stress on holidays meme

The winter holiday season is upon us. It is so easy to find yourself frantically trying to shop, bake, wrap gifts, go to parties, travel, and completely lose yourself and your healthy habits.  We have come up with a few helpful strategies to add to your “healthy holiday” toolbox.

Remember To Breathe

breath to relax
Remember To Breathe On Holidays

When times get frantic, it is such a great idea to take a few moments and breathe deeply. The pressures that can accompany holiday shopping, including the pressure to spend money, sometimes more than you have, can take a toll on your health.

In the midst of the craziness, take the time to breathe.  Breathe all of the way into your belly, let your diaphragm expand, and then exhale fully.  Try breathing in and out through your mouth or nose.  If you can, close your eyes and soften your shoulders.  Feel better?  By breathing deeply and slowly, you will tap into your parasympathetic nervous system, or, your body’s calming mechanisms.  Your heart rate will decrease and muscles will relax. Those gifts will still get wrapped, cookies baked, cards mailed, and your body will experience some needed rejuvenation.

Schedule Your Exercise Time

How To Be Healthy Over The Holidays
Schedule Your Exercise

Busy times like this cut into exercise time.  You might be thinking that isn’t true, but if you ask around, many people will tell you that they didn’t get to the gym, or cancelled their personal training session this week, or skipped that Tuesday night yoga class because they had too much to do to get ready for Christmas.

Does this make sense?  Not to me.  The best way to keep my energy levels up and burn those extra calories is to ensure that no matter what I have going on,  I  get exercise.  I recommend that you pencil (or better, use a pen) in your exercise time in your calendar, set alerts or reminders on your phone, and do it.

If you have to skip that scheduled exercise class or session because of a holiday party or other holiday activity, then, at least pencil in some exercise time that day instead, even if it is just 5 minutes!  Your body will thank you.

Shopping can be such a time-consuming activity.  Yes, it is fun, at least for some people, but your health and well-being is as important as that “one last gift” that you are trying to find.  Sound selfish?  I don’t think so.

Eat Regular Meals and Nutrient Dense Treats

Eat regular meals so that you can resist most of the holiday temptations that appear in your path.  If you choose this time of year to cut back on meals because of all of the treats and parties, you very well could find yourself face to face with gingerbread cookies and an empty stomach.  Guess who will win this stand-off?  Chances are, your low-blood sugar brain will grab that cookie, and most likely a couple more!

By eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, you might actually be able to just eat one or two cookies, or none at all, versus half the plate!  Let’s face it, you will likely be tempted, and it really is okay to enjoy holiday treats, you just want to not overdo it.  Drastic fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin spikes can make you fatter and cause disease.  Fat and sugar, eaten together, which is the very combination that most treats have, will pack fat on your belly.

It is also important that you watch those late night snacks that often come with holiday preparations, visits with friends and family, holiday parties, and more.

Considering that you have two options, either you avoid holiday treats as much as possible,  or you find a way to make them a lot healthier and enjoy them.  If you can go for nutrient dense foods, reduce sugar and increase fiber and protein that will be a lot better and healthier alternative. Here is an example of swapping out nutrient density for unhealthy fats and sugars:

How To Be Healthy Over The Holidays
How To Be Healthy Over The Holidays

Now, you can see that calories and fats are higher on the second nutrition label, but although the amount of calories you consume is important, it is even more important where those calories are coming from (sugar, the type of fats, etc.). On the other hand good fats actually help you to burn fat.

If you don’t  want to deprive yourself of the treats you love check out this Helen´s Heavenly Recipes Guide with recipes that have ZERO fat storing ingredients.

Involve Family And Friends In Being Active

This is a great time to get everyone off of the couch and helping in the kitchen, wrapping gifts, decorating, and energized.  Encourage others in your household to go for a walk after dinner, maybe to look at holiday lights and get some fresh air.  Enjoy holiday festivities that involve walking, such as zoo lights.  You might even find some holiday fun runs or events that the whole family can participate in. What a great way to jump start your fitness goals for the New Year!

How To Be Healthy Over The Holidays
“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”–Lao Tsu

Because this time of year is also a time for setting goals for the New Year, it is also a great opportunity to build in some healthy fitness habits for everyone.  Think about how you want your health and fitness, as well as  that of your family’s, to look going forward.  Take steps to start now.

Keep On Asleep Schedule

Staying up late during the holidays can really throw your sleep off schedule. I can remember staying up late after the kids went to bed to wrap presents several nights, but still having to get up early and being so tired all day.

Set a limit on your online time as well during the holidays, especially before. It is so easy for 9:00 p.m. to suddenly turn into midnight because one thing led to another online. Talk about a time warp!

How To Be Healthy Over The Holidays
Sleep Debt Is Similar To Financial Debt

Many of us tack on a little holiday debt in more ways than one. Sleep debt  can add up just like financial debt, with known side-effects, including daytime sleepiness, low-level inflammation and increased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. According to David DiSalvo, renowned author and a contributing writer to a Forbes online article about sleep debt, recent studies showed that catching up on your sleep did not make up for sleep debt when it came to helping attention. Bottom line is to not get too far behind on your sleep to stay sharp and healthy.

Brain Changer

If you are sensitive to caffeine, then watch out for those scrumptious holiday coffee drinks or even hot chocolate. Chocolate has caffeine. Limit your chocolate late in the day.

Habits On Holidays

Remember that routines (habits) are tough to stick to during holidays, because, although habits are a  regular tendency or practice, we must consider this:  Habits are tied to triggers. When the trigger happens, the habit follows Leo Babauta.  During this holiday season, the triggers most likely won´t be there, kids won´t be at school, you probably will have at least some days off, the shopping, dinners and parties will be part of those days.

With this in mind, you need a plan for these days. You can create provisional triggers that help you to keep your habits while you are on those days off like doing exercise even if you can´t go to the gym.

Have Some Tools In Your Toolbox

Here is a suggested simple quick workout to get your body moving, blood circulating, and calories burning.  When you start to feel that holiday stress building, bear in mind our suggestions above, and try this bodyweight workout:


Workout 1:  Do each exercise for 30 seconds  (More advanced, do each exercise for 60 seconds).

  • Downward dog to plank (moving back and forth between the two)
  • Bridges
  • Squat Jumps (squat and add a jump each time)
  • Side Plank (30 seconds each side)
  • Mountain Climber
  • Curtsy Lunge (30 seconds each side)
  • Narrow Pushups (focus on triceps)
  • Pretend Jump Rope

Repeat each 5 minute circuit 2-4 times for a quick and straight-forward workout.  Rest 10-15 seconds between circuits if you do the 30 seconds version, or 30-60 seconds between circuits if you are doing the advanced version.

Watch the video to see how to do the workout.

No equipment needed, except maybe an exercise mat or carpeted floor!

We hope that you take this article to heart, and take care of yourself during the holiday season.  Set yourself up for really being able to enjoy the holidays and move into the coming year feeling energized and positive regarding your health and fitness.  Remember to breathe, eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, and stick to an exercise plan.

But also relax and enjoy yourself, remember why you are celebrating on the first place, to be with people that you love and to welcome a new year which is also a new beginning. Find alternative plans for these days, look for healthy alternatives that allow you to enjoy what you love, for example tasty treats that do not sabotage your diet, like the ones you can find here: Heavenly Recipes Guide.

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