Are you enjoying the final stretch of the year?
It’s a fantastic and fun time of the year. Unfortunately, it’s also a difficult period for maintaining healthy habits. Check out our list of the top 10 ways to stay healthy and happy over the holiday season.
1. Reframe your holiday expectations. Consider this: If you think of the holidays as an exhausting test of your endurance, and holiday treats as evil temptations to be resisted with all available willpower, how will your body react? That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but many patients come into the office at this time of the year showing signs of anxiety and tension. In fact, one study found that 90 percent of adults feel stressed over the holidays. Isn’t this supposed to be a joyous time?
These high stress levels may be at least partly attributed to the fact that many of us simply have more to do at this time of the year. Because we have more tasks to keep track of (even if those tasks are going to parties, buying gifts, and other fun stuff), our prefrontal cortex (in our brain) is overtaxed. This can affect our memory and overall ability to cope. Add in the extra pressure of maintaining a perfect diet and workout schedule, and you have a recipe for sleep problems, digestive difficulties, and tense muscles - all of which can add to our stress. And when we’re stressed, we tend to overeat. You can probably see why holiday stress can create a vicious cycle of guilt.
Reframing our expectations that we need have a “perfect” holiday while staying disciplined can end the frustration. So don’t beat yourself up if everything doesn’t go as planned. In the long run, our happiest memories are sometimes the ones when things didn’t go as we’d pictured them, or the times we slowed down to take in the moment. Letting go of expectations of perfection (from ourselves and others) will ultimately help our health.
2. Play games. If you get together with family or friends in the next weeks, why not introduce a low-tech way to have some old-fashioned fun by playing board games? Board games can also offer cognitive benefits - not that you need an excuse to start rolling the dice.
3. Stay mindful. A mindfulness practice has obvious benefits when we’re extremely busy. Even if you’re not a regular meditator, just five minutes a day of meditation can help you cope with holiday stress. And why not share the love? Suggest a short meditation before holiday meals. It can set the tone for a peaceful celebration. Studies show that group meditation can have powerful results. Our office has regular drop in meditation groups!
4. Get moving. Fitting in some exercise can be easier when you mix it up by with physical social activities with loved ones. Snowshoeing, making snowmen, skating for those in the cold climates: there are plenty of options. If you’re not a cold-weather person, try bowling or a trip to the pool. You may not end up with six-pack abs, but might start a new holiday tradition. Suggesting fun activities for social gatherings also helps take the focus off food.
5. Cook up some love. Looking for a unique gift idea? Want to stay away from the mall and its atmosphere of seemingly relentless consumerism? Try baking some holiday gifts. For example, put some homemade sweet and spicy holiday almonds into a fancy jar (you can find a good recipe here: https://mywholefoodlife.com/2012/11/28/sweet-and-spicy-holiday-almonds/). Or wrap up a box of vegan hazelnut cups. (This recipe is amazing! https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-16557/like-nutella-try-these-vegan-hazelnut-cups.html) or even start making some natural soaps as gifts, it’s easy, natural and fun!
6. Go green. When you’re thinking about ways to keep your body healthy over the holidays, don’t forget that the planet deserves love too. It’s easy to have a green holiday season (even if it’s snowing). Use recycled wrapping paper, serve food on real plates (not paper), and consider turning the heat down a degree or two for large gatherings (maybe you’ll encourage guests to bring out their tacky holiday sweaters). To conserve electricity, use LED lights only, and defrost your freezer before you load it up with holiday baking.
7. Learn to say no. This is a tough one for many patients who come to the office. However sometimes refusing a social invitation or a request to do work is the healthiest choice for everyone involved. If you find it hard to turn down an invitation or request, remember that you don’t have to apologize. Decline right away and resist the urge to make up an elaborate excuse. Suggest an alternative activity or a later date - but only if you really want to.
8. Keep your gut healthy. Sugar laden holiday treats, cocktails and parties galore can really put a damper on your gut health. Rightfully so an imbalance of extra sugar lowers both your immune system and can lead to an imbalance of healthy bacteria in the gut. Take some high quality probiotics and some digestive enzymes prior to meals to give your gut a healthy boost and some likely much needed assistance!
9. Start some healthy food traditions. The internet is bursting with healthy holiday recipes. Think about your loved ones’ food preferences and find some yummy dishes to bring to gatherings. For example, here are some outstanding vegan dishes: https://minimalistbaker.com/christmas-recipe-roundup/. Other guests might thank you for providing an alternative to Aunt Mary’s special salad! Try replacing carb heavy side dishes with healthy ones like Rutabaga and carrot mash or creamy butternut squash and thyme! Looking up Paleo versions of your favorites is often a good place to start too. Remember it’s OK to say no!
10. Be grateful. The holidays don’t always go as planned. Sometimes we have to go to work instead of eating great meals. Sometimes we miss people who are no longer in our lives. It’s normal to experience sadness at this time of the year. Acknowledge your feelings and be gentle with yourself. Take some time to think of the good things (even if they’re not always picture-perfect). Grateful people experience better sleep, more optimism, and improved relationships. And we could all use a bit of that at this time of the year.
Happy New Year from all of us! We look forward to working with you to create a fulfilling and healthy start to 2019.
Creating a strong self-focused morning routine is one of the most important things you can do to set the tone for your day.
Do you find yourself checking your email first thing in the morning and mentally answering questions… hours before you get into work?
Rushing around in the morning, cramming breakfast in your mouth as you drive to work, already feeling that sense of impending anxiety and wishing you had more time for yourself?
Feeling like your day is happening to you?
Or rather, I used to feel that way.
As an entrepreneur, I am more than a little obsessed with time management and productivity. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I am all about helping people create systems in their life to reach their health goals so that they can be more successful at work, and be the parent/partner/person they dream of being.
I fell into the habit of auto-piloting my mornings, basing my schedule around when my husband needed to leave for work (ridiculously early), other roommates’ schedules and how much time I could spend falling into the black hole that is my Facebook Newsfeed. I would fly into the office just a few minutes before my first client, feeling a frazzled and unsettled.
It is a recipe for anxiety and unproductivity. You feel like you are constantly chasing your tail and wind up frustrated by your lack of accomplishment at the end of the day. You stay up late catching up… or watching Netflix and always feeling perma-tired.
Recently, I’ve been experimenting with a new “system”. Most successful entrepreneurs, top earners (C-office types) and the calmest people I know get up early. As a night-hawk born of two musicians, this concept is totally alien to me. I’ve gotten into the habit over the past few years, however, due to my husband’s schedule and the desire to spend time together before the day gets crazy. It’s actually very peaceful to be up and moving before the rest of the world. Once I’m up, I never regret it.
Enter the Morning Triathlon: a super efficient start to the day to help you feel healthier, happier and more successful.
Here’s why it works: By starting your day focusing on YOUR needs, you set a strong foundation for the rest of the day. Your email inbox and work day are full of other people’s demands for your time and energy… but by starting and ideally ending the day focusing on yourself, you will feel calmer and more productive.
I call this concept “book-ending”. Ie. You book-end your day getting in the right frame of mind for your day in the morning, and then winding down in the evening.
Here’s how you do it:
Figure out how much time you have, and divide into three blocks: Mental, Movement, Mindful/Meditate. This is your Morning Triathlon. Ideally you have about 15 minutes or longer. Skip the time you spend reading the news on your phone.
My morning routine starts like this:
Some days I use a 15 minute block of time, other days I have longer. I never regret getting up early or taking care of myself. Self-care is vital to your health.
Get my NEW Guide Calm the F*** Down: 5 Proven Strategies to Take Care of Yourself
In my next blog post, I’ll share with you my favorite ways to build the perfect bedtime routine to help ward off insomnia.
What are YOUR favorite ways to start your morning? Comment below!
Dr. Keila Roesner BHSc ND
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Dr. Keila Roesner is a Naturopathic Doctor. When not treating patients she is also an enthusiastic barefoot-strolling, music-loving, yoga-doing kitchen wiz - who also happens to be a wrestling fan.