As excitement for the holiday season continues to grow, it’s important to establish a game plan so you can make this year’s festivities as stress-free as possible. With all of the decorations, gift-giving, dinner parties, traveling and family gatherings, it can be easy to get caught up in the chaos and exhaustion. It’s a hectic time of year, and it’s often tempting to throw in the towel on healthy habits until the New Year.
When it comes to the holidays, research suggests that nearly 40% of people experience higher stress levels with participants citing lack of time, lack of money, the push of commercialism and an increase in responsibility as their top stressors. To help combat these stats and to prepare you for the next eight weeks of holiday havoc, we’ve identified a few routine ways you can help make this year more manageable and a little less stressful.
As obvious as this one seems, it’s important to give yourself enough lead time to prepare for all of the extra events, cooking, shopping and hosting duties that seem to be never-ending. When it comes to kitchen organization, preparing meals and resisting temptations at parties, having a game plan ahead of time will help you stay on track:
- Go through and organize storage areas in your kitchen to remove expired and unhealthy foods that may be taking up unnecessary space and getting in the way of your health goals. This will also make grocery shopping a little less hectic when you find yourself making a list and not having to franticly check it twice. If you haven’t used it in the last several months, it’s probably time to pitch.
- If you’re the guest at a party, plan to bring your own healthy food to share. Some go-to ideas include: vegetable platters, hummus trays, fruit and cheese trays, mini meatballs, cold cut platter, shrimp cocktail, assorted nuts, etc. Feel free to get creative too. A crowd favorite is plain, full fat Greek yogurt mixed with a scoop of vanilla Life Time collagen peptides as a dip alongside some fruit. If bringing your own food isn’t an option, plan to have a snack ahead of time that includes protein, healthy fat and fiber to keep you full and satisfied.
- If you’re having guests over for a meal, try to make 75% of the meals and snacks a day or two beforehand. Some of the easiest things to make ahead of time and reheat (if needed) are sweet potato dishes, mashed cauliflower (for those with a lower carb approach) and desserts.
Power Through Your Workouts:
Take a breather and remember: your to-do list can wait when it means putting your health first. Overtime, skipping workouts can really add up and negatively impact the exercise regimen you’ve worked so hard to establish. While it’s tempting to tell yourself you’ll get back on track after the holidays, consider this:
- Endurance/cardiovascular training helps reduce stress, so if you’re avoiding it during a more stressful time of the year, you may be accumulating more stress by not exercising.
- The biggest battle will be getting to the club, but once you arrive, chances are your motivation will increase because you’ll be surrounded by like-minded people who are also chasing after their health goals. An effective trick is to aim to commit to just 10 minutes of movement. If you complete the 10 minutes, you achieved your goal. What you’ll find, however, is that once you get going, it’s much easier to actually get a full workout done.
- If you workout before going to a holiday event, you’ll likely make better decisions about what you eat, not wanting to negate the benefits of the workout you just did.
Pick Your Plate Wisely:
Just because you’ve always made your holiday dishes the same way doesn’t mean you need to keep doing that. Take heart, you can find ways of making similar dishes that still taste great and don’t have all the junk in them.
If you’re going to a party or an event and know you’re going to run into some foods that are hard to resist, don’t go hungry and make sure you have a craving strategy in place. For most, using a protein powder prior to that event can help keep cravings at bay and keep your blood sugars stable so your energy doesn’t drop (causing a craving).
Pour Yourself More Water:
Constantly sipping on water will keep you hydrated and reduce the amount of food you’ll want to eat. It’s common to mistake hunger for thirst, so prioritizing hydration can go a long way with holiday temptations.
While festive drinks can be hard to avoid during this time of year, keep a water bottle nearby so you’re less tempted to reach for a glass of punch, alcohol or some other higher-calorie sugary drink. Plus, dressing up your water by using sparkling water with lemon or lime is an easy way to minimize the number of holiday cocktails- while (for the most part) keeping commentary from others at bay. Hydration is usually easier in the summer months and can easily be overlooked due to cooler temperatures, so before you reach for a peppermint mocha to warm you up, consider drinking a glass or two of water first.
Put Down the Electronics:
While it can be difficult to reduce screen time at work, consider limiting the amount of time you spend online when you’re at home or off the clock. If you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through your phone while in the company of others, late at night, or every other minute, it may be time to impose some new boundaries. Screen time not only adds up quickly, but it can negatively impact the quality of your sleep. Instead of checking email or social media yet again, put the phone down and consider going for a walk to your local park, playing a board game or meeting up with some friends to volunteer for a good cause.
It can be easy to prioritize the needs of others before our own, but in order to wholeheartedly pour into others, we must first make sure we’re filled up. Whether you have a few hours or even a few minutes, do what you need in order to get yourself back in the game. Whether taking a restorative yoga class, taking a walk around the block, scheduling a massage at the Life Spa or taking a quick cat nap, be sure you pocket time for self-care.
What’s your plan of action to de-stress and stay on track this holiday season?
If you’ve found these tips helpful, but aren’t sure where to start, our next Holiday 60day is kicking off on November 10 and is a great starting point for those who want to take a deeper dive into developing a game plan that is actionable. You can register here.
Even with the busy holiday season right around the corner, the 60day is a structured program packed with healthy recipes, daily workouts, digital coaching and in-studio lectures by our experts that will help get you back on track through the rest of the year and have you feeling healthier, stronger and more alive. If you’re still looking for some inspiration, check out last year’s 60day success stories!
– Life Time Weight Loss Staff
This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.