Five tips for a season of health and wellness
If we’re not careful, the holidays can quickly go from “cheer” to “chore.” Here are a few ways you can keep your days merry and bright during the holidays and beyond.
1. Learn the joys of moderation.
When it comes to health (or just about anything else), drastic measures rarely work in the long run. Instead, the right strategy is the one you’ll actually stick with.
- Take control of breakfast and lunch. You can help balance out the nutritional unknowns of a holiday celebration by eating a healthy breakfast and making lunch (rather than ordering or eating out). Take time to estimate how many calories are in your first two meals, and approach your evening festivities accordingly.
- Make treats a special thing. Set weekly limits on how you indulge. For example, save up your dessert allowance for homemade bars and skip the store-bought candy. Or decide you’ll have either dessert or a cocktail at a party … but not both.
- Just say no. If holiday celebrating starts to feel like a drag, we wind up missing the point. Give yourself the gift of sanity during the holidays: If you don’t feel 100% excited about an event, stay open to the possibility of politely declining an invitation or opting out.
2. Keep stress in check.
Stress wreaks havoc on our sleep, our nutrition, and our ability to fight off seasonal sickness. Keeping stress to a minimum is the healthiest thing you can do, any time of year.
- Practice daily relaxation. You don’t need a formal meditation practice to minimize stress. Simply find a couple moments throughout the day to step away and just “be.” The important thing is to find a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted. Whether you spend 10 minutes or 60 minutes in relaxation mode, the only rule is: No distractions. (Yes, that means cell phones.)
- Keep your glass half full. We expect a lot from ourselves, our work, our friends and our home. If we’re not careful, we can get wrapped up in everything that’s going wrong and forget to notice the good stuff. As an experiment, give a stranger a compliment. Or share three things with a friend that you’re grateful for, just to remind yourself what’s really important in life.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine. As delightful as coffee and a glass of wine can seem, chemically speaking both put a lot of strain on our bodies. Caffeine can raise blood pressure. Alcohol can magnify feelings of depression. Both can weaken our immune systems. Make smart choices about how often—and how much—of each you’re taking in.
3. Make time for exercise.
You don’t have to run marathons or spend hours sculpting your biceps to get fit. Even small changes to your daily routine can add up to noticeable differences. It’s all about finding opportunities to move your body.
- Walk the talk. Whether you’re meeting with a coworker or catching up with a friend, mobilize your get-togethers. Suggest a walk rather than sitting down for coffee, for example. Better yet, turn hangouts with family into workouts with one of our Family Group Exercise classes.
- Take the long way home. Our modern lives are full of conveniences like parking ramps, shopping carts and elevators. Challenge yourself to make life “harder” in small ways that force you to walk a few steps more, carry a heavier load, and climb a few flights. Your body will love the extra movement.
- Beat the rush to the gym. Make your New Year’s resolution early. Get your gym membership, sign up for classes, and have a steady routine going. By the time everyone else comes in to work off their holiday weight, you’ll already be a pro.
4. Show seasonal bugs who’s boss.
This time of year, we’re all under fire from colds, flu and other yucky stuff. While we can’t avoid absolutely everything, there are lots of ways to minimize risk and enjoy a healthier holiday season.
- Wash your hands like a doctor. As strange as it may sound, there’s a “right” way to wash your hands. Soap and water are important, but the key is to scrub for at least 20 seconds before rinsing. Keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you for moments when you can’t get to a sink (e.g., after sneezing, coughing or shaking hands).
- Hands off your nose, mouth, and eyes. We’ve all rubbed our eyes when we’re tired or wiped our mouth after eating. But touching your face during cold and flu season can be the first step to getting sick. Break the habit, and you just might avoid a trip to the doctor.
- Try to keep a normal sleep schedule. Easier said than done during the holidays, but getting plenty of sleep is even more important when there are greater demands on your time and energy. Schedule at least one day a week when you can get the number of hours of sleep you know your body needs—even if it means having to miss a social event or two.
5. Get smart about holiday planning.
It starts with just one holiday gathering. Then another. Then appointments to get ready for the gatherings. Then transportation coordination. Before we know it, we’re in over our heads. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
- Set some goals. Decide who you really want to spend time with during the holidays. Are your friends the biggest priority? Is family most important? Will networking events give your career a boost in a fun way? Whatever you decide, make sure you leave enough time for what makes you feel good. Remember: You get to enjoy this time of year, not just survive it!
- Set some limits. Once you have your priorities, it’s easier to recognize what will have to wait for later (or never). Make a promise to yourself to say “no” to things that don’t fit with your holiday goals. Be gracious, but be firm.
Decide how to get back on track. Will work pile up over the holidays as you amp up your social schedule? Might you overindulge at the buffet once or twice? As you plan each holiday event, make a note of how to counterbalance that excess either ahead of time or once things get back to normal.