It’s officially that time of year, folks! Between Thanksgiving and New Years, there are at least five weeks of holidays. For most of us, this means indulging in lots of food, and not always the healthiest foods. Not to mention, winter is coming (Game of Thrones fans, are you out there?) and for many of us, that means staying indoors. I live in Buffalo, and let me tell you – when the snow flies, there is nothing more I want to do than stay on my couch with a fuzzy blanket and a cup of tea! (Sometimes that’s literally all I can do, as we can get snowed in and unable to leave the house!)
Between the extra food and potentially being stuck inside, we may see some weight gain. How many of you (or someone you know) has made a New Year’s resolution to be healthier: start a diet, start an exercise plan, or both? It’s just not worth the effort of struggling through the holidays and also moving around, right? Plus, new year, new you! It’s a motivational fresh start!
But we all know how it goes. Gym enrollment is sky high in January, all the machines are taken. Your fridge is filled with nothing but fruits and vegetables, and you’re pleased with yourself for saying no to the donuts at work every morning. Then you do so well that you allow yourself a treat, and that turns into a “cheat day”, and before you know it…February is here and you’ve already “failed” at your goals. The motivation is gone. The weather is still crappy. Everything sucks.
So, I’m going doing a multiple part series on how to stay healthy through the holidays. I’ll talk about eating right while still indulging, exercising when you just don’t want to, and even managing your stress as holiday shopping and visits with in-laws looms over you and adds to the tasks of everyday life. Health is more than just healthy eating, after all, and while it’s my main focus at Salt and Skillet, there’s so much more to it!
For this part, I’ll be talking about staying healthy by managing your stress.
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Staying Healthy Through the Holidays: Managing Stress
The weather’s getting worse, the year is coming to a close (which can be a crazy time at many jobs), and the holiday shopping and dinners are driving you bonkers. Black Friday brings an all-nighter filled with rampaging moms. Facing the in-laws is inevitable. (I love my in-laws, so I’m lucky!) The Christmas lights are only half lit and you can’t figure out why, and that’s after you spent an hour detangling them.
No matter what your deal is, the holidays are a stressful time.
Let’s try to keep our hair from falling out and take it eaaaasy. This is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, remember?
Control What You Can. Release What You Can’t.
You can’t control everything. Some things are literally out of your control, and worrying about them will not change the outcome regardless.
I’d like to refer you to my fellow blogger, Asha. I stole these words from her, because they resonated so much with me. In her article, How to Find Balance (When You Feel Overwhelmed) , Asha says that there are three things you can control: your attitude, your mindset, and your coping mecahnisms. This article struck such a cord with me that I’ve been using her recommendations every day since October. Yes, seriously! Her methods of coping with stress when you’ve got a huge workload are fantastic and can really help you find your center. Go check her out, and I guarantee you’ll be in a better mood!
Don’t try to be perfect
Maybe your holiday dinner doesn’t look Pinterest perfect. (I made for Thanksgiving this year that stuck to the pan and ripped in half…we ate it anyway.) Maybe you can’t make it to every single party you’re invited to. Maybe the gift you really wanted to get someone is no longer on sale, and you missed the opportunity.
Nobody is expecting you to be supermom or superdad. Nobody will tell you that you’ve failed as a host. Do your best, control what you can, and whatever happens, happens.
Make a budget and stick to it
Money might be one of the biggest stressors during this time. Not only are there a ton of people to shop for, but gifts are getting more expensive as technology improves. But you shouldn’t have to go broke and ring up hundreds on your credit cards just to make others happy. Let them know it might be a light Christmas. They’re your friends and family – they’ll understand. Find gifts that mean so much more than the price tag, like homebaked cookies or some quality time together.
Putting yourself into debt will not only stress you out now, but keep the stress coming for months! Then, as soon as you’ve paid it all off – BOOM! Holiday time again. The cycle repeats.
Have a plan of attack
Hosting a holiday dinner takes a lot of planning. Shopping all the sales on Black Friday takes planning. Figuring out when to wrap gifts between the kid’s schedule and your own takes planning.
Figure it out in advance. Which food items can you buy early, and which will you need to buy a day before? Which needs to be in the oven longest, and when should you start one dish so it’s ready at the same time as the others? Which stores are ones that you absolutely need to hit, and which sales can you go without?
Just remember, if something in your plan doesn’t go accordingly, it’s okay to go with the flow for a bit. Accidents, mistakes, last-minute things…they happen. That’s life. And it’s okay to have to toss out some plans. You’ll fit them in somewhere else, or you can adapt to the situation!
Do Activities you Enjoy
Whaaat? Amy, didn’t you say that about exercise!? Yes. Yes, I did. Getting active and having fun while doing it releases endorphins that elevate your mood. You’ll release the tension in your neck and back through exercise, too. So, whether it’s walking, dancing, rope climbing, or lifting weights, find an activity that gets your heart pumping and go do it!
You may have to see a family member that you don’t see eye-to-eye with, but that doesn’t mean you have to be miserable! Just smile and nod and steer conversations clear from topics that might set either one of you off.
Sure, the Salvation Army is dinging their bells away everywhere you go, but don’t turn a cold shoulder. Even if you don’t want to donate, a smile and a “Merry Christmas” could make both of you feel a little warmer.
Some holidays have different traditions. Some people get offended easily. Some people are adamant about saying “Merry Christmas” while others insist on “Happy Holidays”. Whatever I’m greeted with, I always mirror the greeting, even if it’s “Happy Hanukkah”, which I don’t personally celebrate. Other people aren’t trying to shove their religion down your throat, and they’re not trying to take the magic out of Christmas – they’re just trying to spread happiness without offending you. So don’t be the guy that gets offended – wish them a Happy Whatever and enjoy your Happy Whatever in return. 🙂
Staying Healthy Through the Holidays – Manage Stress Recap
Between the dinner parties, the shopping, facing the in-laws, and the neverending schedule, the holidays can be a super stressful time. Let’s fix that.
- Control What You Can. Release What You Can’t. Spoken beautifully by my friend Asha in her article, How to Find Balance (When You Feel Overwhelmed)
- Don’t try to be perfect. Do your best with what you’ve got.
- Make a budget and stick to it. Don’t go into debt just for the latest and greatist gadget!
- Have a plan of attack. Practice those time management skills to keep things running smoothly.
- Do activities you enjoy. Exercise makes you feel better and releases tension. Plus, you’re having fun!
- Practice Tolerance. Just smile and say the holiday greeting of your choice. Accept the ones you receive. Put up with your in-laws.
That’s the end of this series, my friends! We’re eating healthy while enjoying foods we love. We’re exercising even when there’s an ice storm outside. We’re keeping calm and spreading the love. We’re gonna get through the holidays, one way or another!
I would love to hear ways that you cope with stress, whether its the holidays or not! What do you like to do to unwind?