The holidays are a stressful enough time as it is. You have to deal with wacky family members, insufferable delays at the airport, and all the year-end projects that fall into your lap at work. On top of all that, the kind of food you’re usually surrounded with isn’t exactly healthy (pumpkin pie and Christmas cookies galore!) and you don’t have much time to run to the gym in the midst of all the craziness. As much as you’d like to start working with an online personal trainer, the holidays aren’t the best time of year to jump on board with a brand new coach and fresh programming.
We feel your pain. But no matter how stressful things get, that doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel and let your health fall to the wayside. We’re going to help you stay on track. Most people think you have to work out every single day and skip meals in order to stay healthy during the holidays, but that’s simply not the case. Your health is about so much more than eating less carbs and fitting in an extra session of cardio. It’s about being mentally resilient, having solid daily habits, and finding a way to actually enjoy yourself during the most wonderful time of the year.
That’s why we came up with the ten most important health tips for you to follow during the winter holidays.
Regularly Manage Your Stress Levels
If you’re stressed, you’re not going to feel healthy, plain and simple. And it doesn’t matter how much you work out or how much kale you eat. Stress will be your undoing. Plan ahead and make sure you know what’s coming up on your calendar. Have some stress-relieving techniques in your pocket, like breathing techniques or a relaxing playlist, if chaos falls into your lap (and it’s bound to during the holidays). Managing your stress will be your biggest priority because when your stress levels rise, you don’t digest food well, you don’t sleep properly, and you simply can’t enjoy all the joy that comes with the holidays.
Drink a Ton of Water Every Day
Staying hydrated has a huge list of benefits. You’ll have a clearer mind, better digestion, dewy skin (much-needed for holiday photos), and better functioning muscles and joints. Plus, when you’re drinking a healthy amount of water every day, which is usually around two liters, you stave off the hunger pangs that urge you to reach for unnecessary snacks. And when you’re at a party, make sure you match every serving of alcohol with at least one glass of water. This will prevent a nasty hangover the next morning that stops you from going for your AM run.
Make Time to Exercise — No Matter What
We don’t have to tell you how much better you feel after you fit in a workout. Plan your workouts ahead of time. Get up an hour earlier to head to the gym, utilize your free lunch hour, take advantage of that empty afternoon on the weekend, etc. If exercising regularly were easy, everyone would do it. It’s not going to fall into your lap; you have to make it happen. During the holidays you’ll probably find that it’s harder to fit in a full workout. Adjust your sessions however you need to. For example, if you only have 30 minutes to work up a sweat, do a full-body circuit that incorporates complex movements, like pull-ups, deadlifts, etc. rather than isolating specific body parts.
Prioritize Restful Sleep Each Night
Sleep is the most powerful tool we have to keep our health on track. When you lose quality sleep over a long period of time, studies show the likelihood of suffering from heart disease rises. You know the cranky feeling you’re stuck with when you’re tired? That happens because your brain goes through a complex, rigorous regeneration process while you’re in those deep REM cycles, which improves your emotional intelligence and ability to communicate. No matter how crazy things get, don’t skimp on your beauty sleep! If you have to leave that holiday party early, sneak out the back. If you need to cancel your morning meeting, do it. Sleep will help your digestion, lower stress hormones, and simply put you in a better mood.
Plan Out Your Food Indulgences
There’s no way to get around it — you’re going to enjoy lots of sweets this holiday season. Instead of dreading the big family meals, plan for them ahead of time. If you know you’re going to a huge Thanksgiving dinner with friends, spend the days leading up to it eating extra clean and healthy. Incorporating intermittent fasting if you need to; you’ll essentially skip breakfast and leave room to enjoy a larger meal later. When it comes to those decadent desserts, enjoy them! But do so in moderation. If there’s a big party coming up on Saturday night, abstain from sugar that whole week so you can thoroughly enjoy the apple pie and ice cream on the weekend.
Go Easy on the Alcohol
It’s tempting to get rip-roaring drunk at your best friend’s holiday party. But think about it logically. If you wake up wildly hungover, you’re not going to work out that morning, you’ll likely choose to eat crappy food, and you’ll be so cranky you can’t even enjoy time with your family. It’s a lose-lose situation. Plus, you don’t need all the empty calories in those sugary cocktails. Save it for your favorite dessert or your mom’s signature pot roast. Alcohol in moderation can work just fine, but don’t overdo it if you want to keep things on track this holiday season.
Meditate as Often as You Can
Stillness is rare to find during busy times. When we meditate on a daily basis, we see the ripple effects throughout our entire life. Stress levels reduce, we’re in a better mood, we can think better, and we make smarter choices in our day-to-day life. Spend a few minutes in silence each morning so you can kick off in a good mood and set yourself up for success.
Eat Whatever You Want, But Make It Yourself
Are you craving Christmas cookies? A decadent pumpkin pie? Caramel popcorn? No problem. Go make it yourself. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in something tasty but chances are, if it’s store bought, it’s made with all kinds of nasty preservatives, unknown ingredients, and chemicals to enhance the taste. It will leave you with a sticky headache and a belly full of regret. Making your own treats requires more work, but it will ensure you’re not putting anything gross in your dessert. Besides, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes from savoring a rich dessert that you spent an hour making yourself.
Take a Long Walk After Big Meals
One of the best ways to digest a full meal and prevent yourself from going back for seconds is to go for a walk when you’re done eating. It will get your blood flowing, encourage smoother digestion, and present you with an opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family. Plus, we all know you could use some outdoor time during the holidays. With the busy schedules and the changing weather, it’s rare we spend much time outside. Even if you have to bundle up with your friends and take a stroll in the dark, it will be well worth it.
Be Diligent With Your Supplements
If you don’t already have a daily list of supplements you take, now’s the time to start. Try magnesium to manage stress levels, a probiotic to help with digestion, or B complex for brain function. You could also just take a multivitamin every morning to make sure you have everything covered. Small habits like this will help you stay on track with the rest of your lifestyle.
The Final Word
The holidays are meant to be a time of joy and cheer. Don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon or have a bad day of eating and drinking. All you can do is get up the next morning and make better choices. No matter what happens, keep in mind why the holidays are here. Take the time to love and cherish your loved ones. And do it in good health.