Holiday Stress & Mindfulness: Staying Healthy Amidst the Chaos

holiday stress

I know first hand all about holiday stress.

“Who do I need to buy for? Which holidays will we host? Where we will spend each holiday? How can I afford all of these presents? When will I find time to decorate?”

The whole time you’re asking yourself these questions, you’re also wondering, “Am I going to get to ENJOY this holiday season at all??” and “How can I possibly practice self care and stay healthy this season?” 

I truly care that you have the best holiday season possible. Yes, all of the above needs to get done. But you need to take care of yourself too. Especially amidst this chaos.

The holidays should be a time for mindfulness and reflection. But all the stress and overwhelm can make that feel impossible.

Using Mindfulness To Navigate Holiday Stress

You can’t eliminate stress factors during the holiday season. I mean, you could. But you probably won’t. So it’s extra important to practice good stress management during this time.

  • Schedule time for yourself each day. Drink a cup of coffee alone in front of the tree. Practice some gentle yoga. Maintain your exercise routine. Read a book. Make sure you do something for you every day.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Staying grateful this holiday season can help things stay in perspective. Maybe your shopping list is super long. But it’s super long because you have such a large village of supportive and loving people. Maybe you have a lot of decorating to do. But you have this decorating to do because you have a family that you want to create a magical atmosphere for. Maybe you’re worried about holiday food. But you’re worried about it because you care about your health and because you have so many fun things to do!

RELATED: MINDFULNESS & OVEREATING: PART 2 OF THE MINDFUL EATING SERIES

  • Express gratitude to others. Along with the gratitude journal (or instead of if you’re not the journal type), make it a goal to tell others you appreciate them. This will also help keep things in perspective and keep your relationships strong during the stressful time of year, which is another tool to help navigate stress.
  • Get into the holiday spirit. Allow yourself to feel the nostalgia. Indulge in anything that brings this on- hot chocolate, your mom’s favorite recipes, your favorite holiday music or movies. Instead of making your preparations a core, make them fun. Decorate your tree while sipping eggnog and listening to Christmas music. Decorate the house doing the same thing and then sit back and enjoy the magic you’ve made.

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Maintaining your Health

It can be hard to find time during the holiday season to take care of your health. I’m sure you spent all year working on it, or even if you didn’t, you may still be stressed about it. When you feel overwhelmed and a little unfocused, having a few areas to focus on can get you through. Here are my suggestions to help you!

  • Meal plan and prep. Whether or not you’re “dieting”, meal planning and prepping ahead of time will help ease stress throughout the week because you’ll spend less time trying to figure out where your meals are coming from and you’ll be more likely to have nourishing meals that provide you enough energy and sustenance to get through the busy week.
  • Get enough sleep. I know this is easier said than done. But if you plan things enough and manage your time, then going to bed earlier instead of trying to get one more thing done, will actually be more productive. 
    • An extra tip for this I like to do myself and have my clients do is to spend time each night BEFORE your bedtime routine planning the next day. Write out 3 goals you want to accomplish (realistic ones btw) that day. Write down your dinner and when you’re going to prep or start cooking for it, and write down your workout, and what time of you day you plan to do it. And then make a shortlist of 1 or 2 extras that you can refer to if you happen to get through everything else.  Doing this helps you sleep better at night, believe it or not. One of the most common things that I hear from my clients is that they’re up so late because they’re either unable to stop thinking about all the things they need to do, or they’re trying to get just one more thing done. Making your list and planning your day will help with both of these things.
  • Maintain your exercise routine. This sort of falls into the first bullet point of making time for yourself in the first list, but it also warrants its own bullet. Exercise is a great way to manage stress AND stay healthy, so make sure to keep to your schedule, and plan it into your day along with holiday preparations.
holiday stress

Navigating Diet Culture this Holiday Season

If you follow along with me here on IG, you know that I’m anti-diet. This doesn’t mean anti-health or anti-nutrition. It just means anti-guilt about foods and anti- “good” vs “bad” foods. It means anti- “ideal body type” pushed on us by society. And it means anti-restriction and deprivation. 

Maybe you’ve spent the year dieting. Or maybe you’ve spent the year trying to learn how to live healthfully without dieting. Either way, Thanksgiving food and the holidays are likely stressing you out.

The above lists will help you manage this stress and stay healthy this season, but here are some other things to think about:

  • Keep to your normal routine. If you plan ahead, there’s no need to change your normal eating patterns or exercise habits on a daily basis during this time of year. 
  • Don’t try to compensate for office goodies or holiday party food. First, remember this: no matter what you ate yesterday, you still need to eat today. Second, remember this: you don’t need to earn the right to any food. Thirdly, know this: if you try to compensate for the holiday food, you will end up overeating. I know you want to think of it as a math problem so “if I ate this much yesterday, I can only eat this much today in order to stay on my path”, but I promise, our bodies don’t work that way. Instead, keep to your normal patterns, and then if you want the cookies that Karen brought to the office after you’ve had your normal sustenance, go for it. Trust me, you’ll eat less of them if you’re not starving from restricting yourself, your blood sugar will be more stable preventing the sugar-binge you fear, and you’ll feel a hell of a lot less guilt. 
  • Don’t go to parties starving. This goes along with the above. You don’t want to avoid eating before a party to try to make up for the calories because you’ll end up overdoing it. So don’t skip meals or snacks.
  • Plan your day ahead of time and include your normal meals and exercise habits. Amidst the busy hustle and bustle of the season, it can be easy to let go of your normal routine. But schedule things ahead of time so you can fit it in.
  • Let yourself indulge and let go of the guilt. When it comes time to the actual holiday or party or even the office pot-luck or cookie exchange, give yourself permission to eat what you really want. Don’t try to avoid your favorites because psychologically, you’ll just end up eating more so you’re much better off if you just eat what you really want. But it’s important to let go of any guilt you feel. You may still feel guilt and that’s ok, but try not to dwell on it. Remind yourself that this food does not define you or your health, savor every bite so that you can actually enjoy it, and then move on.
holiday stress
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