Happy holidays, lovely people!
There’s no disputing the fact that the holiday season brings extra stress, tasks, financial burdens and potentially triggering situations. It can be an especially tough time if you have lost a loved one or have complicated family dynamics. And so many of us know the struggle of trying to split time equitably between families, stepfamilies, in-laws, friends, co-workers, etc. While I hope you have plenty of “merry and bright” moments this season, I’m aware that many of us are dealing with lots of pressure right now.
So, how does that impact our self-care? What does intuitive eating look like during the holidays? Is there such a thing as maintaining mindfulness during the holidays? Today I’m bringing you words of wisdom from some wonderful dietitians to help you through this season.
1. Prioritize Quiet Time
This might sound impossible. I totally get that. However, if you’ve ever made an effort to start your day with a quick meditation or made sure to do just one thing for yourself each day, you know how much of a difference that can make. Quiet time doesn’t have to look like a seated meditation, bubble bath or yoga session. It should look like whatever helps you feel grounded. Find a mental and physical space where you can close your eyes and take three deep inhales and exhales. It’s underrated! (Why not try taking a deep breath right now?)
Heather Caplan, RD, host of RD Real Talk podcast, suggests, “Try to open up more space without input or feedback. Our impulse is to entertain or educate ourselves constantly, in some way. I’m trying to open up more space for some quiet, still time. No podcasts while running, no music or news while driving, no social media while sitting on the couch trying to relax. It’s amazing what our brains do with some space to expand and explore, rather than constantly trying to absorb information. Basically, this is meditation without branding it as such. Be mindful by letting your mind empty out some space.”
2. Approach Eating with Flexibility
It’s normal for our eating patterns to change around the holidays. With lots of fun foods, baked goods, parties and food gifts, there is a lot of extra yumminess going around this time of year! While it’s fine to enjoy all the festive food, it’s also important to keep eating regular meals and snacks that help us feel energized and nourished. “Listening to internal hunger and fullness cues is a great tool for sensing what your body needs, but also knowing a loose time frame for when to eat is helpful when you’re stressed. Give yourself a meal or snack every 3 to 4 hours and you will stay nourished and decrease odds of binge eating,” advises Jennifer McGurk, RDN, CDN, CEDRD-S, of eatwithknowledge.com.
Additionally, Rachelle Mallik, MA, RDN, of rachellemallik.com says, “Remember to nourish yourself with good food, including foods that provide nutrients your body needs as well as your favorite holiday treats. Try not to ‘earn’ a cookie by skipping lunch and avoid ‘saving up’ for holiday parties and buffets, which may leave you sluggish during the day and result in overeating later on.”
Emily Fonnesbeck, RD, of emilyfonnesbeck.com encourages us all to repeat this reminder to ourselves: “I am allowed to eat satisfying foods, meals and snacks every day, all year long.” She goes on to say, “When you know that delicious food will still be there tomorrow (and next week and next month), it will make it easier to avoid extreme, all or nothing behaviors that can erode self-trust. If you find yourself feeling anxious about the abundance of foods or urges to restrict, this reminder can help you reassure yourself and help you stay true to yourself.”
3. Keep Moving Your Body (if you feel like it)
With packed schedules we sometimes let go of those regular self-care habits that help us feel healthy and grounded. For some, this could mean not exercising as much. Whatever your favorite forms of movement, it’s great if you could keep doing them during the holidays. But even if you don’t, just getting outside for a stroll and fresh air can do wonders! I’m a huge proponent of walk breaks during the workday and even on days where I know I’ll be sitting around with family — it makes a positive impact on my mood and energy levels, not to mention my stiff body! (Anyone else struggling with sore hip flexors from so much sitting?)
If you end up being less physically active than usual, that’s totally OK too. The key is to listen to your body. If your body is begging for some movement and you are craving the feeling of deep breathing and getting your blood pumping, get up and get moving. If you’re feeling A-OK staying cozied up indoors, have at it!
4. Stick to Your Bedtime
Those who know me know that I am a huge baby when it comes to sleep. I like to think I’m just super in tune with my body’s sleep needs while everyone else is ignoring theirs and trying to survive on caffeine. 🙂 Regardless, I become the worst version of myself when I don’t get enough sleep. Did you know adults are supposed to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night? Many people think they can “function” on less than that but research shows that’s only true for a very miniscule portion of the population.
How are we supposed to have energy for all the holiday celebrations and commitments when we’re running on just a few hours of sleep each night? If you’re finding yourself chronically underested, a take a good hard look at how you’re spending your day. What items can you take off your plate so you can take better care of yourself? There is no badge of honor for running yourself ragged. On the flip side, there is no need to feel guilty for hitting the hay early.
5. Bring it Back to Gratitude
Even if the holidays are a challenging time for you, try to find at least one positive thing you can be grateful for. As a type A person with anxiety, it’s easy for me to get super bogged down worrying about my problems, my partner’s problems, my family’s problems, my friends’ problems, the world’s problems, etc. But when I practice gratitude, it helps me take a step back from all of that and refocus on what really matters.
So how do you “practice gratitude?” Samina Qureshi, RDN, LD, IFNCP, of wholesomestart.com recommends, “Keeping a daily gratitude journal or starting your day with thanking your body for what it does for you each day. Practicing gratitude for your body can be difficult to begin because we are used to criticizing it or taking it for granted, but think of how your body has continued to serve you on a daily basis. Here are a few examples of how to show appreciation for your body: I appreciate my strong legs for carrying me through these chilly winter months, I am grateful for my lungs that help me breathe, I am thankful for my body’s ability to bring another life into this world, I appreciate my wrists for holding me up during yoga. The more you practice gratitude in any form the easier it becomes and it can help you be more mindful this holiday season.”
I’ll be honest, I’m not the best at journaling. But I’ve always been a paper planner girl (there’s that type A coming through) and I’ve been using a Passion Planner for all of 2018 (and am already filling out my 2019 planner!) which has weekly gratitude prompts. At the end of each week I think about the past 7 days and fill out the little “good things that happened” box. It takes very little time but that brief moment of reflection and putting pen to paper is enough to put a smile on my face and remind myself of all that I have to be thankful for.
Anya Todd, MS, RD, LD, of anyatodd.com adds, “As someone who deals with chronic pain, I understand the toll of stress on our bodies. This year, I finally convinced my family to forego gift exchange, and immediately a weight was lifted from my body. You don’t have to buy gifts for everyone. You don’t have to accept every party invite. You don’t have to deck the friggin’ halls. Self-care is critical to our well-being, and sometimes it involves setting these types of boundaries.”
If this list feels overwhelming, try picking just one strategy to implement this week. Then maybe next week add another. Or throw out these strategies and just ask yourself what you need right now. For me it’s often sleep and an evening or weekend day without any commitments. It’s OK to say “no.” In fact, it’s healthy to say “no.” When you’re saying “yes” all the time, you’re probably saying “no” to some important self-care habits. Figure out your essential “yes” commitments this season and let go of the rest!
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