’Tis the season to throw in the towel.
It’s that time of year when the weather changes, daylight savings makes 5 p.m. seem like midnight, and the calendar starts filling up with all sorts of holiday celebrations and obligations. The end of the year is upon us, and in the face of scheduling and motivational challenges , we give up on eating well and exercising and think, “Eh, we’ll begin again next year.”
The challenge with leaning out of healthier habits and routines is that we make it so much harder to see and feel positive changes when we finally get around to reprioritizing self-care on Jan. 1. And the longer it takes to see progress, the more likely we are to give up on our resolutions – and the perpetual cycle continues. Moreover, as we age, it’s harder to make up for two months of holidays with two weeks of eating well and exercising.
Consider these tips for finding balance this holiday season:
• Move in some way every day. Moving will help you reduce stress and balance your blood sugar. That is especially important if you are hitting the turkey, stuffing, eggnog or pumpkin pie extra hard.
• Start small versus not at all. A workout doesn’t have to be a full 45-60 minutes to count. Explore opportunities to move your body for 10-15 minutes at a time. Squeeze in a walk around the block between meetings. Do a few squats while you are folding laundry or standing on the sidelines of your kids’ or grandkids’ game. P.S.: Power shopping counts as exercise.
• Find an accountability buddy. We tend to show up for others more than we show up for ourselves, and this is especially true during the holidays. Find someone with similar health goals, share your challenges and find ways to support one another. Maybe that’s meeting for a weekly workout (which can be done digitally if you don’t live in close proximity) or scheduling a walk-and-talk. This checks the box on movement and connection.
• Schedule walking meetings. That way you have an excuse to get up from your desk or get out of your house. You may not have time for the gym, but at least you got in some steps.
• Organize a healthy recipe exchange. Cookie swaps are fun, but they can leave you feeling over-sugared and icky. Instead, host an event (virtual or in person) where you exchange your favorite healthy seasonal recipe. Go one step further and document the ideas to share in a recipe book with participants. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
• Schedule some self-care. Whether it’s a pedicure, hike, massage or leisurely trip to the grocery store so you can aimlessly roam the aisles by yourself, do something that sparks joy. Put yourself on the front burner to prevent burnout.
• Get plenty of sleep. When the schedule fills up, the first thing to go is exercise and the second is sleep. Sleep is important for your physical and mental health. It allows your body to recover from the stress of the day. Quality sleep improves your immunity, your metabolism and your mood.
• Keep a daily gratitude journal. Focus specifically on one thing related to your health that you are grateful for. Health is a gift, it’s not a given. Yet we often take it for granted until something goes wrong. Notice what is going well and celebrate that. Acknowledging even the smallest things leads to greater awareness and can inspire positive shifts in both mindset and behavior.
• Think “get to” versus “have to.” Eating and exercising is a “get to,” it’s not a “have to.” You are given one body that you get to live in for the rest of your life. How you take care of yourself day to day impacts how you feel decade to decade.
• Gentle consistency goes a long way. Contrary to popular belief, healthy habits don’t have to be all-or-nothing. You can find ways to take care of yourself and also enjoy all that the holiday season has to offer.
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