Family gatherings, rich foods, lots of parties, shopping frenzies, winter activities, staying up too late — these are the things we love about the holidays, right? Well, read over that list again and you’ll notice that each of these things can also take a heavy toll on our physical and mental health. (The irony!)
To keep the holidays as happy and healthy as humanly possible, we’ve got a few tips that will help you stay ahead of the curve this year.
Practice daily gratitude
Perhaps it’s by divine design that the most indulgent, busy time of the year is preceded by a month focused on thankfulness. (Or, you know, at least a day focused on it, since Christmas seems to start on Nov. 1 for many of us.) The thing about gratitude is that it isn’t just good for your emotional wellbeing — it actually carries some physical benefits as well. According to the Mayo Clinic, practicing gratitude improves sleep, boosts immunity and decreases your risk of disease. That’s something to be grateful for!
So, here’s what this might look like in the midst of all the holiday madness: You could either set a timer for five minutes each day and jot down things you’re grateful for in that gratitude journal of yours. Or, Option #2, you could take things to the next level by intentionally being grateful throughout the whole day. (Running late to work? Well, at least you can be grateful you got there safely! Family members getting on your nerves? Watch “Christmas Vacation” and remind yourself it could be much worse. :))
Have a food plan
Here’s the good news when it comes to that holiday weight gain everyone always talks about: It’s mostly a lie. Contrary to the popular belief that the average person puts on five pounds during the holidays, studies show that it’s actually closer to one pound. (Woot!) But before you go nuts and gorge yourself on all those holiday goodies, it’s important to remember that health is not all about weight.
Obviously, if you snack on too many sweets, you’re not going to feel as great as you would if you’re balancing things out with more nutritious options. While you don’t need to be a sweets nazi, it’s a good idea to make intentional choices about the food you eat. For example, decide before the annual family gathering that you’re going to sit down and enjoy a nice slice of your mom’s homemade pumpkin pie and not beat yourself up about it. Whatever your indulgences may be, set some healthy limits.
Just because the temperature’s dropped a bit, that doesn’t mean you can’t still get dehydrated in the winter months. In fact, dehydration is more likely in the winter because many people forget to drink enough water. Experts say you still need about half your body weight in fluid ounces each day. And if you’re not in the mood for an ice cold glass of H20 first thing in the morning, try a healthier, heated beverage, like a cup of green or cinnamon tea. (To help you track your daily fluid intake, check out these handy-dandy apps.)
Move your body every day
This is a big one on our lists and a theme you’ve probably heard quite often if you follow our founder Brigitte online. (Notice we didn’t even use the word “exercise” for fear of scaring some of you off?) The thing is, you don’t have to be sweating profusely each day to give your body a little kick of endorphins. Simply get up, walk around, or, better yet, turn on your favorite tunes and host an impromptu dance party in the kitchen while you clean up after dinner!
Boost your immune system
With family and friends gathering ‘round in small, enclosed spaces, you can pretty much count on one thing during the holidays: germs. They’re everywhere. And since you can only wash your hands and avoid children sneezing in your face so many times, you might want to give your immune system a little advantage in the sure-to-come battle. You can certainly add some vitamins and supplements into your daily routine, but as the saying goes, “food is medicine.” Some of the best immune-boosting foods are colorful veggies, citrus fruits, salmon, nuts and whole grains.
Remember to laugh
Food may be medicine, but laughter, as they say, is the best medicine. Here’s the thing: Life is funny. It’s full of irony, it’s ridiculous, and it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Imagine how many tense situations could be diffused by laughing things off? So many things that seem like a big deal in the moment just don’t matter in the long run. Being able to see the humor in any situation not only relieves stress and boosts immunity, but according to Audrey Hepburn, “laughing is the best calorie-burner.”
During the holiday season, there’s a magic phrase you can use to help you maintain your health and sanity: “No.” You might be tempted to pack in as many activities, get-togethers, and white elephant gift exchanges as possible, but trying to do everything and please everyone is a surefire recipe for burnout. Be a little picky about the things you devote your time to this season in particular — and don’t forget to leave plenty of space open in your schedule to just sit back and “chillax” when you need to.
Don’t forget that beauty rest
It seems like the more obvious something is, the easier it is to overlook. When it comes to getting enough sleep, most of us are like, “yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I need to do that.” And then we promptly click the “Next Episode” button on Netflix until we pass out on the couch at 2 a.m. It’ll take some discipline, but consistently getting some good rest will pay out in huge dividends later. We’ve got some tips to help you catch that precious beauty sleep in case you need a little help.
Connect with friends and family
As human beings, we need each other. And you don’t have to wait for an invitation to a holiday party to connect with others. If you’re having a bad day, whip out your phone and text an old friend. FaceTime your sister who lives across the country. Drop off a treat to a neighbor on a whim. We promise this will brighten things up!
Be kind to yourself
Think about this: Would you talk to anyone else the same way you talk to yourself when you make mistakes? Yeah, we didn’t think so. The truth is, you’re not going to do everything right. You may not have the picture-perfect Thanksgiving feast. You might eat too many goodies at that family party. You’ll probably lose your cool with your kids at least once (or, you know, multiple times) during “the most wonderful time of the year.” Why? Because you’re human. We all do it.
So, as a Christmas gift to yourself this year, be a little more patient with that person in the mirror. When you don’t show up as your best self, take a deep breath, pat yourself on the face and say, “It’s all right. I’ve got this.” You can’t hate yourself into a happier, healthier life. Give yourself a little compassion and grace — especially during this crazy season — and you’ll see much better results.
Join a fitness group to stay accountable
Finally, if you’re serious about starting healthy new habits ahead of the new year, now’s a great time to join a community of like-minded individuals who have the same goals. Invest in your health by joining Brigitte’s Private Fitness Group and you’ll get access to workouts, tutorials, nutritional advice and more.
Best of all, you won’t be doing it alone! You’ll have a supportive network — including Brig and Jase themselves — cheering you on. As a former Olympian, Brig has expert tips on how to feel your best, mentally and physically. Try it out for a month and see what a difference it can make to have some accountability for your health.
Happy (and healthy) holidays to you all!