December into the New Year brings a range of emotions for most people. Excitement, celebration, connection, gratitude, and generosity may fill our head-space. People 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 most in the US anyway), earthly rhythms ask us to slow down, nurture our bodies, calm our minds, and just be. But our 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 restful sleep. Lack of sleep can make us cranky and snappy, cause food cravings and lead to overeating or bad choices, and 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, prioritize 7-9 hours of restful sleep per night to stay healthy and strong.
2. Hydrate with more water
Many of us don't drink enough water to stay properly hydrated throughout the day. Especially when the weather gets cold, it is even easier to forget or not want to drink lots of water. 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 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 celebrations. I recommend enjoying the festivities as you like AND drinking more water to avoid hangovers, electrolyte depletion, and general fatigue. Drinking electrolyte/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.
3. Fill up on nutritious food
With lots of work parties, family and friends gatherings, and general holiday celebration, we are often offered more rich, decadent foods than usual. We are more likely to over-indulge if we haven't filled our bodies with the proper nutrients that day (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 the 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 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 the junk food. And, once we get proper nutrients, a little extra for the taste-buds is a-ok!
4. Indulge smartly
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. Store bought desserts and snacks are filled with high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, chemicals, dyes, and a range of other fillers 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 recipe content on the internet these days, there are endless tasty options for healthy desserts, snacks, and junk food substitutes. If you have a favorite tradition, Google the name + healthy/natural alternative 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 ice cream texture.
- Coconut flour and almond flour/meal are wonderful gluten-free substitutes.
- Stevia, monk fruit, dates, honey, apple sauce, and bananas are great sugar substitutes.
And here are 2 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 has many delicious healthy dessert options:
5. 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 we can 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. But once we break the 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.
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.
6. Take Personal Time
Around the holidays, it is normal to experience some overwhelm and stress from over-committing, 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 such as a massage or private yoga session, take a walk in nature, or have a self-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 at times, 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 not selfish at all.
Being thoughtful kind to ourselves is the greatest gift. Please also note it is great to try to pick self-care that is mindful and keeps us present. Our bodies and minds don't feel the quality self-care and nurturing when we are numbed out watching TV or engaged in other mindless activities. Choose what stimulates the senses to stay present, makes you smile, and feels enjoyable and healthy.
Happy Holidays and wishing you an incredible, peaceful, fulfilling 2019!