The holidays are upon us. No matter what your spiritual persuasion, you’re probably going to be finding time within this season of cold days and long nights to gather with family and friends, sit around the feast table, and celebrate some light in the darkness. What a wonderful thing!
But even so, the most joyful season still comes with holiday stress. And, between travel, shopping, parties, and family commitments, many of us don’t take very good care of ourselves in the midst of it all. During the holidays, most of us eat more – and more poorly. We exercise less. We let our spiritual practices slip. I mean, who has time to meditate? There’s a sale on, and I still have gifts to buy! (Right?)
The result; physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.
In addition to the basic stressors listed above, the holidays are the loneliest time of the year for many. Depression rates increase in the darker months, and many people experience physical and psychological ills when faced with the prospect of gathering with family. (Ever heard of the Christmas Migraine? It’s a real thing.)
For a change, why not make a pre-New Year’s resolution? Dedicate yourself to defeating the stress and depression many of us associate with this time of year, before it even happens.
Remember your own self-care, and the rest will come easily; pleasure, enjoyment, and a healthful indulgence in the more lovely aspects of the season.
1. Eat With a Plan
The magic of the holidays doesn’t change the exercise/calories ratio. So, as usual, the more you exercise, the more calories you can take in without weight gain.
New studies show that though the amount of weight gained during the holidays is less than was assumed – around 1 pound gained between Thanksgiving the New Years – the weight gain is often long-lasting, if not permanent. On average, body weight in women increases by 5.2 percent in ten years. How much of that is holiday gain? It’s unclear. But, holiday munching is one culprit you can limit the power of by eating consciously, and entering the season with a plan.
If you’re in relatively good shape, your plan should include healthy eating choices, and balancing exercise with caloric intake. Don’t get neurotic about it, but pay attention. If your weight is already a health concern, your plan should be more intensive. And again, exercise is key to happy, healthy, guilt-free eating.
Exercise keeps your weight down, and your heart healthy. As mentioned above, your holiday health plan must include exercise! There are many excellent reasons to include a solid dose of cardio in your regular plans. One reason, of course, is the exercise/calorie ratio. One pound of weight=3500 calories. So, as you keep track of your intake, you can tally, and exercise as needed to balance the indulgences.
Exercise is also a great treatment for depression, stress, anxiety, and seasonal affective disorder. According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2005, exercise is as effective as antidepressant medication for treating mild to moderate depression.
It’s also helpful in the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder. For treatment to be most effective, perform moderately intense cardio – exercise bike, treadmill, or other aerobic activity – for 30 – 35 minutes a day, 3 – 5 days a week.
If you’re on antidepressants, exercise is wonderful as a complimentary measure.
3. Take a Break
Take time to slow down. Relax into the rhythm that your body gravitates to in this dark time. Sit in the bathtub. Meditate. Pray. Greet the dark, and let it heal you.
Don’t forget to make time for sleep.
4. Spend Time with Those Closest to You:
In my little family, we plan our relaxation into the calendar, holidays or not. We plan chill time, family movie nights, and my husband and I religiously observe Tuesday evening as our date night.
Find some rituals that make sense to your and yours. Plan in and enjoy closeness with those near and dear in these coldest and darkest of days and nights. Tell and listen to stories. Watch the classic holiday films. Do crafts together.
5. Remember the Heart of What’s Most Important To You About the Season
What’s your favorite thing about the season? Is it friends, family, and gatherings? Who got or gave the greatest gift? Wassail and carols? Feeding the hungry? The lights and trees and sparkly things?
Whatever brings you joy make sure to keep it front and center. Focus on delight. Build your holiday around the parts that you, and those you love, find most important. It goes a long way toward keeping your holiday sane, sweet, and meaningful.
Need some help with your New Year’s Goals?