A Healthy Holiday Guide-Mind and Body

By Dr. Rebecca Tocher-Richmond, ND

For many, the holiday season is the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ because it brings about family and social gatherings, outings and events, parties, and presents!  At the same time, the holiday season also brings added stress, pressured work deadlines, year ends, extra household and entertaining duties, changes to your nutrition and alcohol habits, and even a lack of sleep!

So, the most wonderful time of the year, can also be accompanied by many factors that can put your health at risk – physically and emotionally.

We all want to enjoy this time of year. Here are our tips for how to manage all of the extra demands. We want you to be able to relax, have fun, and truly be present this holiday season.

Body

1. Wash your hands often to help prevent the spread of germs.

Holiday season is still also cold and flu season. And with all of your family and friends in close proximity, regular hand washing isn’t just a good health practice for yourself, but it’s also a way to help your most vulnerable loved ones (children and the elderly) stay clear of viral and bacterial germs. Wash your hands with soap and clean running water for at least 20 seconds and follow up with a moisturizing hand cream (treat yourself!) to keep your skin healthy and free of harmful dryness and cracks.

2. Stay hydrated.  

Bring that water bottle with you as you run your errands.  Staying well hydrated improves energy levels, mood, immune system, and leads to better food choices since you won’t think you are hungry when you are actually thirsty.

 3. Be food aware, choose wisely.

Holiday foods tend to be full of extra delicious things like butter, sugar and wheat.  While indulging in this festive season is not altogether bad, you must learn to choose your indulgences wisely to prevent bloating, weight gain, hormonal imbalance, dehydration, digestion issues.  Sampling one of Aunt Sarah’s shortbread cookies might just be a worthwhile holiday tradition, but are those package and processed chocolates really worth it?  Have a treat, but make it count.

4. Make holiday treats healthy by sneaking in veggies

It might sound strange, but we love finding ways to hide vegetables in sweet treats. Feel better about serving your family delicious cookies and cakes by finding recipes that use healthy pumpkin, zucchini, avocado, or even almond meal to replace wheat flour and/or sugar. You won’t taste the difference but you’ll all be healthier as a result!  Or why not become known as the person who always brings the veggie tray or leafy salad?  Load up on vegetables and you will naturally eat fewer of the less-than-healthy options.

5. Have a healthy breakfast

A high protein breakfast will help to stabilize blood sugar levels, improve mood, increase energy, and decrease food cravings later in the day.  Try a veggie and fruit smoothie with a scoop of vegan protein powder such as Hemp Pro or Vega brand.

Mind

1. Set limits

Performing well at work, caring for yourself and your family, AND pulling off a holiday feast can become extra daunting over the holiday season when more demands both personally and professionally are made on you. It’s time to learn that it’s good to say “No” to some things that spread you too thin, make you anxious, put you on edge, or  stress you out. Concentrate on doing fewer things – and ask others to take on tasks to support the bigger picture – many hand make light work and you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour too!

2. Take a break

When you feel stressed out, overwhelmed, or out of control – it’s time to breathe deeply and take a break. Stepping back to get some perspective is a healthy way to manage stress.  Turn on some of your favourite music, make yourself a hot bath and close the door, read a novel just for the pleasure of it. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes, giving your mind time to wander off allows your brain and body to process everything you’re experiencing throughout the day and leaves you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

 3. Block off time for fitness and sleep – and make it non-negotiable

Extra stressors may not seem like a big deal at the beginning of the season but I bet you remember how harried and exhausted you were by the end of the season last year! NO-ONE can sustain a holiday rush without taking time to themselves to regenerate. This time is just for you. Make a promise to take yourself to the gym or on a run at least three times a week, and set a sleep schedule to make sure you have enough nighttime rest. Then? Keep that promise!

4. Give yourself the gift of self-compassion

You deserve to enjoy the holidays as much as anyone in your family but it can be hard to accept that our realities rarely mimic a ‘Very Martha Stewart Holiday.’ Focus on self-kindness instead of self- judgement and accept imperfections with sympathy rather than critique or shame. Let go of notions of perfection and enjoy what has been accomplished.

From the Doctors and staff at St. Albert Naturopathic Clinic, to you and your loved ones, we wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season!