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Thriving Through the Holidays

Managing Stress and Staying Healthy During this Holiday Season

 




 

 

The holiday season, while filled with twinkling lights and festive cheer, can also bring about a whirlwind of stress. I struggle with my own overwhelm during this time and need to take my own advice, so I thought I would share with you! From financial pressures to family dynamics, the season can take a toll on our physical, emotional, and financial health. However, with a mindful approach and a few wellness strategies, we can navigate the holidays as close to stress-free as possible.

 

 

Financial Wellness

 

The financial strain of the holidays is a common stressor. Between gifts, travel, and entertaining, expenses can quickly accumulate. One way we can be proactive about this is by setting a realistic budget and sticking to it this holiday season. Consider homemade gifts or experiences instead of material items. Not only can this save money, but it also adds a personal touch that loved ones will appreciate. Here are a few fun DIY gifts to consider:

 

Custom Spice Blends: Visit the bulk spice bins in your local health food store, mix custom spice blends, and package them in decorative jars. (Spoiler alert: my family will be receiving my own custom grilling spice blend!)

 

Baked Goods: Who doesn’t love homemade cookies? Whip up a batch and package them in a festive tin. I love this because I love making recipes that are gluten free and low glycemic to share with my loved ones so they realize that healthy eating can be tasty too!

 

Homemade Jams or Preserves: Make jam, jelly, or preserves from your favorite fruits and package them in decorative jars.

 

 

Physical Health

 

The holiday season often disrupts our normal routines, leading to less exercise and more indulgence. Here are a few key strategies that can help you stay healthy through the holidays:

 

Stay Hydrated: Even though it might be cold outside, your body still needs plenty of fluids(1). Drinking water helps your body circulate blood more freely, which in turn helps your illness-fighting white blood cells to reach their target (such as a virus) faster so those invaders don’t have as much time to replicate.

 

Get Enough Sleep: Your body repairs itself while you sleep, so getting enough rest is crucial for a strong immune system. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. (2)

 

Stay Active: Regular exercise increases your overall health and helps boost your immune system (3). It can be as simple as a daily walk or a home workout. Better yet, this year, try incorporating physical activity into your holiday traditions, such as taking a family walk after dinner or a dance-off to your favorite holiday music.

 

Eat Mindfully: Mindful eating can be especially helpful around the holidays. Here are a few of my favorite strategies for eating mindfully:

 

-       Chew Thoroughly: Take the time to chew each bite properly. This not only aids in digestion but also allows you to truly taste and enjoy the flavors of your food.

-       Eliminate Distractions: Try to eat without distractions like TV or phones. This helps you focus on the experience of eating and listen to your hunger and fullness cues.

-       Appreciate Your Food: Take a moment to appreciate the appearance, aroma, and taste of your food. This can enhance your eating experience and make it more satisfying.

 

 

Emotional Wellness

 

Emotions can run high during the holiday season, with family tensions, loneliness, and the pressure to create the "perfect" holiday experience. It's essential to prioritize emotional wellness during this time.

 

One way to do this is to set boundaries during the holiday season. This might mean limiting time with certain family members, saying no to some invitations, or allowing yourself to take breaks when needed.

 

Another way to prioritize emotional wellness is to use the practice of deep breathing when things start feeling too stressful. A simple and effective deep breathing exercise for reducing stress is the 4-7-8 technique. Here's how you do it:

 

1.     Find a Comfortable Position: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes if it helps you concentrate.

2.    Focus on Your Breath: Start by simply observing your natural breathing pattern for a few moments.

3.    Inhale for 4 Seconds: Slowly inhale through your nose for a count of four seconds. Try to breathe deeply, filling your lungs fully.

4.    Hold Your Breath for 7 Seconds: After inhaling, hold your breath for seven seconds. This pause allows oxygen to circulate throughout your body.

5.    Exhale for 8 Seconds: Exhale completely through your mouth for eight seconds. Make a whooshing sound as you exhale if that feels natural.

6.    Repeat: Repeat this cycle four times, or continue for a few minutes until you feel more relaxed.

 

The 4-7-8 breathing technique is beneficial because it helps to slow down your breathing and heart rate, promoting relaxation. It can be particularly useful in moments of stress or anxiety, helping to calm the mind and body(4).

 

Remember, the holiday season is a time for joy and connection. By taking a mindful, holistic approach to health and wellness, you can navigate the holidays with less stress and more joy. And that, after all, is the true spirit of the season.

 

 

References

 

1. Popkin, B. M., D’Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition Reviews, 68(8), 439-458. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x

2. Liu, Y., Wheaton, A. G., Chapman, D. P., Cunningham, T. J., Lu, H., & Croft, J. B. (2016). Prevalence of Healthy Sleep Duration among Adults--United States, 2014. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 65(6), 137-141. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6506a1

3. Simpson, R. J., Kunz, H., Agha, N., & Graff, R. (2015). Exercise and the Regulation of Immune Functions. Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science, 135, 355-380. doi:10.1016/bs.pmbts.2015.08.001

4. Perciavalle, V., Blandini, M., Fecarotta, P., Buscemi, A., Di Corrado, D., Bertolo, L., Fichera, F., & Coco, M. (2017). The role of deep breathing on stress. Neurological Sciences, 38(3), 451-458. doi:10.1007/s10072-016-2790-8

 

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