How to Stay Healthy Over the Holidays
Even this year, when things are crazier than ever thanks to the you-know-what, people are asking me how to stay healthy during the holidays.
This time of year is the best and the worst for a lot of us.
We just want to spend time with loved ones, probably drinking and eating too much.
But instead, we’ve “got to” run around getting gifts, wrapping up the last quarter of the year at work, and dealing with that one realtive that gets too drunk and says too much at the dinner table.
The “joy of the season” feels a lot more like the stress of the season when all is said and done.
So, how do you handle it all while still staying healthy and hopefully keeping your sanity?
Let’s get into my top tips to stay healthy over the holidays.
Top Ways to Stay Healthy Over the Holidays
Some of these probably won’t surprise you, if you’ve been around my site for a while.
But they’re free, simple, and will really do you a lot of good if you follow through with them.
Here we go.
1. Stay on top of your sleep
This one probably doesn’t surprise you at ALL.
I’ve already mentioned countless times that sleeping is the most productive thing you can be doing for your body.
That applies at all levels, too - whether you are trying to prevent illness, to improving mental clarity, to growing muscle.
All of those things require sleep.
If you’re making sure to sleep enough during the holidays (use that vacation time well!), then the need for the rest of these tips becomes greatly reduced.
Yeah, it’s that important.
2. Stick to healthy nutrition (most of the time)
Look, I’m not saying not to enjoy a treat every now and again.
It’s the holidays, after all!
What I am saying is that if you’re going to enjoy some less-than-optimal things, especially things like refined carbohydrates, try to do it as far away from bedtime as possible.
Refined carbs spike your blood sugar, which will then be followed by a blood sugar crash and subsequent cortisol spike.
That cortisol is your main stress hormone and when it’s present in your body, the production of melatonin is stopped.
The final equation?
Refined carbs before bed = blood sugar spike & crash = cortisol spike = no melatonin to initiate sleep.
3. Avoid alcohol near bedtime
Are you noticing a trend here yet?
There are a lot of things that can mess up your sleep, and sleep is the main thing needed to mitigate the extra stresses you feel this time of year.
When it comes to drinking, there’s no way to say it’s healthy for you. It’s not.
I’m not perfect, by the way - I enjoy some nice whiskey like I’m sure many of you do.
But if you’re going to do it, try to drink as far away from bedtime as you can, because alcohol prevents us from getting into the proper stages of sleep.
You’re not “helping sleep” with a nightcap. You’re just knocking yourself out.
And, when you’re drinking, make sure to alternate each drink with at least 8 ounces of water between them to reduce the acidity of the alcohol in your body.
4. Exercise intelligently
I chose my wording wisely with this one.
This says “exercises intelligently” because I see too many people adding more stress to their bodies by overdoing the exercise this time of year.
Suddenly, everyone thinks the cure to the less-healthy indulgences is to work out more.
And sure, that helps with your calorie balance.
But calories aren’t the only consideration here - and the other aspects of exercise are often ignored entirely when it comes to overall health.
Exercise is adding stress to your body.
Sure, it might feel like a mental stress reliever for you. I know it is for me.
But the physical stress of making micro-tears in your body registers the same to your physiology as the mental stress does.
It’s all still stress.
So, if you’re finding yourself overwhelmed, or tired (because you didn’t listen to number 1), taking it easy on the movement might be the way to go.
Get your steps in on an easy walk or something, but don’t push yourself on a strenuous workout if you’re already overwhelmed with “life things.”
Allow yourself to have a good night’s rest and hit it hard tomorrow if you’re already feeling overwhelmed before you even start that workout.
5. Take some deep breaths
This one might sound like a cliche, but it’s true and extremely supported by research.
Specifically, diaphragmatic breathing is key here.
To make sure that’s what you’re doing, all you need to focus on is your stomach’s rise and fall with your breath.
If you’re learning how to activate this, all you need to do is push your belly out when you breathe in (think of what kids do when you tell them to make a “pregnant belly”).
When you breathe out, pull your belly back in to its normal position.
This is how you can train your belly to move more when you breathe, sinking the breath into the diaphragm more.
There’s also a lot of evidence that doing paced breaths can calm you far more than simply breathing “deep.”
Try a cadence like this: breathe in for 8 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, breathe out for 8 seconds, hold for 4 seconds before beginning the next breath.
Any cadence will do, just make sure it’s paced.
Institutes like HeartMath have loads of research showing that this can bring your stress levels down in just a minute of two.
A final note on stress over the holidays
As long as you’re taking care of your baseline health in these ways, the next best thing you can do is remember that this time of year is supposed to be enjoyable.
Don’t be too hard on yourself, get your stuff done, and let yourself rest and recover from the year a little bit.
If you've got someone you know who's stressing about how to stay healthy over the holidays, send this to them, too!
Let's actually enjoy the end of the year again.
If you’d like a quick-check reminder version of this blog post, check out this infographic!
And if you’re having a hard time getting quality sleep, my non-addictive Sleep Remedy supplement can help with that.
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