Do you ever feel that the most wonderful time of the year can easily become the most daunting time of the year? Between playing Santa, wrapping, parties, decorating, and moving those silly elves around for their latest shenanigans, things can become chaotic, fast.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the hustle and bustle this time of year brings—but I also don’t want to feel stressed and exhausted by the time Christmas rolls around.
In these moments, I’m reminded of the quote, “Don’t set yourself on fire trying to keep others warm.” In other words, the holidays weren’t meant for us to sacrifice our well-being for the sake of others. You’re allowed to have fun! You’re allowed to say no! You’re allowed to scale back!
Consider this post your permission slip to prioritize your healthy rituals this holiday season. If you need a reminder, here are four of my guiding stars that keep me centered when things get hectic…
1. Exercise & Movement
It’s pretty typical to hold off until the new year to start an exercise program—but why wait? The hustle and bustle of the holiday season should never take away from your well-being. In fact, it’s a great antidote to stress—which we could all use a little more of this time of year.
The bottom line? Not only is regular exercise healthy for our bodies, it’s essential to our mental health. Be sure to take a few days out of your week to continue your current exercise routine or start something new. You don’t have to join a gym or yoga studio to get regular exercise! Simply taking long walks and doing light weights or stretching at home is more than enough.
The food we use to nourish our bodies has a powerful impact on our health—from our gut to our skin and everything in-between. There’s no need to go overboard with strict diets and trendy cleanses. Simply making small but deliberate changes like less added sugar to your diet can have huge benefits. Start by increasing a colorful assortment of berries in your diet for vitamin C, essential fatty acid in the form of omega-rich fish and nuts, fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, or a quality daily probiotic.
This time of year can be very difficult to keep up with a healthy diet. While it’s also important to save room for indulgences, try to keep most of your diet as normal as possible. Limit alcohol as much as possible and focus on getting a variety of colorful fresh fruit and veggies, as well as protein from eggs, lean meat and fish. Your future self will thank you!
3. Balance & Joy
Gifting the latest and greatest toys to your kids often brings temporary enjoyment before they’re left to collect dust three weeks after Christmas. This year, consider scaling back and embracing more intentional gifts for everyone on your list. Instead of millions of presents around the tree, try planning a fun trip for the family after the holidays. It gives you something to look forward to and surprises them with an experience, rather than stuff that will quickly lose their interest. Just be sure to set a budget and stick with it so you’re not stressing about finances.
Scaling back doesn’t just apply to gift-giving, either. I’ve become much more intentional about decorations, party-going, and many other obligations the holiday normally brings. So much of life involves doing things we feel obligated to do instead of enjoying what we do. It’s essential to step back from responsibilities, even as an adult, and choose to do some things you simply love—whether it’s reading a good book by the fire, skiing with the kids, starting a new tradition, or indulging in some holiday baking (and, yes, eating the cookies, too!). This holiday season, don’t forget that it’s okay to have fun.
4. Gratitude & Giving Back
Gratitude isn’t frivolous, and it’s certainly not a luxury. It is a coping strategy—and it works. Practicing gratitude has been known to make us healthier and happier. For example, it’s been shown to reduce stress, improve sleep quality, as well as boost self-esteem and resilience.
But what I found to be most notable about gratitude is this:
“It is during the most difficult times that gratitude must become a deliberate, active practice. You must seek it out and when you find it you must celebrate that goodness and soak it up.”
It’s a simple act, but just writing down what you’re thankful for is one of the best ways to cultivate gratitude this holiday season. Create a gratitude journal with your family and have everyone contribute. Each year, you can read through what everyone was thankful for in the past.
Another way to cultivate gratitude is by volunteering as a family to help those in need. Creating shoebox gifts for children, making snack packs for families at Ronald McDonald House or volunteering at a food pantry all teach us that we should be thankful for what we have. Not to mention, it just feels good to help others. Make a specific charity or volunteer opportunity a family tradition—your family will look forward to it every year!
How do you keep centered this time of year? Leave a comment below!