No matter what holiday you celebrate or even if you don’t, the month of December can still be a challenging one for most people. Too much to do in too little time is a recipe for ratcheted-up stress levels.
So how to beat holiday stress – or at least prevent it from gaining the upper hand? By making a healthy holiday habits list, and trying to do at least two or three of them from now thru New Years Day and beyond. Not only will you help slow the seasonal health slide, but you’ll lay the healthy habits groundwork for 2016 – and that’s a priceless gift for one of the most important people you know – you! Here are a few items to put on the list to keep life and health on track and make it a low-stress holiday season:
Front-load Health First Thing
With over-the-top holiday spreads virtually a given at lunch, cocktail hour and dinner, maintaining a healthy diet for the duration can be a challenge. And while moderation and making the healthiest choices possible is a solid strategy, the smartest thing you can do is to start the day with a nutrient-dense smoothie – so even if you don’t make the best choices later in the day, you‘ve at least given your body a day-launching boost of the vitamins and minerals it needs to flourish.
Cool It On The Exercise
OK, so perhaps running a marathon isn’t in the cards this month, but do maintain a regular exercise routine. Save time with compound exercises to hit several muscle groups at once; break exercise sessions into multiple shorter workouts so they’re easier to make time for; consider cutting the duration of your routine by a few minutes and walk more during the day to help fill the gap. This way, come January, you won’t be starting from zero – you can return to your old routine without having lost much ground.
Chill Out With a 5-Minute Meditation
If you have a meditation practice, keep up the good work. If you don’t meditate, now is the time to take advantage of nature’s chill pill. You don’t need to take a lot of time, try starting with just 5 minutes in the morning, as soon as you get out of bed. Doing so will help soothe a stressed mind and body, and set a calmer tone for the day. If you wish to go longer, by all means do so, but remember, even a 5-minute ‘sit’ confers benefits – it’s so much better than skipping it because you don’t think you can find the time.
Take a Sound Bath
As in, keep the tunes spinning throughout the season. But when you’re plugged into your headset, lean heavily on music that soothes rather than pumps you up for a rave. Music at a slower tempo, about 60 beats per minute (bpm),enables your brain to synchronize with the beat helping to calm both brain and body by helping to relax the muscles. According to researchers at Stanford University, “listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication” – so let music take the edge off in a healthy, drug-free way.
Leave Martha Stewart to Martha
When it comes to the holidays, the woman may be a genius. The rest of us, however, are mostly not, so stop striving for perfection – or someone else’s standard of what the holidays should look like. When it comes to holiday cooking, entertaining, gift giving and all those other seasonal activities (which, truth be told, drive many of us slightly crazy), the sanest path is to just let go. Do the best that you can without sacrificing yourself and don’t be ashamed to take shortcuts. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do things at Martha-level, so take it down a few notches and gift your family with more time together.
Give Yourself a Night Off – Or Two
Establish a reasonable rhythm. Going out five nights in a row during the holidays is hard on your body. Between the exposure to germs, unusual foods on offer, sugary cocktails and a shortened sleep schedule, you’re making it easy to get way-laid by seasonal ills. One way to keep immunity strong is to ease up on the gas. Give yourself a night off, or every other night off, to unwind and hit the sack early so you are truly refreshed for the next day instead of running on empty for the entire month. Just remember to have your ‘regrets only’ ready so you’re not caught off guard by last-minute invitations.
Finish With a Flourish – Of Soup
Make soup. It may seem like an odd holiday de-stressor, but it’s great to come home to on cold winter nights when you don’t have a lot of time to cook, or after you return from a night out. In addition to saving time, finishing the day with a hearty, nourishing soup will give your body an extra dose of nutrients to close out the day with a nutritional flourish. Among our favorites is Kabocha Squash Soup — and it’s wonderful for lunch too!
For more stress-busting tips for the holidays, check out these 15 Tips For a Saner Holiday.