Healthy Holiday Guide for Mind, Body, and Spirit
By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc, ND
For many, the holiday season is the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ because it brings about family and social gatherings, opportunities to bring people together, outings and events, parties, and presents! At the same time, the holiday season also brings added stress, pressured work deadlines, the year ends, extra household and entertaining duties, changes to your nutrition and alcohol habits, and even a lack of sleep!
So, the most wonderful time of the year can also be accompanied by many factors that can put your health at risk – physically, emotionally, and mentally.
We all want to enjoy this time of year. Here are our healthy tips on how to manage all of the extra demands being made is critical to being able to relax, have fun, and truly be present this holiday season.
Wash your hands often to help prevent the spread of germs.
The holiday season is also cold and flu season. And with all of your family and friends in close proximity, regular hand washing isn’t just a good health practice for yourself, but it’s also a way to help your most vulnerable loved ones (children and the elderly) stay clear of viral and bacterial germs. Wash your hands with soap and clean running water for at least 20 seconds and follow up with an emollient hand cream to keep your skin moisturized and free of harmful dryness and cracks.
Bundle up to stay dry and warm.
Even if you’re just running outside to toss out the recycling, or picking up the kids from school, be sure to wear appropriate outdoor clothing: light, warm, loose layers keep you comfortable and insulated, while winter accessories like gloves, hats, scarves, and waterproof boots prevent you from rapid loss of body heat.
Be food aware, choose wisely.
Holiday foods tend to be full of extra delicious things like butter, sugar and wheat and while indulging in this festive season is not altogether bad, you must learn to choose your indulgences wisely to prevent bloating, weight gain, hormonal imbalance, dehydration, and digestion issues.
Make holiday treats healthy by sneaking in veggies
It might sound strange, but we love finding ways to hide vegetables in sweet treats. Feel better about serving your family their favourite cookies and cakes by finding recipes that use healthy pumpkin, zucchini, avocado, or even almond meal to replace wheat flour and/or sugar. You won’t taste the difference but you’ll all be healthier as a result!
Performing well at work, caring for yourself and your family, AND pulling off a holiday feast can become extra daunting over the holiday season when more demands both personally and professionally are made on you. It’s time to learn that it’s good to say “No” to some things that spread you too thin, make you anxious, put you on edge, or stress you out. Concentrate on doing fewer things – and ask others to take on tasks to support the bigger picture – and not only will they come out better, but you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour too!
Take a break
When you feel stressed out, overwhelmed, or out of control – it’s time to breathe deeply and take a break. When all of the tasks at hand seem to carry the same weight and gravity, stepping back to get some perspective is a healthy and supportive way to manage stress. Figure out what you can let go of, find support for others that need to get done (but maybe not by you, this time), take time for social connection, and get plenty of sleep and don’t forget to breathe! Deep breathing and paying attention to your breath is a great way to lower stress and balance the body.
Let your mind wander! Turn on some of your favourite music, make yourself a hot bath and close the door, read a novel just for the pleasure of it. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes, giving your mind time to wander off allows your brain and body to process everything you’re experiencing throughout the day and leaves you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Block off time for fitness and sleep – and make it non-negotiable
Extra stressors may not seem like a big deal at the beginning of the season but I bet you remember how harried and exhausted you were by the end of the season last year! NO-ONE can sustain a holiday rush without taking time for themselves to regenerate. This time is just for you. Make a promise to take yourself to the gym or on a run at least three times a week, and set a sleep schedule to make sure you have enough nighttime rest. Then? Keep that promise!
Get a head start on the new year with Holiday Resolutions!
There’s no need to wait for January 1st to start looking forward to the year ahead. In fact, when life is stressful, looking forward is a great way to increase your feelings of optimism and hope. In fact, you could try committing to just one or two of the suggestions in this post to help you feel your best during the holidays and you’ll already be on your way! We suggest the practice of gratitude for what you have now in the present and remind yourself of all the things that are amazing in your life. We waste too much time waiting for the next thing to make us happy when real happiness starts with you every single day.
Give yourself the gift of self-compassion
You deserve to enjoy the holidays as much as anyone in your family but it can be hard to accept that our realities rarely mimic a ‘Very Martha Stewart Holiday.’ Focus on self-kindness instead of self- judgement and accept imperfections with sympathy rather than critique or shame them. Let go of notions of perfection and enjoy what has been accomplished.
Make time for reflection and worship
This is a common time of year for reflection, but making a habit of it can help keep our mind and spirit connected and content. If you hold faith near, make time to experience community-based worship. The feeling of being together with your community is unparalleled for feeling connected, safe, and spiritually sound.
From our practice to you and your family, we wish you all the best for a healthy and happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year.