Thriving Through the Holidays: 7 Tips for Maintaining Health

Welcome to the next post in our series “Thriving Through the Holidays”.

One of the challenges of the holiday season is the loss of a regular routine. Our body likes our regular patterns, and too many changes or a large increase in stress and anxiety can lead us to feel emotionally spent, or can even weaken our immune system and lead to sickness, lethargy, depression or anger. Take some time this year to prepare yourself with these strategies for maintaining health: mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

1. Exercise

If your body is used to a regular routine, do your best to maintain this even with a different holiday schedule. Sometimes this can be a challenge when traveling, staying with other people, or having a different work routine. Do your best to work physical activity into your day, even if you have to get creative with it. Take a walk or go hiking, pack an exercise DVD, do jumping jacks with your kids, or push-ups when you wake up in the morning. Even 5 minutes can make a dramatic impact on how you feel. Take advantage of your time with friends and family members and involve them in a physical activity you can do together.

2. Choose Healthy Options

Everyone knows that the holidays can be an excuse to eat things you don’t normally eat or more than is comfortable for you. Remember the concept of  “conscious choosing,” and know your body’s limit. When gathering at holiday parties,  look for veggie platters and fruit trays, and fill up there. Do not allow others to pressure you into eating things you don’t want to. Offer to bring a dish or prepare a side for get-togethers to ensure a healthy option for yourself. Start your meals with a salad, so you’ll feel less hungry or susceptible to over-indulging in unhealthy foods. Eat a low-stress diet of nutrient rich foods to keep your immune system strong (more on this to come).

3. Know yourself

Be aware of the self-care strategies that work for you and implement them. If you know you need time to yourself despite a house full of people, get up before others and read or go on a walk by yourself. If holidays typically lead to loneliness or feelings of loss, make plans ahead of time with friends, or volunteer your time at a shelter or other outreach center. Know what works best for you and plan options ahead of time to maintain your health and happiness.

4. Have an escape plan

You may be going into a setting that you know triggers painful memories or anxiety. Create boundaries and limits around what you can reasonably handle. Know when those limits are getting pushed, and have an escape plan ready ahead of time. If you have a spouse or friend going with you into an uncomfortable setting, work out a signal or code word for if you need to leave or take a break.

5. Get creative

Take advantage of the change of pace, and try something new. Paint a picture, try out a new recipe, go to a yoga or spin class, or organize a project for friends or family. Whatever your situation, whether on your own or with other people, make an effort to embrace your creativity. No matter the outcome, you will always have the memory of what you did or attempted to do, and you just might be rewiring past painful memories associated with the holidays into times of adventure and creativity.

6. Support yourself

With all the focus on friends and family members, don’t forget to take care of yourself this year. Consider starting a new tradition of buying yourself a Christmas present, or engaging in a pampering activity that would relax or energize you. Reframe your view of the holidays and build in associations of relaxation and self-care instead of just stress and exhaustion. Consider taking additional herbal supplements to support your physical body through cold and flu season and through the unique schedule of the holidays.

7. Be intentional

The holiday season comes only once a year, so do your best to not let small details rob you of the joy of your experience. Take on a perspective of “future-hindsight”: look out into the future, and reflect back on your experience. Looking back on this moment after it’s passed, would you want to have done something different? To have spent your time and energy creating new positive memories, and focused on gratitude and the strengths of your loved ones instead of allowing anger, resentment, or fear to color your memories? Be intentional with how you spend your time, and what memories you create this year.



About Liz Fava, LPC

Liz provides individual and couples therapy for adults, including counseling for dating, engaged, and married couples. She also conducts couples workshops, and training and supervision for therapists.