So the time of year has finally come when we're decorating our houses, we're cooking and baking, we're visiting friends and family, we're spending a lot of money and we're more likely to make poor choices when it comes to taking care of ourselves.  After all, who has time for oneself over the holidays?! While it's true that the holidays are about giving, it's also important to remember that you have so much more to give to people when you are in top-notch condition! When people think of health, many of them fail to realize how inter-connected our emotional, physical and psychological systems are. They tend to only think (particularly around the holidays) of health being defined by food and drinks, however, there's so much more to having a healthy holiday.  A healthy holiday means that you're well-rested, you're hydrated, you're eating nutritious food, you're enjoying indulgences in moderation, you're remaining physically active, and you're taking time to yourself to recharge!

But in all the hustle and bustle, how is there time to do it?  Let's have a look at a few ways that we can take care of ourselves over the holidays (and yes, that includes the entire month leading up to it!) so that we can give back tenfold to others!

  1. Those of you who know me well, know that I am a list person.  I have lists for everything - my groceries, my to-do, my price matching, my ideas, etc. I could provide you with a list of all of my lists, but I think you get the idea! Make a list of the things you need to buy, make and the things you need to do. It seems simple enough, and you probably already have a list....or two....(or three?). So you're jumping back and forth between lists for over a month, trying to cover everything on it and really just overwhelming yourself.  This brings us to number 2.
  2. PRIORITIZE your list(s). Divide your list up and find ways to squeeze items from your list into your daily routine.  For example, if you have something to buy from a store that you pass by on a regular basis to/from work, stop in before/after work to grab the things you need.  Then take a different route the next day to grab other items from another nearby store.  By taking the extra 10-15 minutes when you're already passing by, you're saving yourself one big headache that would be caused by trying to hit all of these stores in one large shopping day.
  3. Now that you've saved yourself a bit of time in running your errands, you can take the time to properly fuel your body! Drink plenty of water! Coffee and tea, although warming, comforting and stimulating on a chilly shopping day seem a necessity, the reality is that anything more than 1 cup a day is putting more stress on your body and organs than you need - because let's face it, you're probably already pretty stressed right now.  Keep a water bottle with you at all times, everywhere you go and drink it! Then refill it and drink it again - and again! Aim to drink your daily minimum of two liters.
  4. While we're talking about fuel for our bodies, let's talk about FOOD.  Yes, the warm, comforting, sweet, sticky, savory, fragrant, coma-inducing meals, drinks, side dishes and desserts that we've all come to expect, love and over-indulge in around the holiday season! Take the time to make your meals at home, instead of eating on the go.  When you make your suppers, make enough leftovers for another night's worth of meals.  This way, on one of those busy days where your errands just don't seem to end, you have a healthy meal ready and waiting for you when you get home.
  5. All things in moderation! It's okay to enjoy the holiday treats, they're pretty hard to say 'no' to.  You don't need to say 'no', you just need to limit yourself.  Have the strength to enjoy 1-2 treats at each social gathering, because let's face it, we never go to JUST one social gathering around the holidays.  There'll be plenty of opportunities to enjoy more treats at another gathering. If you're finding yourself back at the dessert table, opt for some fresh fruit! The fruit will help satisfy your sweet cravings while providing you with plenty of important vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy over the holidays.
  6. When making your own treats, look for recipes that contain reduced refined sugar, limited amounts of sugar, sugar alternatives (such as fruit for sweeteners), and over-all healthier options.  You'd be surprised how many people would choose a healthier option (say, a fresh homemade fruit salad) when it's available! If you're stuck on ideas for recipes, try looking for some that are plant-based, they generally contain only real/fresh ingredients that haven't been processed and/or refined, and so they provide a healthier alternative to the traditional sugar-loaded sweets.
  7. With all that you're doing, have you had time to pack in some exercise? It's likely that all of your errands have increased your activity level by a bit already.  You're walking in and out of stores, to and from the car, carrying and lifting heavy bags and boxes - do you do this daily year-round? (To be honest, I think we'd all be financially broke and exceptionally fit and toned if it was like this year-round)! Let's try to squeeze in a bit more activity throughout the day if you're finding it difficult to commit to exercise. Adults should aim to be moderately active for 150 minutes each week, or intensely active for 75 minutes, in order to maintain good heart and lung health.  That doesn't mean you need to pack it all in large quantities.  Doing 10-15 minutes of increased activity sporadically throughout the day can be a great way to keep yourself moving. How can you do this? Put some holiday music on while decorating the house, cooking or baking and just DANCE! Move your feet, move your hips, move your arms! Or how about taking the long way around the mall, or the stairs instead of the escalator, when shopping?  Or parking the car further in the parking lot to increase your walk into the store.  Bonus points if it's cold and you jog or walk briskly to get inside faster!
  8. Giving doesn't have to be about buying, it can be about spending time together, donating, making gifts, and creating experiences. What does money have to do with health? A lot!  Let's think about it closely for a minute. You work every day to make money. For the majority of people, work is stressful. You spend way more money on the holidays than you normally do.  The holidays are stressful already due to the number of things we try to get done.  Now the holidays are more stressful because we're not making time for ourselves, we're making less than ideal lifestyle choices, and we're spending loads of money. Then the holidays come and go, and life goes back to regular routine ... except that you're still PAYING for the holidays.  So you work more, to pay off your holiday expenditures  - and work, we've already established, is stressful.  Stress plays a huge impact on our emotional, physical and psychological well-being, which in turn affects our health!
  9. At the end of the day, take some time to yourself.  Do some yoga, meditation, or even just some purposeful deep breathing before going to bed.  Doing this helps to bring loads of fresh oxygen to all parts of your body, particularly your brain, and helps to flush toxins built up in the day. If your body is well-hydrated, fueled properly, active, and oxygen-rich, I think you'll find you'll sleep better at night and wake up feeling energized and ready to do it all over again!
  10. Last, but not least, you don't need to wait until after the holidays to create a healthy lifestyle! Don't wait for January 1st, begin your transition to a healthy lifestyle at any time, and recognize that no matter what time of the year, there will always be more 'convenient times to start', challenges, and setbacks. Every day, every meal, every snack, every drink, you have the choice to make a change and a healthy decision.  They don't all have to be perfect and don't guilt yourself for it either. Each choice will get easier each time you make the same one. All you have to do is make it!
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