Staying Healthy During the Holidays

The holidays are a treasured time of togetherness, warm laughter, and delicious food…well, most of the time. Often they can morph into awkward conversations, stressful preparations, and way, way too much pie.  It’s a tale as old as time! So how can we stay healthy, both mentally and physically, during the holiday season?

Let’s focus on physical health first. We all know that it’s incredibly easy to overeat during the holiday season. It doesn’t make it better that most holiday foods are normally the absolute worst for you. It’s the season of pie, gravy, biscuits, cookies, buttery mashed potatoes, and on and on and on. The only vegetables to be seen are usually covered in canned cream of mushroom or topped with marshmallows.

The following tips should help you stay healthy despite anything that comes your way over the holidays:

Bring a healthy contribution: The very basis of Thanksgiving is a coming together of people over an abundance of food. There’s no reason why a portion of that abundance can’t be healthy! Lots of families hold potlucks, where everyone brings their own dish to share, for their holiday meal. Whether this is the case for your family or not, offer to bring something green (and skip the canned cream of mushroom).

Load up on the good stuff: It can be hard not to fill your plate to the brim, especially when your aunt is forcing more and more of her famous mashed potatoes on you. So fill a vast majority of your plate with the few vegetables available to you. The veggies will fill you up and ensure you won’t be left empty-plated while everyone else is still eating.

Take your time: For many people (myself included), eating can be a nervous habit. If your family is riddled by differing opinions on say, the president-elect or politics in general, it can be important to notice if you’re stuffing your face with pumpkin pie because you’re hungry or because you are very, very uncomfortable. If it’s the latter, just slow down a bit. Unless the mouthful of pie is literally the only thing between familial peace and an all-out brawl, take your time.

Choose one sweet, and truly enjoy it!: As much as we all want to make sure to stay healthy over the holidays, it is a time to celebrate and indulge a bit. If you have an insatiable sweet tooth, and have no true resolve to resist it, treat yourself! But try to pick the one item that you really want, and deeply, deeply savor it.

Gather the family and break a sweat: One of the classic traditions over Thanksgiving is a family game of football. What better way to work off the pounds of food you just ate, all while bonding with the family? It also just might ease the political and generational tension!

This segues nicely into our next area. The holidays can be a time of tremendous stress for some of us. Whether it be the stress of hosting a large celebration and all of the logistics that go into it, or the anxiety that accompanies the gathering of various generations with differing opinions and ways of life.

Remember what stress really is: There will inevitably be a bit of stress over the holidays. But it’s important to remember that stress is really just your body’s evolutionary biological response to an imminent threat. With this in mind it can be a little easier to put your holiday preparations into perspective.

Emphasize gratitude and unity: Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude and togetherness. The very name of the holiday points to the action of thanks. Focus on the things you’re thankful for and what brings you together as a family. You can even bring this expression of gratitude outward and take turns saying what you’re most thankful for around the Thanksgiving table.

Accept your differences: Much like the previous tip, accepting your differences with your family and instead focusing on what unites you is sure to usher in a wonderful holiday season.  There are bound to be differences in opinion or ways of life among you and your kin, but try to find a way to move past that by practicing acceptance.

Carve out some alone time: It doesn’t matter how much you love your family, everyone needs their alone time every once in a while. Finding time to separate from the pack and do something you love to do alone, whether it be reading, surfing the internet, or just going outside and taking a walk, can make the rest of the holiday season with family even better.

Don’t be too hard on yourself (or others): Remember that the holidays are supposed to be a joyful time! If you go a bit overboard, whether it be eating too much or snapping at a relative or two, don’t beat yourself up. Move past it and enjoy yourself!

Happy Holidays!

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