The Hallmark movies have begun. The aisles are stocked at Home Goods. The music is inescapable.
The evidence is mounting, it can only mean one thing — the holiday season is here!
Buckle up, it is on until January.
‘Tis the Season
Ah, the holiday season. It often evokes thoughts of sitting around a warm fire, putting up decorations, spending time with loved ones, and general feelings of joy.
That is the fantasy. The reality is that the holiday season often brings stress, overwhelm, exhaustion, and feelings that are anything but joyful.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Surviving the holiday season, even thriving during it, is possible. How? By prioritizing mental and physical wellness. These two areas are always essential, and caring for both during the holiday season is no exception.
Here are five ways to ensure the most wonderful time of the year is also the most wonderful time for YOU.
1. Do Not Do All the Things
Photos with Santa. Endless gatherings. Baking, decorating, perfectly wrapped presents — OH MY. It’s a lot. Here is my secret to getting all the things done: don’t do them.
One of the reasons we struggle to make time for ourselves during the holiday season is we try to do so much.
This is not the time to try to do everything. This is the time to set boundaries.
First, consider why you want to do all the things. The shopping trips, parties, anything holiday-related.
If you really want to do any or all of them, and it makes you happy, by all means do it. We make time for the things we really want to do.
But does some of it do nothing more than stress you out? It might be time to reconsider what’s the best use of your time and energy.
At my workplace, I recently had the opportunity to hear a CEO speak. One of her pieces of advice (especially for moms with young children) was regarding highest impact, lowest effort.
Essentially, the message was to make good choices. Rather than try to do all the things, choose a couple, or even just one, that give the highest impact with a low amount of effort. The one that delivers the happiness, joy, and positivity.
The rest? Don’t do them.
Don’t want to bake a bunch of Christmas cookies? Buy them at the store. Struggle to wrap presents that don’t look like a toddler did it? Put gifts in bags. Not thrilled by the idea of spending more time with coworkers? Skip the company Christmas party.
Let your family wear their same old sweats and jammies the entire season. Pass on holiday decorations. It’s all good if you don’t send a Christmas card.
If you’re worried about what others will think, don’t. And know you’ve got one mom right here who’s not judging you.
2. Drink Water
One of the best things you can do for your health is to drink water. It sounds so simple but it makes a huge difference in mood and physical energy.
I, like Tom Brady, am a huge believer in the benefits of drinking a ton of water. Like the GOAT, I strive to drink my bodyweight in ounces, which means I’m putting down a solid 150 ounces of water per day.
Yes, I did just casually sneak myself into the same camp as Tom Brady. When it comes to drinking water, he is my spirit animal.
Perhaps you are instead a normal person, and want a more reasonable guideline. I did some research beyond the typical 64 ounce per day recommendation. I asked a few people to find out how much water they actually drink IRL. A good rule of thumb based on the consensus: aim to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water every day.
How to Drink More Water
The irony is, for something so simple, it’s tough to drink enough water. One of the ways I ensure I’m getting my gallon-plus every day is to have reusable water bottles everywhere. One at work, one in my car, one at home upstairs, one at home downstairs, one by my bed — seriously, water bottles everywhere. Keep ’em close and keep ’em full.
For those of you who are more tech-savvy, set a reminder every so often to drink water. Or download apps that help to create and maintain this habit.
3. Make Time to Exercise
There are so many benefits to regular exercise but the stress-relieving power is the one that really comes to head during the holidays.
I’m also not going to shy away from a topic that I know many people worry about during the holidays — weight gain. My advice is: make time for exercise because it makes you feel good, NOT because you ate too much or plan to.
The holiday season is when we start to see all those awful charts and calculators circulating the internet. The ones that tell you how many miles you need to run to “burn off” a cookie. Or how many burpees you need to suffer through to “earn” that piece of pie.
Food is NOT bad. Exercise is NOT punishment. Just had say that for everyone out there who has been made to feel guilty for enjoying food.
How to Make Time to Exercise
Like drinking water, making time to exercise is tough. Getting up early is tough. Blocking off time during the day is tough. But you just have to make time. It is worth the effort.
If you can get yourself out of bed early, this is the best way to guarantee a workout. It is very unlikely something is going to “come up” suddenly at 5:00 a.m. that derails your workout. Plus, it gives you that great feeling all day, knowing you got in a sweat sesh.
Another option, consider breaking up exercise into small, more manageable efforts. A 15-mintue walk a couple times a day might seem more doable than setting aside 30 whole minutes for a workout.
If you cannot make time to exercise, stay active in other ways. Choose to stand instead of sit. Park far away and always take the stairs. Run around and play with your kids as much as you can. All movement matters.
4. Eat Intentionally
Following my proclamation that food is not bad, it is equally important to discuss the value of eating wisely. This is where intentional eating comes in.
I am not going to tell you to eat healthy because “healthy” foods are not one size fits all. Sure, you could argue snacking on carrots is “healthier” than chips, but that does not mean eating chips automatically equals unhealthy. I have made compelling cases that eating a donut or half a dozen Reese’s cups were healthy choices for me at times.
The point is that no food should be off limits. It really boils down to eating the right balance of foods that make you feel your best, that’s what intentional eating is all about.
How to Eat Intentionally
For example, a treat I love during the holidays is puppy chow. I’m going to eat it, it’s going to make me happy, I’ll even make the case that it is great fuel for my next workout.
That said, I also know that I will feel bogged down and gross if I eat an entire bowl of it every day. So I’m intentional to balance it with plenty of foods that also fuel me positively, like eggs, veggies, and soup. And, of course, drink lots of water.
Also, intentional eating means actually eating.
A strategy that I have heard people use to survive the holidays is skipping meals. Because, if you skip a meal, you “save up” that space, those calories, for when it’s time to eat the treats or holiday meals.
Big, big no. Skipping meals is a recipe for binging and being really hangry. Be intentional to eat meals and eat as normally as possible. And then enjoy those treats and extras that come with the holiday season.
A final benefit of intentional eating: it is easy to pair it with a glass of water. There’s one more way to get another glass of H2O in your day.
5. Practice Gratitude
I saved the best for last. I cannot explain exactly why but learning to practice daily gratitude has been one of the biggest game changers in my life since I took up running.
Amidst all the holly-jolliness, holidays can be a time for feelings of loneliness or inadequacy. But it’s also a wonderful time for gratitude, beyond the single day of Thanksgiving. Consider beginning a daily gratitude habit.
How to Practice Gratitude
There are several ways to practice gratitude.
Take a few moments once a day to acknowledge something for which you are grateful. Maybe it is first thing in the morning, maybe it is at the moment you arrive at work, maybe it is at the end of the day.
Another great option is to write it down. I keep a gratitude journal. Every morning, I write my top three for that day. Bonus, journaling can lead to better sleep and more self-confidence.
Finally, and perhaps the best way to practice gratitude: thank others. You can be grateful for what you have, but there is likely at least one thing each day you could thank someone else for.
Thank someone you know, like a coworker or spouse. Thank someone you don’t know, like the person who checked your groceries or the server who brought your food. Those two people might be most in need of a simple gratitude boost this time of year.
The holidays are always going to come with some extra load of stress. Even if your holiday spirit level rivals Buddy the Elf, it is so easy to get burned out this time of year.
Taking care of mental and physical wellness is a great way to keep spirits high and stress manageable. It is how to truly enjoy the most wonderful time of the year, even though you definitely will have to suffer through, “All I Want for Christmas is You,” by Mariah Carey about a million times.
Do you have good tips for enjoying the holidays? Let me know at @lindsayinreallife Instagram or @LindsayIRL on Twitter. Find more advice on staying well on Wellness In Real Life and the blog, wellirl.com.