The holidays may be “the most wonderful time of the year” but it’s notorious for also increasing people’s stress levels and taking a toll on aspects of our health. Knowing what’s ahead, there’s two things I do to prep myself up: 1) a mindset shift on my priorities during the holidays and 2) list out my non-negotiables. Let’s discuss both in more detail:
1) Mindset shift & setting appropriate expectations
Acknowledge & make peace with the fact that you’re likely not going to be able to adhere to your regular health routine. It’s okay to be off your game during this time. After all, it’s a short period of time where we should be able to enjoy ourselves and indulge. Accepting this relieves unnecessary frustrations and unrealistic expectations. Facing the reality of the situation allows you to create non-negotiables for yourself to feel more empowered. I think of non-negotiables as small ‘holiday season promises’ that I keep to myself so that throughout the craziness of the 6-8 weeks to come, I still feel grounded with behaviors that I know will make me feel good.
2) Holiday Non-Negotiables
As we talked about already, non-negotiables are promises or vows to yourself that you know will make you feel good and more in control, if carried out. An important piece of creating well thought out & realistic non-negotiables is proving to yourself that you can follow through with it. You’re practicing problem-solving skills in an extremely applicable way and building confidence that you can repeat these accomplishments next holiday season and during other difficult times during the year.
List out your non-negotiables. We understand that despite the holiday season taking a toll on our health, it doesn’t mean we have to throw in the towel and have no expectations of ourselves. It’s the perfect opportunity to reflect on the reality of our situation and create temporary health goals that allow us to have fun during the holidays but still keep our health in check.
Here are some examples that can be adopted and tweaked to fit your routine and situations:
- Adjust your training expectations. Maybe it’s not realistic to make it to the gym as often as you normally do, but you know you have the time to replace one of those gym sessions with a 20-30 minute walk or at-home session. Quantify your expectations (e.g. “I will train at the gym 1-2 times per week and walk for 15-30 minutes on an additional day.”).
- Commit to movement snacks. The holidays are known to be a time of relaxation. We deserve that extra rest and should certainly take it, while at the same time, we might know about ourselves that we don’t feel our best when we’re extra sedentary. Create extra opportunities to move throughout the day. Maybe this means prioritizing a set number of 5-minute breaks during the work day to do movements that feel good. Again, quantify your expectations.
- Give yourself permission to indulge on holiday treats, while finding opportunities to still get quality nutrients into your diet. We shouldn’t feel guilty for indulging at a special time of the year. So, what we can do is make an effort to eat wholesome meals on other nights of the week so that we don’t fully abandon nutrition goals that are important.
- E.g. 1: limit take-out orders during the holiday season to a set amount per week.
- E.g. 2: prioritize protein and vegetables in your weekday meals.
- E.g. 3: reduce the number of days per week that you have dessert.
- If you consume alcohol, find ways to reduce intake when it’s not a holiday-related event. We all know the holidays are notorious for increased alcohol consumption. Find opportunities to reduce consumption so that you can allocate those beverages toward holiday events that involve alcohol.
- E.g. 1: eliminate or restrict mindless at-home drinking so that you can save it for your holiday office party, friendsgiving, family get-togethers and holiday outings.
- Prioritize sleep. We can curb some of the negative aspects of the holidays by ensuring we get great sleep.
- E.g. 1: set a bedtime that allows you to get 7+ hours on most nights of the week.
- E.g. 2: in the absence of a holiday event, set a weekend bedtime that allows you to get 7+ hours of sleep.
- Set boundaries for yourself. The holiday season can be difficult on our emotional health for many reasons. Setting boundaries for how much time you spend with certain people or in certain environments can be helpful.