Holiday Health: Top 10 Tips

one of our 10 healthy holiday tips

Are you enjoying the final stretch of 2018? It’s a fantastic and fun time of the year. Unfortunately, it’s also a difficult period for maintaining healthy habits. Check out our wellness professionals’ list of the top 10 ways to stay healthy and happy over the holiday season.

Re-frame your holiday expectations

Do you think of the holidays as an exhausting test of your endurance? Are holiday treats evil temptations to be resisted with all available willpower? Do you strive to find the perfect gift for everyone? This line of thinking transforms the wonder of the season into a giant stressor. 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 thissupposed to be a joyous time?

This tension 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 fun -parties, buying gifts, and other enjoyable things), our prefrontal cortex (in our brain) is overtaxed. This can affect our memory and overall ability to cope. Many feel overwhelmed by it all. 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. This is why holiday stress can create a vicious cycle of guilt.

Reframing our expectation that we need to have a “perfect” holiday while staying disciplined can end the frustration. So don’t beatyourself up if everything doesn’t go as planned. In the long run,our happiest memories are sometimes the ones when things didn’t goas planned. It certainly makes for the best stories! Letting go ofexpectations of perfection (from ourselves and others) willultimately help our health and relationships.

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.

One of our favourite family traditions i to add some new board games to our stash. While the kids are off school, and work schedules have slowed down, we take advantage of the opportunity to try some new ones. Our most recent favourite is called Forbidden Island.  It’s a cooperative game that requires us to strategize and play together to get us all off of the island with the loot.  If you want to try before you buy, an excellent way to do so is through a board game café. Forces of Nature had our last staff get-together at one and a great time was had by all.

Stay mindful

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.

Try this: once or twice per day, take 5 deep breaths, all the way into your belly and all the way out. Breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7 and breathe out for a count of 8. And why not share the love? Suggest a short meditation before bed each night with your partner and/or your kids. It can set the tone for a relaxing sleep and a peaceful holiday celebration. Studies show that group meditation can have powerful results. Instilling healthy practices as a family can have lasting health benefits for everyone.

Get moving

Fitting in some exercise can be easier when you include physical activities with loved ones. Snowshoeing, a snowball fight, making snowmen or an igloo, a winter hike, and skating are some fun options. If you’re not a cold-weather person, try bowling or a trip to the pool or indoor waterpark. You may not end up with six-pack abs, but might start a new holiday tradition. Suggesting fun physical activities for social gatherings also helps take the focus off food and drink.

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 jar with a beautiful bow. 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). You can even start making some natural soaps or salves as gifts. It’s easy, natural and fun!

Personally, I cooked up some Calendula salve and Calendula oil to deliver to our office’s neighbours this year. It’s really actually pretty simple and Calendula is one of my favourite healing herbs. Calendula oil has anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties. It’s also used as an antiseptic. You could use this for diaper rash, scrapes, scratches, razor burn, sores, blisters, bruises, mild burns, hot spots, insect bites and dry skin areas.

Here’s my secret Calendula salve recipe: This recipe makes 4 cups of Calendula oil. You can use the oil topically as is or use the oil to make a salve. Take ¼ pound of dried Calendula flowers and put it in your slow cooker. Pour 1.5 litres of grapeseed oil over the Calendula. Turn the slow cooker on low. Let it cook for 1-3 hours. Do not overdo it.  More cooking is not better. Strain the oil through a strainer and cheesecloth.

To make the salve, I took 3 cups of the Calendula oil and put it in the top pot of a double boiler with water underneath. I added 1.5 cups of beeswax pellets and stirred these together just until the beeswax was fully melted. This will solidify quickly, so you want to have tins already prepared to pour the wax/oil combination into. 3 cups of Calendula oil plus 1.5 cups of beeswax made 24 – 50 ml tins of calendula salve. You probably don’t need that much, but hey, maybe you want to make Calendula salve for everyone in the family.

Go green

When you’re thinking about ways to keep your body healthy over the holidays, don’t forget that the planet deserves some 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. Think about gifting experiences or donations to worthy causes rather than “stuff” that just ends up in a landfill.

Learn to say no

This is a tough one for many patients who come to our office. However sometimes refusing a social invitation ora request to work extra 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.

Keep your gut healthy

Sugar-laden holiday treats, cocktails and parties galore can really put a damper on your gut health. Extra sugar lowers your immune system and can lead to an imbalance of healthy bacteria in your gut. As insurance, you can takea high-quality probiotic and some digestive enzymes prior to meals. This gives your gut a healthy boost and some assistance dealing withheavier meals than you may be used to.

Start some healthy food traditions

The internet is bursting with healthy holiday recipes. Some of your seasonal favourites may have been re-worked into a healthier alternative. Think about your loved ones’ food preferences and find some yummy dishes to bring to gatherings. For example, here are some outstanding vegan holiday dishes: https://minimalistbaker.com/christmas-recipe-roundup/. Other guests might thank you for providing an alternative to Aunt Betty’s fruitcake! Try replacing carb-heavy side dishes with healthy ones like rutabaga and carrot mash or creamy butternut squash and thyme! Remember it’s OK to say no or have just a spoon or two of your favourites.

Be grateful

The holidays don’t always go as planned. Sometimes we have to go to work instead of making family dinners. Sometimes we miss people who are no longer in our lives. Family gatherings can make their absence that much more poignant. It’s also quite 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.  If you need an acupuncturist, psychotherapist, osteopath, chiropractor, massage therapist, dietitian or naturopath, we have them all here for you.   

Sources

http://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/holiday-stress-and-brain
https://www.healio.com/psychiatry/journals/jpn/2017-12-55-12/%7Ba2fc3f63-4c18-455c-a761-5efae89bb9fb%7D/three-simple-mindfulness-practices-to-manage-holiday-stress#x02793695-20171117-01-bibr26
https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/254796
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21075238
https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/napping/page/0/1