The mid-fall time is spectacular for lifestyle goals. You’ve made it through back to school, back to activities and back to work. Maybe you’re even back to fitness and a healthy eating routine has been set. Your thoughts are drifting to warm hot chocolate and memorable moments with friends and family this winter. The holidays are so wonderful!
There are parties and events to attend, bonuses, decadent food and drink to consume, gifts to buy and festive rushing to prepare for visitors. There may be double booked late nights, dwindling bank accounts, gift expectations, lines upon lines to wait in and sometimes even snow to derail plans that can’t move.
Okay, so the holidays are wonderful, but also stressful. Surviving the holiday season can seem daunting on a good day. If you have a career that requires a lot of attention, the wonder of the holiday party season might turn into a drawn out lifestyle blunder. Knowing that things can get tight in more ways than one, there are ways that you can prepare and still enjoy the decadence. Pick a few of these tips to focus on depending on your goals.
Tips to survive the holidays and preserve the wonder:
- Set realistic goals and expectations – know that you’re going to have some extra sweets and/or drinks and enjoy the ones you have, but be ready to decline the excess.
- Be compassionate – it’s challenging to keep the balance over the season. If you overindulge, be kind to yourself and try to understand where things broke down. Knowing what triggered a set back can be helpful. Was it Larry from the office who likes to pour shots? Your sister Sam who makes the best fudge and gets sad if you don’t eat it. Maybe it was social anxiety that feels better with food.
- Be clear about your boundaries with your self so you can communicate them to others – recall your goals before a party or engagement, practice saying “no thank-you”, know that you don’t have to explain or provide excuses for leaving early, declining another drink or passing on the cheesecake.
- Welcome the experiences – dissolving into the sensations of the hot chocolate, long hug or stuffing can help boost the dopamine release you get from the indulgence meaning you’ll feel more joy with less consumption. If you’re going to indulge, don’t let guilt ruin it for you.
- Keep your routine as much as possible – do the things that keep you together, bet it keeping a tidy home, your morning walk, staying in touch with friends, pillow talk with your partner or taking the kids to the park.
- Stay active by looking for ways to build it into your daily life – over the years my family has learned to be more active when we visit. Sitting and chatting is all well and good but when you move your body by going for an after dinner walk or building a snowman you’ll get in your activity, dopamine from the play aspect and keep burning extra calories.
- Experiment with healthier versions of your favourite foods – cut down on the sugar in hot chocolate by making your own, incorporate more nuts into a chocolate brittle recipe or make a stuffing out of vegetables
- Foods to enjoy – whole foods, vegetable based recipes, berry based items that have antioxidants, dark chocolate, teas, red wine as it has more health benefits than other drinks.
- Foods to be careful of – sweets as they drive up your blood sugar, sugary drinks, processed foods
- Build in small downtime – be it taking a break from work for 10 minutes to close your eyes and put your feet up or grabbing a quiet moment in the car before you enter your home, these moments help keep you grounded
- Shift your focus – dive into the conversations, decorations and the emotions in the room instead of zeroing in on the food, there is a lot more going on in a holiday party than de-constructing the gingerbread house.
- Winter Blahs – if you’re prone to getting the winter blahs known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) there are light therapy and other options for boosting your energy and mood. Day time light in the afternoon will be especially helpful.
- What about the buffet?!?
- Choose a smaller plate if there is an option
- Get an overview of the food and pick your favourites before getting in line
- Fill your plate with veggies, fruit and proteins first.
- Eat slowly
- Situate yourself away from the food table or buffet
- Wait at least 15 minutes before going back for more food to see if you hungry signal will turn off
- Partner up – know a fellow health conscious friend? Why not have a short chat about your goals beforehand and see if you can team up to be each other’s wing person. A little healthy competition and support can go a long way when working on a goal.
What to do if things aren’t going as planned:
- Over eating – When we over eat, especially with carbohydrates, it tells our brain to crave more of the same. How do you know if you’re over eating? If you’re feeling sluggish and bloated, craving sugar and don’t remember the last time you were hungry you’ve probably been overindulging. Break the cycle in as little as half a day by:
- waiting until you are actually hungry to eat again,
- hydrate – sometimes dehydration can feel like cravings,
- find some time to relax,
- get adequate sleep,
- move your body,
- cuddle or be intimate with a partner,
- spend time outside during daylight like on a lunch time walk,
- cut down your carbohydrate intake to a more reasonable level until you feel yourself coming back into balance.
- Over doing it – Are you feeling fried and fizzled out? Recognize that you’ve had too much stimulus and give yourself a break. Take an extra hour at home before making it to the party, go home early or step outside for a breath of fresh air.
- In need of support – the holidays can be very difficult if you have strained relationships with family members, family who are no longer with you or that are ill. Pick some key people to stay in touch with and reach out, it’s okay to ask for help. Depression and anxiety can often worsen during or right after the holidays so be ready to ask for help if you need it or offer some to those in need.
- Restart: Put in a restore day. Do a day of juicing, veggies, intermittent fasting or just clean eating to help reset your system.
Only you can decide what is most important for you. That being said, I’m super passionate about helping people enjoy life despite the pressures we’re working under. That’s why this quick tips entry turned into a manual.