A few weeks ago, Lee Jeans Corporation asked me to come do a lunch and learn for their employees. The subject we decided I would speak on was tips and tricks for staying healthy during the holidays. After putting my “Staying Healthy During the Holidays” handout together, I shared it with my husband. Want to know what he did? Immediately started laughing. Assuming I’d made an obvious grammatical error, I asked what I did wrong. His answer, “Do you plan on actually practicing what you preach about scheduling at 70% this year?” Boo.
Unfortunately, he had a very good point, and I haven’t been able to shrug off his comment since. Fast forward to yesterday morning… I woke up feeling stressed knowing how long my to-do list was, snapped at the girls because they weren’t eating their breakfast fast enough, and was running around like a crazy person trying to get the car loaded with all of the things I needed in order to complete my errands. By late afternoon, I was exhausted, had a massive headache, and still had 18,000 things left to do. As I sat down to take a quick cookie and milk break with my girls, my husband’s comment ran through my head yet again.
You know what? He was right. I was so busy running around trying to “create memories” and “comfort and joy” for others, that I was making myself stressed, unhappy, and sick. As we went in for another cookie, I took a moment to apologize to the girls and promise myself that I would slow down and focus on the true blessing of this holiday season. The blessing of a God willing to send His son to save the world. A God of love, patience, grace and mercy. The blessing of a God that can use a hot mess like me to love and encourage others.
Last night, I put the to-do list on hold, let the girls decorate the tree their way (bottom heavy), and enjoyed a leisurely dinner sitting around the Christmas tree admiring our work. After they went to bed, I still ignored my to-do list and took a hot bath instead. This morning I woke up refreshed and energized to accomplish my day. You see, when we take the time to take care of ourselves, we become much better at taking care of others.
Will you join me as I try to practice what I preach for staying healthy (and happy) the rest of this holiday season?
Merry Christmas, give grace to yourself, and eat some cookies!
Staying Healthy During the Holidays
Schedule yourself at 70%, not 120%. In order to stay afloat in our fast paced society, we tend to schedule every minute of every day, going at 100% just trying to keep on top of the dailies. When you add the pressures of the holidays, it is easy to over schedule, causing us to skimp on sleep, turn to processed foods, and neglect personal time to recharge. This holiday season, try to find areas in your life that you can cut back on, or find chores and tasks that can be put off until January. Remember what we learned in elementary school? It is perfectly okay to just say no! You don’t have to say yes to every single party, volunteer opportunity, or gift exchange that comes your way.
Keep your blood sugar levels in check. In an attempt to prevent weight gain from all of the extra sugary treats, it can be tempting to skip the healthy food to save on overall calories. This can easily backfire by sending your insulin levels soaring. Having consistently high blood sugar levels sets your body up for a slew of illnesses and creates a breeding ground for lifestyle diseases including migraines, chronic fatigue, high blood pressure, dizziness, itchiness, unexplained pain, and a general feeling of being unwell. To keep your blood sugar in check, try to eat sweets alongside some protein and healthy fat, eat a small healthy snack (such as an apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter) every three hours, and reduce sugar consumption at breakfast and lunch.
Speaking of breakfast, commit to eating it all season long! After overindulging the night before, it can be tempting to skip breakfast, especially if you stayed up extra late. However, doing so will actually be setting your body up for additional weight gain. The name breakfast comes from the phrase “break the fast”. By eating within an hour of waking up, you are kickstarting your metabolism and letting it know that it is time to start burning calories. If you make healthy choices, your will also be giving your body the energy it needs to make it through the day. Even a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts is enough to do the trick. The “I don’t have time” excuse does not fly.
Failing to plan is a plan to fail: Take time to do a little meal planning. Every week, take a few minutes to sit down with your planner and come up with a meal plan. On week nights that you know will be rushed, plan on a crock pot meal that you can throw together in the morning or before bed the night before. Have a few extra hours on Sunday afternoon? Make a big pot of soup, cut veggies for the week, and assemble a casserole or two. Then when the dinner rush hits, you will know that you have food prepared and ready. This will make it much easier to avoid the drive-thru!
Stock your freezer: Think about what foods are being sold already prepared in the frozen foods section, organic or not. Burritos, enchiladas, waffles, French toast, pasta bakes, muffins, cookies, cookie dough, popsicles, meatballs, lasagna, sauce, brown rice, chicken strips, the list goes on. You can make a large batch of all of these items yourself to freeze for the future (rule of thumb is up to three months). When it comes to casserole type dishes, an 8 x 8 today, an 8 x 8 to save. (You can see all of the freezer friendly food I’ve shared on Healthnut Foodie here.)
Schedule appointments with yourself (and then keep them). Of everything in this world that you possess, your body is the only thing that you only get one of. If you don’t take time to take care of yourself, you will not be as kind of a friend, efficient of an employee, or patient enough parent or spouse. At least once a week, schedule some one-on-one time with yourself to relax. You could schedule a massage, mani-pedi, yoga class, bike ride, or even go to a movie. As long as it is something that rejuvenates you and nourishes your soul, the sky is the limit.
Stay hydrated: When the weather gets cool and the schedule gets busy, it is easy to forget to drink water. Water nourishes are body on a cellular level. When you don’t get enough, you become easily fatigued, get headaches, and can experience brain fog. Often, we mistake our body’s request for thirst as hunger, so it can also contribute to the holiday weight gain. On average, our bodies need about eight glasses of water a day. However, during the holidays, we probably need even more. That is because both coffee and alcohol work as diuretics, causing our water stores to be depleted even more quickly than usual. Experts suggest that we need to consume an additional glass of water for each caffeinated and alcoholic beverage we consume.
Heal from within. When life gets overwhelming and the stress seems to much to bear, pause, close your eyes and take a few minutes to breathe deep. Try to make your inhale and exhale even, attempting to count to at least eight on both the inhale and exhale. Expand the belly with the inhale (you may have to unbutton your jeans) and empty the belly on the exhale. Deep breathing detoxifies the body on a cellular level, both physically and emotionally. It helps relieve tension in the neck and shoulders, helps the body purge toxicities, strengthens the immune system, helps bring renewed mental focus and clarity, and can even provide relief from physical pain. Anxiety and stress signal that something is wrong. Taking a few minutes to breathe deeply is an easy way to switch your body from fight to flight mode.
Be proactive with your immune system. First and foremost it is important to try to “eat the rainbow” everyday. Choosing fruits and vegetables that are brightly colored is the strongest defense you have to keep your immune system up and running like a fine tuned machine. After that, try to get at least 15 minutes of fresh air a day. When working at your desk, set an alarm to go off every 20 minutes. When it goes off, stand up and move for 20 seconds. Do jumping jacks, squats, lunges, or run in place. Adding just one minute of vigorous exercise an hour is a great way to keep your immune system strong. Finally, remember that supplementing with high quality vitamins and minerals is a great way to make sure that you are healing from within even when your diet is less than perfect. I suggest everyone take a high quality multivitamin, animal based omega-3, and vitamin D3. On days that you are lacking in energy, a complex B-vitamin will give you the energy boost you need. The morning after a party, NAC will help protect your liver and an electrolyte beverage (such as coconut water) will help you rehydrate. For those already suffering from chronic conditions, there are many other supplements that can be tailored to your personal needs.
There you go! Hopefully these tips and tricks will help you make 2013 your healthiest and happiest holiday season yet!
Do you like our bottom heavy Christmas tree? Annie and Ellie are proud and I think it is perfect!!!