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Prancing through December and into the new year brings a range of emotions for most people.
Excitement, celebration, connection, gratitude, and generosity may fill our head space.
Many also experience sadness, loneliness, stress, guilt, and anxiety.
And most of us feel some combination of these depending on the day, the people we spend time with, and the current year-end circumstances.
It is also a time of busyness.
And this busyness is the opposite of what nature calls for at this time of year. During these darkest and coldest days of the year (for us in North America anyway), earthly rhythms ask us to slow down, nurture our bodies, calm our minds, and just be.
But society pulls us in another direction.
So in order to find balance and stay grounded, healthy, and happy through this holiday season and into the new year, here are some helpful tips:
Even when we find ourselves busier, socializing more, or out later, it is important to get long, deep, and restful sleep. Lack of sleep can make us cranky and snappy, cause food cravings, and lead to overeating or bad choices that negatively impact our health. Not getting enough sleep weakens our immune system and makes us more susceptible to getting sick. Instead of wearing ourselves out and then trying to play catch-up after we catch an illness, make it a priority to get seven to nine hours of restful sleep per night to stay healthy and strong.
Hydrate with more water
Many of us don’t drink enough water to stay properly hydrated throughout the day and when the weather gets cold it is even easier to forget. However, our body needs the same amount of water in the winter as it does in the summer for proper cell function and regeneration, and for flushing toxins out of the body to maintain energy and mental clarity.
Drinking cold water at this time of year may make us uncomfortably cold. I find mixing hot water from the tea kettle with cold or room temperature water is very pleasant, even without the typical tea flavoring, and it is easy to consistently sip throughout the day. It keeps me well hydrated and warm as I travel around this cold city.
Some of us also drink more alcohol around the holidays and New Year’s celebrations. I recommend enjoying the festivities as you like and drinking more water to avoid hangovers, electrolyte depletion, and general fatigue. Drinking electrolyte or ionized alkaline water (not sports drinks that are filled with sugar and artificial coloring) while drinking alcohol, as well as when you get home and before bed, is an excellent way to wake up feeling refreshed, clear, and fortified.
Fill up on nutritious food
With many work parties, family and friend gatherings, and general holiday celebration, we are often offered traditionally decadent holiday foods that are richer and heavier than our usual meals. We are more likely to overindulge if we haven’t filled our bodies with the proper nutrients that day (or week or month.) Filling up with healthy veggies, complex carbohydrates (like sweet potatoes, quinoa, and peas), protein, and healthy fats (like avocados, pecans, and sunflower seeds) actually makes us feel full because it gives us the range of nutrients our body needs to thrive. When we feel full and satisfied, we are less likely to reach for the sugary and salty extras.
Eat the rainbow—the wide range of colors that natural food has to offer—as much as possible. Once we have eaten real foods, we can feel free to eat whatever we want. I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised that you are simply less interested in reaching for junk food. And, once we get proper nutrients, a little extra treat for the taste buds is okay.
We all want to indulge in sweets and a bit of decadence this time of year. But please know that all “splurges” are not created equal. Many store-bought desserts and snacks are filled with high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, chemicals, dyes, and a range of other fillers that are simply not real food and were not meant to be put into the body. These ingredients have serious health consequences and it is time to ditch the junk and choose a wide variety of delicious alternatives.
With all the free clean eating recipes on the internet these days, there are endless tasty options for healthy desserts, snacks, and junk food substitutes. If you have a favorite traditional treat just Google the name and then add “healthy or natural alternative” in your search query and something good is bound to come up.
Here are some other quick ideas:
>> Blended avocado or cooked chickpeas are a great substitute for traditional pudding or an ice cream texture.
>> Coconut flour and almond flour (meal) are wonderful gluten-free substitutes.
>> Stevia, monk fruit, dates, honey, applesauce, and bananas are excellent sugar substitutes.
And here are two of my go-to websites:
>> Vitacost has a plethora of organic, non-GMO, healthy ingredients to cook or bake with, as well as healthy prepared snack options. Just select the category you’d like to explore.
>> Chocolate Covered Katie offers many delicious healthy dessert recipe ideas.
Move your body
Often times regular exercise slips away during the holidays, but movement is crucial to staying happy, healthy, and connected to our bodies, so this time of year we should be mindful about how we treat it. While we may not have time to go to the gym or get to yoga class, we can take 10 minutes to stretch in the morning or before bed.
Little bursts of movement keep our metabolism in shape and maintain the memory of movement in our neural network. The mind wants to do what it did the day before, so if we are used to moving, it will not be a subconscious struggle. However, once we break that habit and settle into inactivity, our tendency is to want to stay in that sluggishness.
So, keep it short, but consistent. Try 20 squats and a minute of running-in-place during a break at work. Go for a walk with a friend instead of, or in addition to, meeting up for a drink. Walk to do your holiday shopping and pick the farthest parking spot instead of the closest. And, use the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator whenever possible.
Additionally, going for a short walk 20-30 minutes after eating a meal revs up the metabolism, promotes healthy digestion, and keeps us from reaching for more food when we aren’t truly hungry. Breathing fresh, crisp air and connecting with the natural elements is the perfect calorie-free dessert.
Take Personal Time
Around the holidays, it is normal to experience some overwhelm and stress from overcommitting, even to things we enjoy. So at this busy time of year, it is essential to take personal time for ourselves to stay grounded, even-keeled, and healthy. Schedule your favorite self-care activity, such as a massage or private yoga session, take a walk in nature, or have a solo date at home to take a bath and read. Put it on your calendar to make sure you have some “you time” built into your busy schedule.
For many of us, being around family or certain friends can get tense or feel stressful during the holidays, so it is also important to take time for ourselves whenever we need it in those situations. Especially when traveling, having a personal escape option can make all the difference for our mental health. If conflict arises, excuse yourself and go for a walk around the block or into another room to stretch and breathe. Disengaging from drama or conflict in a kind, respectful manner is the ultimate self-care—and it’s not selfish at all.
Being thoughtful and kind to ourselves is the greatest gift.
It’s also great to choose self-care activities that are mindful and keep us present. Our bodies and minds can’t benefit from self-care if we’re numbed out watching TV or engaged in other mindless activities. Choose what stimulates your senses to stay present, makes you smile, and feels enjoyable and healthy.
Happy Holidays and wishing you an incredible, peaceful, and fulfilling 2019!