Yep. A happy, healthy holiday is possible!
Whatever that means to you…
It’s Thanksgiving week, kicking off the season of gratitude and good cheer! With that comes a host of blog posts from health gurus with healthy holiday tips. So I figured, why not join the crowd?! Though my tips are probably quit different than most.
What does it mean to have a “healthy” holiday? I look at “health” holistically, considering mind, body and spirit. And I believe now (not always) that having a healthy and happy holiday — however you define it — starts with YOU.
Often with the holidays comes big expectations, hurriedness and stress. We feel disappointed no matter how well things go because we go in stressed and with unrealistic expectations — we’re conditioned that way. For many, the holidays are a reminder of people or things they’ve lost, or how alone and isolated they feel. Rarely, do the holidays add up to what we see in the movies or read on the Internet (think Charlie Brown and It’s a Wonderful Life).
That said, I am a believer that the holidays can be joyful and healthy. We DO have some control over how we approach the holidays and it’s in that spirit that I write. I’ve learned that when I manage my expectations and decide what I want, need and can control (and not control) about the holiday, things go better.
So what if by being intentional and practicing self-care, we could have our version of a happy and healthy holiday.? Wouldn’t that be cool?
Healthy & Happy Holiday = Me in the Equation
For me, a “healthy” holiday is one where I’m “in my equation” despite the busyness and expectations of those around me. This is far easier said than done. But it starts with being intentional about what that actually looks like for me.
Of course, this depends on the holiday itself, where I am in my continuing journey to overall wellness, and where I am physically celebrating and with whom. This approach though requires me to actually take time to THINK about what I really, really want out of the holiday and how I will practice self-care.
This year, for example, I am in a total #operationreboot. My goal is to hold myself squarely in the equation and stay on my plan of healthy eating, exercise, daily mindfulness and gratitude practices. I’m nursing a cold, so I am also making sure to get enough sleep. This Thanksgiving holiday, my goal is to take a short “time out” from my work pressures to see my bran new niece (and her sister), spend quality time with both parents, and to remain grateful for all of the gifts in my life — not the least of which is that I’ll be celebrating FIVE YEARS since my transformation journey began!
So here are 7 tips that help me execute a healthy and happy holiday. If you have strategies to share, I’d love to hear them.
1. Get intentional about what you want/need. Spend at least 5-10 minutes, if not more, getting in touch with what’s important to you, how you will practice self-care, and what obstacles or dynamics might stand in your way and how you’ll address them. It might sound crazy, but this is probably the most important thing I’ve learned to do to ensure that I am in the equation and in control of ME.
2. Think about nutrition/your food plan. The holidays all too often center around food — that can be good and bad. But it can be extra challenging for those of us who are emotional eaters, as we all too often end up stuffing feelings and/or gorging ourselves to cover up emotions. Think about what your goal is around eating on this particular holiday and ways you can make it happen. If you’re not in control of the meal(s), consider talking to the host in advance or bringing your favorite healthy dish to ensure you have ONE thing you know you love and can eat. In my case, my Mom is hosting Thanksgiving and she is more than willing to ensure that I have 100% on plan and healthy options. When that is not the case, I sometimes bring my own food to ensure I can stay on my plan.
It’s okay to give yourself permission to go off your diet/nutrition plan on a holiday or for one meal of the day. The key is to plan it intentionally and then restart — get right back on. You know best what’s right for you and sometimes picking one of your favorite dishes (traditional Thanksgiving turkey stuffing, yum!) to give yourself a treat can be a “healthy” thing. Just think about it and make a plan.
3. Get some exercise. It’s good for the mind, body and spirit. I always make sure I start my holidays with a walk or workout because I know the rest of the day might be less in my control. This not only is good for me physically, but it is the best way to clear and focus to my mind. I practice my daily gratitude practice on my walk which ensures that part of my day is routine and it starts in a “healthy” way. Often, I’ll ask family members to walk with me after the meal, or go play in the park. Last year at Christmas we climbed a mountain — the best!
4. Practice gratitude. On Thanksgiving and beyond, practicing gratitude can help focus you on the positive. A daily gratitude practice not only does that but it calms my heart, mind and spirit when things feel stressful or chaotic. It grounds me. I try to start my day with a gratitude practice, and use it as a strategy to step away from difficult situations so instead of feeling bad, I remind myself what I am most grateful for.
5. Set time limits. If you have a difficult family situation, or something that you are concerned about — overindulging, getting in a political argument with your brother in law, or whatever it is — it can be a good strategy to set a time limit for how much time you will spend, and have an escape route. Families can be stressful even when we love them. Sometimes smaller doses is better for all. Again, you know best, but it helps to think it through.
6. Don’t skip meals, sleep, or self care. Our tendency when we’re traveling for the holidays or being hosted in someone else’s home is to throw out our daily routines all together. Often we skip meal,s we dont get quality sleep, and we abandon the basics of our self care. I’ve learned over time these things make it much harder to enjoy myself. In fact, self-care basics like sleep and eating regularly are critical to being in my equation and enjoying myself on a holiday.
7. Think of one fun thing or holiday tradition you can establish for yourself. I found this to be the easiest and best way to “take control” of what I can control, and then somehow it makes it a little easier to let go of the rest. Give some thought to what one thing you can do that’s fun for you. Or a tradition you can start with your loved ones that gives you joy. Years ago for me it was finding a child or family in need to sponsor and then giving food and gifts. Another year, it was getting all dressed up and going to a holiday concert. I’m not sure what it will be this year. I’m working on it!
Perhaps, if you’ve lost someone in your life and the holidays are a typically lonely or vulnerable time for you, you can find a tradition to honor that person/loss, something really meaningful to you. Or, surround yourself with people who will support you and understand — even if you don’t feel like it. Only you know what might help you.
Those are my tips for living in my equation on the holidays and staying healthy and true to myself. I’m not always 100% successful, but just taking the time to be intentional before the holiday really, really helps. Let me know if any of these tips help you or if you have a strategy to share.
It is with a very full and grateful heart that I wish you all a warm, happy and healthy holiday. Thank you for being part of our In the Equation community! I am grateful for you.
Other blogs on the topic of holiday stress reduction & self-care that might be useful: