For many, the winter holiday season has a complicated relationship with the word “healthy”—either because we think we are not doing enough to maintain our health, or because we avoid thinking about health until January.
Instead, it may be easier to ask ourselves, “What steps can I take to manage my health during the holidays?” Each of our answers may look different, and that is the point: We can each add our own ways to manage stress, incorporate exercise, and eat healthfully. Each day is an opportunity to practice healthy options.
There are many, many resources that focus on nutrition around the holidays. Most offer this basic advice: act in small steps and remove the guilt. The Mayo Clinic’s holiday nutrition tips suggest trying to adding in an extra serving of veggies, drinking more water, limiting soda and alcohol, and to “choose your splurges” to eat portions of seasonal food and actually enjoy it!
Incorporating exercise can be easier when thinking of “increasing movement” over “improving fitness.” One resource—“Mass in Motion” on mass.gov—lists numerous ways to add in walks or create active TV time by using hand weights, doing calisthenics, or simply marching in place during commercial breaks.
For others, setting timers to limit screen time (TV, computer and/or phone) are easy ways to purposefully make time for other things—like adding in a self-care activity or getting to bed on time.
Finding low-cost ways to manage stress during a busy and often expensive time is important. Examples include taking a walk or bath; calling a family member or friend; and writing in a journal. During the short daylight, simply getting outside for 10 minutes can be helpful. Starting or ending your day with a few minutes focused on breathing can feel grounding.
Although we often let go of some routines and expectations, prioritizing ongoing support groups and meaningful connections can help us manage, relax and enjoy the season.