This week kicks off the busiest time of the year, the holidays. As we finish shopping for presents, finalizing travel arrangements, packing and checking our list twice, we will be thrown into a flurry of stress.
In our effort to make every commitment and see every relative, we neglect our own needs and ourselves. In order to not return from our vacation in need of a vacation, here are a few tips and suggestions to help you stay balanced amidst all the festivities.
To stay balanced during this time it is important to look at more than just what you plan to eat. Balance also involves considering the pace at which you navigate this time, the consumption of sugar, the impact of food on your mood, the exercise routine and the amount of sleep you get. Here are some tips in each area to find balance and start the New Year refreshed and energized.
- Cook once, eat twice…or three times! Make more food when you cook, then freeze it or take it for lunch the next day.
- Set 30 minutes aside each week to plan the week ahead. What will you eat, when will you shop, what days will you be very busy?
- Keep fresh protein in the refrigerator. Fish can be broiled in 5-7 minutes.
- Use a crockpot. Cook a whole chicken while you are away at work. This can be combined for up to 5 new meals.
- Keep veggies fresh. Use a vegetable-saver bag or squeeze all the air out of your plastic bag to help vegetables last longer.
- Delegate. Have each family member or friend choose a night to be “chef”.
- Do not allow everyone else’s schedule to become your schedule. Don’t be afraid to say, “No”.
- Set realistic goals and expectations. Know what your limits are and create healthy boundaries.
- Wake up 30-minutes earlier. Provide yourself the personal space you need to spend time alone.
Watch your sugar
- Eat fruit and sweet veggies. Not only will this help you get your five to eight servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily, but it will also curb your sweet tooth!
- Drink plenty of water. Sometimes having a sweet tooth is a sign of dehydration.
- Use natural sweeteners. While artificial sweeteners may not be sugar, they certainly aren’t natural. They will not give you lasting energy and you will wind up craving more sugar because they are chemically 300 - 500 times sweeter than actual sugar.
- Enjoy exercise every day. Start with 10 minutes a day of an easy activity, such as gentle yoga or going for a walk. Work up to 30 minutes a day.
- Enjoy spices. Sweeten your foods naturally with wonderful spices such as cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, coriander or cardamom.
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine intake. Caffeine dehydrates the body and spikes blood sugar, which then forces it to plummet. This rapid drop, along with dehydration, creates sugar cravings.
- Get plenty of sleep and relaxation. When you’re fatigued, stressed out and generally sleep deprived, your body craves energy—in the form of refined sugar.
- Eliminate low-fat or fat-free packaged foods. These processed foods may be low in fat, but they’re high in sugar. They may also be high in high-fructose corn syrup.
Regulate your mood
- When a craving hits, take a minute to find out where it comes from. Will eating right now really solve the underlying issue?
- Take 5 deep breaths before eating. Relaxing will help you to see more clearly what you are doing.
- Chew. This slows you down and gives you time to realize what you are doing.
- Create a list of comfort activities. It may be taking a walk, praying, calling a friend, journaling or sitting in silence. Comfort activities are much more likely to fill your body's need than "comfort foods."
- Plan ahead. Know what triggers your stress and have your pantry stocked with healthy food like nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits.
Continue to Exercise
- Exercise to connect with family. Do a local Christmas or New Year’s Day race together.
- Find an activity you enjoy. Commit to doing it throughout the holidays.
- Engage in at least 30 minutes of activity every day.
- Establish and stick to a sleep schedule. Get to bed and wake up at the same time every day of the week.
- Create a bedtime routine. Create a routine that helps you relax and unwind allowing your body to fall asleep faster.
- Avoid a power nap during the day.
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants. They will negatively impact your ability to get to sleep.
- Keep a notebook by the side of your bed. Use the notebook to calm your racing thoughts and jot things down so your mind is at peace and able to rest.
- Make sure that the room you sleep in is not too hot. A cool room creates a better sleep environment.
- Eliminate noisy distractions and bright lights. They can interfere with deep, restorative sleep.
- Buy a pillow and mattress that are comfortable.
Following these tips and suggestions will allow you to return from your holiday vacation feeling refreshed and in balance.