It’s that time of year when the people around us start demanding more and more of our time…as if we had more time to give or there is extra time in the day. Well, I’m here to tell you, you can have the best holiday season you’ve had in years and come out the other side smiling and refreshed. Here are my 3 keys to a successful, joyful, and stress-free holiday season.
#1: Say “NO”
It’s about survival…NOT being selfish. We have to take care of ourselves and in order to do that we have to make time for ourselves. During this time of year we have more requests of our time than any other time of year. People asking us to bake or cook for a work event or school party, invitations to holiday parties, then there are gifts to buy for family and loved ones. It seems like a never ending circle, we overextend ourselves, and our stress levels rise to unhealthy levels. It’s natural for us to want to help and celebrate the season with everyone, but the simple truth is we can’t. This is where the often forgotten word “NO” comes to play. Learn to use it and love it. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
(1) Start your sentence with the word “No”, and say it with confidence. It is an honorable and authentic response for you. If you say “yes” when you want to say “no” you will feel resentful through whatever activity you have agreed to do.
(2) Know your priorities and commitments. Saying “yes” to something that is not a priority makes less time for those things that you value most. When you look at requests on your time in this manner it becomes easier to say “no”.
(3) After you say “no”, include an alternative form of support or activity. For example, say yes to one holiday party and no to the other 2 that are on the same night. Make arrangements after the New Year to celebrate surviving the holidays with the hosts of the two you told “no”.
#2: Movement, Motion, Meditation
Exercise, movement, and motion are vital to your health and wellness during the holidays. By implementing #1 above you make time for “me” time. It’s important to remember that “motion changes emotion”. Exercise has the unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress, and help you get quality sleep. It provides opportunities to escape your stresses and enjoy solitude or spend time with friends (an alternative activity…see tip #3 above). Even a simple, easy 20-minute stroll can clear the mind and ease stress. One of the things that helps me the most (and recently) is getting out in nature. Find a trail to hike or just walk around your neighborhood. The fresh air will help you clear your mind, and it is time to reconnect with yourself. If nature just isn’t your thing, schedule a massage or facial or something as simple as a mani/pedi. All these things help release the stresses of the day, and you get to focus on you. If you’re thinking you just can’t afford that during this time of year ask for an early gift from your spouse, partner, or family. This time is really priceless and you can’t afford not to take it. And, as a bonus to keep your mind focused on you, listen to a guided meditational podcast. There are several out there…one of my favorites apps is “Stop, Breathe & Think”. What’s important to remember is to pick an activity that you enjoy. When you enjoy an activity you are having fun, and we will make time for fun.
Yes, it seems like the simplest thing and yet it may be one of the hardest things to accomplish on any given day. However, this is vital to your mental, emotional, and physical health. Ideally, you want to make sure you get 7.5 hours of quality sleep per night. Sleep allows your mind to work at its optimal level, heal your muscles, organs, and tissues, protect us from disease, and boosts hormone function. All these things are important to our overall health, and become even more important during times of added stress. Here are a few things that are easy to incorporate into your life that will have you achieving hours of quality sleep. Implementing any one of these will have an immediate impact on your sleep quality (I speak from experience).
(1) Eat “Real” Food. As cliché as it sounds, we need to focus on eating non-processed foods or as I will call them “real” foods. It is through these “real” foods that we get the quality nutrients we need to feed our bodies for good quality sleep. These nutrients include selenium, vitamin C, D, and B6, calcium, and omega-3s just to name a few. All of these nutrients can be found in everyday foods like beef, chicken, salmon, bell peppers, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, greens, avocados, sweet potatoes, eggs, and flax oil.
(2) Black it out. We sleep better in a dark environment and even the smallest amount of light sources disrupt our sleep patterns. Not getting enough sleep and not sleeping in darkness will wipe away your vitality, and will age you faster...and nobody wants that. This can be implemented easily. Blackout curtains are available at most retailers, get rid of any non-stop light in the bedroom (night lights, TV brand lights, light switches, etc.). Experts suggest that your bedroom should be dark enough that you can’t see your hand in front of your face.
(3) Shut off technology. This means cell phones, television, laptops, tablets, etc. Do this at least 60 minutes (preferably 90 minutes) prior to going to sleep. The artificial blue light emitted from these electronic gadgets triggers your body to produce daytime hormones (cortisol) and takes our bodies away from their natural preparation for sleep. We must work to maintain our natural sleep patterns in order to gain quality sleep. The best way I know to do this is to shut them off. If we are attached to our devices we are essentially saying that instead of taking care of ourselves and making “me” a priority, we would rather take care of ourselves last when we are stressed out and out of energy. Instead, plan a family game night that ends at bedtime, read a book where you have to turn pages, start a journal, or since it is the holidays address those holiday cards.
The key to surviving the holidays is taking time for yourself. All 3 keys center around this concept…one that is vital everyday of our lives, but even more essential during the holiday season. Implement these keys into your holiday schedule (and life) and you’ll ring in the new year rested and ready for a 2017 filled with health, wellness, and vitality.
As published in "Live.Love.Eat." online magazine's December 2016 issue (available for download on Amazon).
Curt Lewis is a Certified Transformational Nutrition Coach (CTNC) through the Institute for Transformational Nutrition. He is also a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) and Fitness Nutrition Specialist (FNS) through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). He focuses on helping others live longer, healthier, and happier lives through personalized nutrition, exercise, and self-care. You can contact Curt at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Instagram at Real.Fit.Lifestyle.