Well, here it is – again. The Holidays. Am I the only one who feels that we just went through them and here they are again? They seem to come on faster each year which is not a bad thing but, at least for me, seems to signal that time is going by a bit faster.
Regardless, it always seems like there is more to do this time of year – gifts to send, people to remember, cards (if you still do that, which seems to be becoming rarer) and get togethers with others. If you have young children, that adds another layer – making the holidays special for our children requires a bit more effort when they’re young – but it’s one that leaves lasting memories.
Because we are often in a time crunch this time of year, I wanted to share just a few best practices for maintaining a healthy balance, mentally and physically, this time of year.
- Spoons theory. A friend who struggles with chronic illness explained this to me recently. Basically, it’s about using spoons to represent the amount of energy we have for tasks and activities each day. It was first used as a measure to help those who struggle with chronic illness pace themselves and conserve their energy for daily activities. I like it because it’s a great way to pay attention to how we take care of ourselves.Most of us wake up each day with a certain amount of energy to tackle daily tasks or, say, ten spoons. Working, taking care of the home, running errands, socializing, planning meals – all of these require energy and some require more than others. Those who struggle with chronic illness have to pay special attention to this. Trying to use more spoons than we have can exacerbate health issues. The same is true for all of us when we over-do it. We can become over-tired, overwhelmed, stressed, cranky, or even ill. (Have you ever felt that you just didn’t have one more holiday party in you?) Being aware of your basic spoon level can help you conserve energy for what’s most important and prioritize those activities. Some of us naturally have more energy than others but knowing your spoon (energy) level can help you prioritize tasks and save your energy for what’s essential.
- Water – Don’t forget water. Hydrating is one of the best ways to keep your energy level up and improve overall health. It’s key to delivering nutrients to our cells and keeping our systems functioning properly. It can help us sleep better and function better mentally, physically and emotionally. When we get busy, remembering to drink water can easily get lost. Know how much you need to drink to feel your best and keep a water bottle close so it’s easy to remind yourself
- Don’t let exercise fall by the wayside. It’s easy to let exercise go when things get busy but that’s exactly when we need it most. Regular exercise helps control weight, reduces stress, improves mood and brain function, increases energy and helps us sleep better. If you can’t get to the gym, get outside for a brisk walk for 20 minutes. Any activity is better than none and you won’t have to force yourself to get back in the habit after the holidays because you didn’t let it go.
- Sleep. Sleep is the great restorer and it’s easy to try to get by on less during the holidays but it’s exactly the time we need to practice taking care of ourselves by getting enough. Getting enough helps us manage our moods, boost our immune systems, reduces stress and even impacts appetite. Recent research shows that sleep deprivation is associated with over-eating and can impact a craving for high-fat and sugary foods./li>
- Mind over spending. Speaking of stress, nothing can bring it on quite like facing bills coming due for holiday spending in January if you don’t have the money to pay off those cards. Decide what your budget will be and stick to it. Instead of getting gifts for everyone in the family, draw names and let each person be a “Secret Santa.” Set expectations ahead of time with those close to you. I have mutually decided with some friends to no longer exchange gifts, in part because there is nothing any of us really needs. Simplifying gift-giving can reduce a lot of stress over the holiday and beyond when you don’t have to face your credit card bills in January. I have taken to gifting experiences with my family – something we can all enjoy – such as concert or theater tickets, or maybe a gift certificate for a massage.
What’s meaningful to you and those you care about this holiday season? Focus on that and let the rest go. A happier and stress-free holiday awaits you!
Warm Holiday Wishes!