No matter which holiday you may celebrate, this time of year tends to evoke a sense of stress and imbalance for many – especially for parents who are trying to establish and/or maintain healthy habits. Whether it be the plethora of celebrations at work and school to the parties and social gatherings many families partake in for over a month, there are many opportunities for sleep to be lost, stress to mount, and dietary habits to go out the window. All the while, you have messages bombarding you of what to eat, how to handle 3,876 tasks all at once, how much sleep you need to get especially during the holidays, etc. – this alone can send you into a tizzy. What usually winds up happening is frustrations run high, tempers may fall short, and proverbially speaking, the wheels feel like they come off the bus more days than not. We run out of time to prepare healthy meals, we feel guilty about it, our kids are ramped up on the treats that are dispersed day-in-and-out, and it feels like a never-ending hamster wheel of hurriedness. So, what to do?
Foremost, when working with clients during this time of year especially, I think it’s really important to stop and take note of what special things the “holidays” mean to you – think back to when you were a kid and reflect on all of the traditions and joys that made you happy. Next, be real with yourself. I know with all of my posts I probably come across as some health fanatic who walks around with a whip to crack at every health-faux-pas I see…which is far from the truth. We are all human and function in a capacity where we can do what we can with what we have. While I am sure many of you aim to make the BEST choices everyday (don’t we all!??), we have to set our expectations within reasonable goals AND not beat ourselves up over every little thing. I see so often parents walk around with this guilt that they are failing their kids if they didn’t have the carrot sticks ready for lunch or if mom was a bit grumpy for a few hours due to all of the added stress at this time of year. Carrying around this self-defeat and harshness towards ourselves just perpetuates the cycle of running ourselves rampant. In the field of health coaching, there is a concept called Primary Foods – and these are not the foods that we tangibly ingest to feed ourselves. Rather, these are the self-care components of life that we often neglect to give to ourselves on a daily basis, or occasionally, at that. Many times, we get wrapped up in taking care of everyone and everything else….but ourselves.
When we get stressed and/or lack sleep, our bodies release cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone and this triggers and onslaught of unfavorable responses in the body – mood swings, fat storage, and cravings for sweets and “comfort foods.” The thought of carving out MORE time for ourselves during this already hectic time of year seems improbable for many – but it’s not impossible. I always try to show clients the “cost benefit” of taking an extra few minutes out of the day to take a bath, meditate, go for a walk, sit with your kids, read a book, etc. – while we are so busy to get everything else done, we don’t realize that we are becoming exceedingly unproductive by “multi-tasking” – too many things going on at once over-saturates our brains and our thought-processes go out the window, including our stress levels and cortisol levels in our bodies. Not to mention we are setting this example for our children; observed behaviors are learned behaviors, and that includes the behaviors that are the aftermath of taking on too much during this busy time of year.
So how do we make this time of year truly enjoyable and “reset” our ways to where we restore love and appreciation back to ourselves so we can have as happy and healthy of a holiday time as possible? Here are some tips and suggestions:
- Be kind to yourself. As simple as this sounds, a majority of us do not practice this. Turn that chatter-off in your head of what you constantly still need to do; rather, focus on what you have already done and appreciate your efforts. Know there will always be something to do – but you can’t do it all.
- Really go out of your way to give affection to your family and friends. At times, we carry so much on our minds that we may just “zone out” and not even realize who is around us at times. Give a random hug to those around you when you see them – everyone loves a hug and studies show that a majority of food cravings for sweets and comfort foods stem from the fact that individuals are lacking compassion and/or human touch. It’s amazing what a hug can do. Maybe even set aside a few minutes to do a family back massage chain – sit in a line and take turns rubbing each other’s necks, shoulders, and backs.
- Practice self-care. Call it being selfish – whatever works for you, but self-care is a necessity. Try something new for yourself each day – even if it’s for a few minutes. Step aside and maybe take turns at home carrying responsibilities so each of you can take a moment for self-care. Put your feet up; crack open a book; read a story to your kids; take a quick shower or bath; make yourself a healthy smoothie or call a friend you have not spoken to in awhile. Just think of something each day that you can do to make yourself feel better.
- Damage-control your house. What I mean by this is set yourself up for success rather than failure in terms of the amount of treats and goodies that can find their way into your home. While it’s tradition for so many people to have treats at this time of year, which is totally fine, perhaps try and limit how much is around. Let’s face it – when you’re tired, cranky, in a bad mood, and stressed, you’re more apt to grab what’s going to make you feel good and taste great – which is human nature. Stock up on fruits, veggies, and healthy snacks to have on hand to curb the urge to grab “indulgent” treats. Maybe have some healthy alternatives on hand and/or grab some healthy proteins instead like almonds or other nuts; different smoothies with spices and nut milks complement this time of year well; try some herbal tea to relax.
- It’s ok to not be perfect. I mean this. What does “perfect” even mean, anyway? I personally don’t think it exists, so why strive for it when it mainly leads to stressing yourself out and making yourself feel like you’re coming up short? Teach your children that it’s OK to make mistakes – learn from them and grow as a person. I hear so many times from parents that they “did something wrong” and they feel like failures as parents, especially when it comes to their children’s eating and health. Many times, parents don’t stop to first focus on what they are doing well and emphasize the healthy habits they are instilling in their children.
- This is a perfect time of year to focus on gratitude exercises. Reflecting on the things you are already grateful for in your life serve as the best gifts of all, for they cannot be purchased in a store. So many times, material objects hold so much value and importance in people’s lives and they don’t even realize it. Try and move away from that and focus on what would still exist and be with you if you lost all material possessions. Doing this with your family will help build a perspective that will leave you all feeling thankful for what you have.
- When you feel yourself really getting stressed over something, do the breath test. Shut your eyes if you can, take a deep breath, and count to ten. Try and remove the focus on what is making you stressed/mad, etc. Heck, even start by just counting to three. Pausing and forcing yourself to interrupt the thought process that focuses on what’s making you upset will help to disengage your bodily response. Think if what you’re upset about is really worth it and serving you in the best manner.
While this list just touches upon the surface of some things you can do to try and take a step back from the instances that can take a Happy Holiday season and turn it into a harrowing one, my intent was just to give you some pointers and encouragement to know that you’re not alone and you deserve more than what you’re probably currently affording yourself. Being able to engage in these activities will not only help you, but it will help your family, children, and friends, for when we’re our best, that reflects upon those around us (especially those who look up to us!).
I wish you all an incredibly Happy Holiday in whatever celebration you may be engaging in. This is a time to embrace the best in all of us to propel us into a healthy and prosperous new year.
Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching. Megan educates and empowers women, men, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials. Visit her website today to learn more: http://www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us or feel free to send her an e-mail at: email@example.com.