. With all the large gatherings of people indoors, germs spread quickly and your chances of catching a virus increases! Take extra precautions this year by boosting your immune system with extra nutrients, detoxing when able, and maintaining proper hygiene.

Holiday Wellness Gifts

Effect On Mental Well Being

It is no doubt that holidays and stress can take a toll on our mental well being. Some of the most common effects of mental stress can be attributed to constant worry, racing thoughts, disorganization, brain fog, poor spending judgement, and pessimistic mindsets. Some ways you can ensure mental well being during the holidays are:

  • Add a meditation or breathing practice to your daily routine. Just a five minute practice can work wonders on your mental well being. 
  • Reaffirm your reason for the season. This helps a lot, especially when you find yourself stressing over gifts and preparations. Gifts are nice, but they are definitely not the only way to spread the holiday spirit.
  • Create a gratitude list. This is a favorite for when we find ourselves thinking negatively or feeling unhappy. There truly is SO much to be grateful for when you take a moment to really consider it.
  • Let go of unrealistic expectations. Not every holiday is a Hallmark movie. There is nothing more to say about that.
  • Remain present. Yes, the holidays usually mean larger crowds and therefore, more traffic and longer wait times. While we could let this aggravate us, we can also use this extra time to really connect with the people around us!
  • Spend time with people you love (friends and/or family). Family members are not the only people with whom you can share the holidays. Invite your coworkers, neighbors, and friends for holiday celebrations if they are people you enjoy having in your life! The added joy and happiness can really boost your mental health!
  • Be true to your personal values! Peer pressure is hard on mental health. Around alcohol but gave up drinking? Afraid to say no to someone’s baking, but you already survived a sugar detox?  Only buy used goods, but everyone in the office is buying manufactured gifts? Do not be afraid to go against the grain – but do it with kindness! Most of the time, if we simply communicate our values and life choices, others will return our gesture with kindness!

Holiday Wellness Gifts

 

Effect On Emotional Well Being

The holidays can be an emotional time for many people. We associate the holidays with past feelings and memories. Becoming stressed, holding onto unrealistic expectations, or living in the past can really affect our emotional well being. The most common symptoms of emotional stress are moodiness, feeling lack of control, difficulty relaxing the mind, low self-esteem, loneliness, depression, and avoiding others. That is NO way to spend the holidays. Here are some ways you can take care of your emotional well being this season:

  • LET GO OF EXPECTATIONS. Letting go of expectations and staying present as much as possible is the best way to aid our mental health, reduce stress, and improve emotional well being!.
  • Volunteer for something you are passionate about. Just because it is the holidays does not mean your only volunteer opportunity is your local soup kitchen. In fact, there are many charities who struggle during the winter months to get volunteers. These  include hospitals, nursing homes, blood banks, churches, animal rescues, and more! Get involved in your community and dedicate the holidays to something bigger than yourself.
  • Take a personal day. Yes, personal days are necessary for emotional well being.  Check in with yourself and take a day to be alone if you need before or during the midst of holiday parties and gatherings. It is good to stay balanced!
  • Check in with a friend. Chances are, you are not the only one feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or unwell during the holidays. Talk with a trusted friend or be someone your friend can talk to. Communicating how we feel and connecting that feeling with others is a great way to process, heal, and grow!

Holiday Wellness Gifts

 

Do you have any healthful tips for the holidays? We would love to hear them – share in the comments below!

 

References:

  1. Average American gains 7 to 10 pounds over holidays. CNN Interactive; Gainesville, FL: 1995. http://cnn.com/HEALTH/9512/holiday_weight/ [Google Scholar]

 

Black DS, Slavich GM. Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2016;1373:13–24. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/nyas.12998. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

 

Carley T. Exercise tips to reduce holiday weight gain. Slucare News Release; St. Louis, MO: 1997. http://www.slucare.edu/publications/97/weightgain.shtml. [Google Scholar]

Thompson C, Stinson D, Fernandez M, Fine J, Isaacs G. A comparison of normal, bipolar and seasonal affective disorder subjects using the Seasonal Pattern Assessment Questionnaire. J Affect Disord. 1988;14:257–64. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

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