Whole for the Holidays
Tips to overcome the stress of the season

By Lori King

In my childhood, the holiday’s were bookmarked with two dates; December 13th, (my sister’s birthday) was the date we traditionally set up our Christmas tree and January 1st, the day we took it down. We enjoyed three weeks of festivity, food, family and cheer. 

These days the holiday season has been extended to start as early as Halloween and carry through to New Year’s, Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s or even Easter! We are bombarded in stores, on TV, social media, email and radio. I’d like to believe that this extension is filled with joy, peace and love, yet I know that the reality is it can be a time of stress, bad habits and overeating.

As early as Halloween we begin to fill our bodies with foods that were meant for a day - hence the term holi-day - it’s not holi-week or holi-month. We feel the effects physically, mentally and emotionally. We spend money we don’t have and desperately hope for a tax refund to pay off our credit card. The merging of families can create a brilliant juggling act of scheduling dates and holiday get togethers. Add in friends, work, religious services and our schedule overflows. Hopefully with abundance, but often, overwhelming.

All these factors can make us feel negative emotions which lead us to feeling “less than” or broken. How do we stay healthy during this season? How do we stay whole? How do we spread joy, love, hope and peace to everyone we encounter, and most importantly, to ourselves? 

Staying whole for the holidays is a delicate balance of loving others and our self. It also involves a bigger picture of wellness to include spirituality, relationships, finances and physical health. But we only have so many hours in a day and so many obligations. Add in the extra activity of the holiday season and these areas can suffer neglect. One solution is to multitask, weaving relationships into activity and allowing two priorities to be nurtured in one time slot.

As you read the following suggestions consider the important relationships in your life.

Spirituality does not have to be sedentary. My friend Sherry begins each day with a walk to commune with God. Yoga or snowshoeing around a serene lake as the sun rises will also enhance your spiritual relationship. Do you attend a holiday service? Invite family, friends or a co-worker to join you. If you don’t have a place of worship join someone who does!

As the demands of the holidays increase it is easy to forget about the important relationship with yourself. Self-love is the act of taking care of yourself which includes your body and your health. Self-love has respect for yourself and your own well-being. Self-love takes responsibility for your own happiness. This kind of love goes beyond self-confidence and is truly beautiful as it overflows and spills out onto others. Your time with your self in health and wellness can include running, hiking or horseback riding. It can be daily quiet time to read, write, pray, stretch or meditate. Regardless of the activity, put it in writing on your calendar and don’t cancel on yourself. Even if you have to get up a half hour early to accomplish this, it is worth it so you start the day with ease.

Spending active time with your partner is a great way to stay connected. I am a cyclist and date nights with my husband are often date rides! For you and your love, experiment with activities you can teach each other or learn something new together. Some ideas are ice-skating, skiing or dancing.

Encourage the members of your family to move more. Make being active together fun with walks, bike rides, snowball fights or run for charity. You could even do a team triathlon together.

My friend Jenna leads a vibrant life. Each week you’ll find her hiking in Woodstock on Overlook Mountain with five or more girlfriends. LaShelle, in California, rises at 4:30 am twice a week to meet seven girlfriends for a run before it gets hot. I meet my tribe of friends each week in the gym to train and encourage each other. 

If you have colleagues or co-workers, instead of working through lunch, take your meeting outside for a brisk walk. Softball leagues are popular as are charity events that involve walking, biking or golf. For those more adventurous you could experience a team building event such as a low or high ropes course.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in finding the perfect gift for everyone on our list we forget the one thing that people covet: our time. Last year for my mom’s birthday we gave her “a day.” My sister and I showed up to cook her favorite foods and the entire family joined us for dinner. My mom was thrilled to have the day off from cooking and be surrounded by loved ones. A gift we gave my parents was a weekend getaway the following spring in Lake George. Everyone got a mini vacation and my parents got to look forward to another weekend with the entire family together. 

Volunteering is great activity to do with loved ones. Food pantries, domestic violence shelters and local support services all need help around the holidays. One year my co-workers and I volunteered at the Salvation Army helping to wrap presents. You could sponsor a local family or group in need. My sister leads a Teen MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) in Central NY. One year a company provided the holiday party, food, decorating, gifts and even showed up with Santa and his elves to bless this group of young moms!

Physical Health
Physical Health includes the important aspect of healthy eating. Here are a few final tips:

Take your body weight and divide it in half. Drink that amount of water in ounces daily. For every 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise add 8 ounces. For 30 minutes of strength training add 8 ounces. For every glass of alcohol add equal amounts of additional water.

Give it up!
Take a break – from bread, alcohol, coffee, candy, gluten, dairy or sugar for 3 weeks. Pick one or more to eliminate temporarily and see how good your body feels without it.

To speed up your metabolism eat smaller meals more frequently. Aim for 5 meals a day eaten every 2-3 hours and include protein. Plan this the day before. It is not the same as grazing mindlessly from the candy dish all day.

Eat Breakfast
Start your metabolism and your day properly fueled. 

Nutritional cleansing and intermittent fasting can be a foundation for weight control, appetite regulation, improved insulin sensitivity, brain health, cell and tissue maintenance and detoxification.

Enjoying one holiday meal isn’t what derails you from your health goals. Sometimes it is the leftovers that you continue to eat for days after. Be sure to have take-home containers stocked to send extras home with your guests. Or, if you are a guest, offer your dish to another family.

Portion Size
Portion size can make a huge difference toward a healthier lifestyle. Visualize a deck of cards for the size of your protein, a baseball for one serving of vegetables and a hockey puck as the right size for your starch. Be especially careful at the buffet table.

Tell people why
If you are embarking on a healthier eating plan or lifestyle, I recommend telling friends, family and co-workers in advance and along the way. Some will join you, some won’t. By letting them know why you are investing in a healthier lifestyle you will receive more support and encouragement especially at the holidays.

Wellness in all areas - spiritual, relational, financial and physical - does not happen overnight or come by luck or wishful thinking. It comes with a lifestyle of good habits, consistency and self love. Combine healthy activities with the important relationships in your life. With a little creativity you’ll find yourself trading stress for peace, overwhelm with abundance and feel a little more whole for the holidays!