5 Tips for Staying Healthy and Stress-Free During the Holidays
The holidays are filled with festive fun. From delicious meals to quality time spent with friends and family to extra time off work, it’s no wonder the holidays can be one of the most magical times of the year.
But for many Americans, the holidays can bring a lot of extra stress, too.
45% of Americans reported they would rather skip the holidays. From the strain on your finances to the stress of extra traffic, crowds or a night with the in-laws, the holidays can be a drain on your energy.
Prioritizing your health during the holidays is important. When you’re under stress, your body pumps out the hormone cortisol. The effects of this hormone on your body’s cells is that it makes you more vulnerable to a variety of health issues, like anxiety, chronic pain or even heart disease.
Keeping your stress level down helps with more than staying relaxed — it can ensure you enjoy better overall health this holiday season and every holiday season for years to come.
Here are 5 tips to stay healthy and stress-free so you can enjoy the holiday season.
1. Avoid Binging
The holidays are full of tasty temptations around every corner. From office parties to big holiday feasts with the family, it’s impossible to avoid a slice of pie or extra scoop of mashed potatoes here and there.
But indulging in seasonal delights doesn’t have to mean binging. Routinely overeating during the holidays can be hard on your waistline and your heart health.
To avoid the temptation of overeating, be picky during the holiday meal or party, and have just one helping of your favorite foods and dessert.
Try to have a small healthy snack like an apple and slices of low-fat cheese to curb your appetite before a party so you don’t overindulge on sweets and other rich foods.
Be careful to limit your alcohol intake, too. Not only does alcohol have extra calories, but it can intensify your emotions if you’re already anxious or stressed.
Eating and drinking in moderation can help you remain in control of your emotions and feel more comfortable from one holiday event to the next.
2. Plan Ahead
Planning ahead can help you feel more in control of the details while you move through the whirlwind of the season.
Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and build your shopping list for what you need.
That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure you have help for party prep and cleanup — you’re not Santa, you can’t take care of everything yourself in one night!
3. Get Some Sun
The winter can be overcast and dreary, which can have a similar effect on your mood.
But if you see sun in the forecast in upcoming days, be sure to get outside and enjoy it — even if it only makes an appearance for an hour or two.
Getting out and about when it’s sunny can help your body produce feel-good serotonin, which can help relieve seasonal affective disorder.
If it’s too cold to be outside, even spending time near a window where the sun rays can wash over you can help boost your mood and relieve stress or anxiety.
You might also consider asking your doctor about phototherapy, which is a treatment that uses a box that emits full-spectrum light to help lighten your mood.
4. Stick With Your Routine
Although the parties and events of the holidays can be a welcome reprieve from your daily routine, too much of a good thing can become overwhelming.
Try to stick to your daily workouts, reading time, or downtime with your spouse or partner to maintain a sense of balance.
Don’t try to take on more holiday chores than you can handle to prevent you from feeling overloaded and stressed out.
Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep, too. A full night’s sleep helps fight stress and reset your mind, so you’ll have the energy to enjoy the day ahead with family and friends.
5. Let Go of Perfection
More than traffic or long lines at the mall, one of the biggest underlying factors of stress and anxiety during the holidays is often our own memories.
According to Ronald Nathan, Ph.D., clinical professor at Albany Medical College in New York, many of us associate the holidays with past experiences.
We either think about what didn’t go right in past holidays, or we romanticize our experiences and make the current holiday impossible to recreate.
The key to setting ourselves up for a more relaxing holiday season is to let go of perfectionism.
Lowering your expectations for throwing the perfect party or buying the most memorable gift will allow you to ease up and enjoy each moment for what it is.
One last area of stress to prepare for: the holiday crud. And nothing adds stress during the season like a sick kiddo (or two, or three!) Here are the steps you can take to try to keep your kids healthy (and happy) during the holiday season >
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