It’s that magical time of year full of festivity and fun…right? Right? Not only are our calendars chock full of holiday parties and events, but also all of those end-of-year work deadlines are looming. If you’re anything like me, you probably have several invitations and unanswered emails collecting in your inbox, a long list of people you need to send holiday cards to (or, more likely, a long list of people who’ve sent you cards, which is making you feel guilty for not sending cards this year). On top of that, there’s the whole pressure of finding the perfect gifts for your loved ones, preferably without ever having to set foot in a mall. And this is all on top of your normal every day life tasks, like, you know, making sure everyone is fed and clothed and has a roof over their heads.  It can be overwhelming to say the least, especially to an introvert like me.

When times get stressful like this, it can be all too easy to turn to food (or wine) for comfort. So, if you’re finding yourself hitting the holiday cookies (or the eggnog) hard at the end of each day, you may want to consider trying some of these tips for a happier and healthier holiday season.

1. Be (selectively) indulgent

Let’s face it…there are a lot of delicious foods associated with this time of year. But it is all too easy to eat a cookie here, a hot chocolate there, a few pieces of holiday candy there…and it all starts to add up until you’ve filled up on treats and crowded out the foods you know you should be eating to stay healthy (I’m talking about you, veggies, fruits, and whole grains). I’m a big fan of allowing yourself to indulge in those foods that are truly worth it; those foods that you can only eat once a year. Say yes to Nana’s pecan pie or Auntie Maria’s peanut butter fudge. But say no to all those in-between treats that you don’t really enjoy (like dinner rolls and stale, store-bought crap). Think of it like Konmari for your diet…and Marie Kondo the crap out of those foods that don’t give you joy.

2. Get enough sleep

I know…this one’s easier said than done. But getting enough sleep can make a world of difference when it comes to your health and your mood. Personally, I’m good with around 7-8 hours; some people need more like 9 or 10 to function at their best. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, take a good look at your bedtime routine—are you using electronics too close to bedtime? Getting yourself all riled up watching the nightly news? Maybe try relaxing with a book and some chamomile tea to let your body know it’s time to start winding down instead. Put some lavender oil in a diffuser or humidifier in the bedroom to help soothe you. If you’re still having trouble, try a sleep app—I swear by Glenn  Harrold’s Relax and Sleep Well.

3. Be present

This is a difficult one in this day and age. Picking up our phones and scrolling through Facebook or our email when we have a free moment is practically a reflex. One way I try to dodge this impulse at gatherings with friends and family is to leave my phone in my purse as much as possible and really engage in conversations with the people I’m with. Every day I also try to take time for a quick 5-minute meditation sesh (I particularly like the Headspace and Calm apps). When all else fails, I strive to at least get in some deep belly breathing for a minute or two—the car is a great place for this! Breathe in through your nose for a slow count of four, letting your belly expand. Then breathe out through your mouth for a slow count of four, feeling your belly fall. Being more present will allow you to better enjoy those special moments…and to know when it’s time to get out when you need to.

4. Stay active

It’s incredibly important to keep movement in your schedule, no matter how busy you may feel. Even if it’s just a brisk walk after lunch or dinner—make it a habit to bundle up and go for a walk alone to clear your mind, or with someone you enjoy being around. Getting fresh air and a daily dose of nature is especially helpful, but if the weather is bad, don’t let that stop you. Hit the gym for a quick workout, or work in some quick interval training between tasks to break up your day. It will do wonders for your mood!

5. Eat your fruits & veggies!

Have you noticed that cold & flu season coincides exactly with the holiday season? Keep your immune system functioning its best by including at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day. Have a veggie omelet for breakfast, a big salad with protein for lunch, fruit & nuts or veggies & hummus for snacks, and 2 different vegetables at dinner. All the vitamins and phytonutrients will help keep you from getting sick…which would only add more stress.

6. Give up your expectations

Having high expectations of a “perfect” holiday just sets you up to be disappointed. A lot of the stress we put on ourselves this season lies in the notion that we expect things to be perfect.  Dropping the expectations of perfection will allow you to be prepared for when things don’t go as planned. Find joy in the way things are, and not the way you think they should be.

7. Be grateful

This goes along with Tip #6. When we are grateful for what we have and the way things truly are, we stop focusing on the things we don’t have yet. It can be hard to find things to be grateful for sometimes…maybe all you’re focused on is that promotion you haven’t got, the relationship you don’t have, that baby you don’t have, that house you don’t have. But there’s always something to be grateful for. Be grateful for the health that you do have (even if it’s not perfect). Be grateful for the loving friends and family that you have (even when they annoy you). Be grateful that you have a job to go to (even when you don’t want to). Or that you woke up at all today (not everybody did). Try to find 3 things every day that you’re grateful for…it will keep you focused on the truly important things in life.


Happy & Healthy Holidays!

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