Winter holidays are supposed to bring joy, good tidings and cheer, but they can also mean physical and mental strains in one way or another. Here are 10 tips for keeping your body and mind in tip-top shape to enjoy all the winter festivities.
Take Care of Your Physical Health
- Moderation, Part I: Eat Smart
Starting with Thanksgiving, temptation becomes unavoidable. Someone brought homemade cookies to the office, there are three pies at a dinner for four people, parties are overflowing with salty and sweet snacks — and, of course, holiday meals that could feed a small army. December is no time to deprive yourself, but think twice about where you want your calories to come from. Bring a side dish that’s brimming with veggies to a potluck, and make sure you’ve got healthy options at home. Savoring a few delicious treats will feel so much better than devouring everything in sight.
- Moderation, Part II: Drink Carefully
Whether it’s eggnog, gløg or celebratory champagne, enjoy a glass slowly and with food. Keep track of how much you’ve had, and stop after one or two so you can continue to enjoy the party. Keep in mind that liquid calories can pack a punch this month. If you need a delicious non-alcoholic alternative, a warm glass of cider will get you in the holiday spirit in no time and hot chocolate will never, ever let you down.
- Keep Germs Away
There are plenty of things you can do to keep yourself — and those around you — feeling good during this germ-filled month. Wash your hands often, and moisturize to prevent cracked and broken skin that can get infected. Get a flu shot — most pharmacies and doctors’ offices can provide this free of charge. Drink plenty of water, and stay home if you’re not feeling well. No one wants to be the reason the whole office had to miss the company party!
- Stay Active
If you live in a climate that gets cold toward the end of the year, finding motivation to exercise can be impossible. When you don’t feel like going to the gym, find an online aerobics or yoga video to do in your living room. If it’s snowing, hit the slopes, the ice rink or the nearest sledding hill. And if you’re snowed in, shoveling snow can burn up over 200 calories in just half an hour! Getting exercise can also give your mood and mental health a much needed bonus boost, as well.
- Be Mindful of the Weather
Icy conditions make walking and driving incredibly dangerous. Sprinkling kitty litter on an icy walk can help provide much-needed traction; keep some on-hand as temperatures drop. Keep an eye out for kids and the elderly who may need an extra hand getting around and may be more susceptible to falls. On the road, invest in snow tires if your climate calls for it, and when in doubt: slow down. Black ice can come out of nowhere and put a serious damper on your holiday plans.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
- Look Out for #1
Yes, that’s you. With obligations of every variety begging for our time and attention, we can easily lose sight of our own needs. Set boundaries for how much time you’ll spend with family; don’t feel like you need to attend every party you’re invited to. Simple personal indulgences, such as sleeping in or diving into a good novel with a mug of hot cocoa, can be a great mental reset.
- Be Budget Conscious
Holiday spending can account for a huge amount of stress, but it doesn’t have to. Set a budget for holiday spending — including decorations, gifts and entertaining — based your bank account, not your credit limit. Make gift giving about quality, not quantity. For a family or circle of friends, consider a Secret Santa-type gift exchange: set a dollar amount and anonymously draw names to buy one awesome gift for one awesome person, rather than having to buy something for everyone. There are websites and apps that will manage wish lists, name draws and exchange details so you don’t have to — we like elfster.com.
- Follow the Light
Winter Blues are a very real phenomenon, often exacerbated by short, gloomy days. Your body and mind need light to stay well and keep your daily rhythm on track. If you can’t soak up the Vitamin D directly from the sun, take a daily supplement and consider investing in full-spectrum t bulbs or a sunlamp . Getting outside during daylight, even if it’s just for a walk around the block, can do wonders for your mind and spirit.
- Practice Mindfulness
We associate the end of the year with the opportunity to make resolutions to change ourselves or our behavior, but there’s no reason to put all that pressure on January 1st, just to disappoint ourselves on January 2nd. Mindfulness is a valuable tool all year round, but can be especially beneficial when traveling or keeping an unusual schedule. Mindfulness is a great way to grab some me-time in the midst of the busiest time of the year, while helping you manage short- and long-term goals.
- Give Back
The holidays can be tough for many people, for many reasons. Try to carve out some extra time, resources or bandwidth to reach out out to someone having a hard time. There are opportunities in nearly every city and town to help those less fortunate, such as volunteering at a non-profit, buying gifts for kids whose parents’ can’t afford them, cleaning up a park or visiting hospital and homebound folks. If you don’t have time for additional activities, just reaching out to that friend or family member for whom the holidays aren’t all cheer can go a long way.