December 20, 2021

Feeling good during the holidays

Greenery highlighted by golden lights.

By Jeffrey Palmer, Recreation Fitness Manager

The holidays are here! It’s the time of year to eat mashed potatoes and stuffing, desserts, and maybe even enjoy some bubbly! And with no classes until January 3rd, it’s a great time to catch up on some ZZZZZs, right?

Well, yes and no. The holidays are also a time of year when people get off track with their health and wellness habits, and this can lead to less-than-merry feelings. Overdoing the rich food, partying, and messing with your regular sleep schedule is often not the best way to celebrate. Although it’s tempting when there are cheesy, meaty appetizers and festive beverages right in front of you — you will actually feel better if you remember one important word: moderation.

Yes, that is boring. You’ve heard it before. That’s because it’s tested and true advice! The balance between enjoying your holiday time and not overdoing it can be tough. Here are some tips for a happy and healthy holiday season …

Stick to your regular schedule. While I wouldn’t suggest you forgo a few extra minutes snuggled in your bed, it’s best for your physical and mental health to keep up your usual routine. How many times have you returned to “normal life” after a long holiday break only to feel worse? I have certainly been there. Try to wake up and go to sleep at around the same time you normally do. Eat regularly – do not under eat before a party or special meal. Keep up your usual workout routine and modify to your potentially new setting (AKA: the parents’ house!). If you do not have a regular workout routine, now is a good time to start evaluating, planning, and executing!

Enjoy yourself! It can be hard to stop and think “moderation” with the smell of roasting turkey in the air and a tray of holiday goodies in front of you. Here’s the thing: the holidays are a time to indulge and enjoy. I’m not going to sit here and tell you not to eat delicious treats this time of year. However, what I’m saying is indulging is fun and enjoyable, but remember to get back on track. Appreciate your family’s special meal, drink that hot chocolate and be merry, and be ready to return to your focused mindset as the holidays draw to a close. This does not just revolve around food; it all is rolled up into self-care! Treat yourself to a massage, spend some time meditating at the beach, or hang with friends you haven’t seen in a while. Enjoying the holidays and decompressing takes many different forms for us all. For me that form would be deadlifting and eating bacon several times a day, but for you that may be drinking tea and reading a good book.

Stay active. Keep up your usual exercise schedule and look to the future. Since you have some extra time, why not add a few new exercises to your routine? Try out a piece of equipment you have never used at the gym before, or go buy that jump rope or Bosu ball you have been meaning to get. Not a gym person? Get outside! Hike a new trail, take your bike out for a spin, or explore an urban park! Not a fan of doing things solo? Consider creating a new holiday tradition of playing football or volleyball at a family celebration. Grab your friends or family and go for a walk. The possibilities are endless! Time off gives us all an extra chance to re-evaluate our workout habits and set new goals. Just spend a little time thinking about what you can do with your time off that is fun and healthy.

Avoid toxicity. If your family relationships are strained, try to minimize or modify your time with them. Are there some topics that are better to avoid? Come up with a sentence or two that you can just keep repeating to steer away from those topics, like, “I hear what you’re saying; I’ll have to give some thought to that – did you see the last Seahawks game?” You can substitute many different things for “Seahawks game,” depending on whom you are talking to — “too many Spiderman movies” or even, “Wow, this weather…” work. Keep repeating as needed, and try to keep your cool. Think of it as a secret game you are playing to head off potential arguments and bad feelings.

Resist overdoing. For some people, this time of year brings added stress – for example, time or financial pressures. Again, I  have one important word for you. It’s not “moderation” this time. It’s “no.” If you don’t want to go somewhere you’re invited to, bake four dozen cookies, or join in reciprocal gift-giving, say “no.” Of course, you should say it nicely. You can offer an explanation if you want to, but it’s not necessary. You can say “not this time” if that feels better. Just as long as you don’t say “yes” to something you really don’t want to do. It’s important to take risks in life and do things that make us uncomfortable, but it’s also important to learn how and when to say no.

Keep your perspective. When all said and done, don’t worry about blowing a day or two, or more. If a day or an event does not go as you had hoped, get back on track the next day, and try to avoid negative self-talk or guilt. Keep your focus on self-care as well as what you are celebrating and the joys of the holidays, such as friendship, love, and gratitude. The holidays are a special time; these tips can keep you feeling happy and healthy as you celebrate.