Smart Tips to Help You Stay Healthy for the Holidays

Posted on December 6, 2018 by Jenna Ahlschlager, ACE-CHC

Updated August 28, 2020

African American Family_Holidays_Preparing Healthy MealWhen some people think of the holidays, they are overwhelmed by unpleasant thoughts of large family gatherings, travel, excessive shopping, financial worries and endless “to do” lists. Not to mention the added temptations of comfort foods, sweet treats and holiday drinks. With all this added stress it’s no wonder people turn to unhealthy habits to cope. The good news is it is possible to stay healthy while managing the increased demands brought on by the holidays. So, before you overdo it on caffeine, sugar, alcohol or retreating to your computer and TV, take a look at these tips and learn ways you can not only survive this holiday season, but thrive!

Come up with a plan

Set yourself up for success by coming up with a plan for preparing for the holidays. Write out all your “To Do” lists ahead of time so you can see everything you need to get done, whether it’s travel arrangements, shopping, cooking, wrapping gifts, etc. If you are hosting, plan out each meal and grocery shop ahead of time to avoid crowds and last-minute trips to the store. Or, ask your guests to bring something to share so you aren’t doing all the cooking. Another tip is to schedule your time in a calendar or planner so you know exactly when to do what. Don’t forget to schedule time for yourself to exercise or to just sit back and relax!

Focus on healthy eating

With all the temptations that come with the holidays it’s important to keep yourself in check to avoid overindulging on sweet treats and holiday drinks. Have a healthy snack before going to family gatherings or parties so you aren’t as inclined to overindulge. At the table focus on lean proteins and healthy vegetables and avoid filing up on unhealthy “comfort” foods. It’s okay to treat yourself occasionally but set yourself a limit. At holiday parties, alternate water with you drinks and stick with fruits and vegetables, lean protein and nuts and seeds. Otherwise you may find yourself feeling guilty and even more stressed after overdoing it.

Remember to exercise

This is probably the most important! One of the best ways to combat stress is to get regular exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five or more days per week. As the holiday season gets busier, it’s common for our exercise routines to be the first thing sacrificed for more time. When in reality, this is what should be made a priority during the holiday season. If it’s too difficult to make time for the gym or if you don’t have a regular exercise routine, head outside and aim for a brisk, half hour walk each day. Doing so will help keep stress at bay and allow you to enjoy your time with friends and family. Bonus points for getting your loved ones to join you!

Be realistic

The holidays are about spending time with loved ones, so don’t put extra pressure on yourself to make sure everything is “perfect.” Many tend to go overboard to please others during the holidays, so do less to enjoy more! It’s important to focus your energy on enjoying the people in your life and avoid squeezing in more than you can handle. Cut back and relax! The world is not going to end if the house is a little cluttered or dinner is on the table a few minutes late.

Stay positive

The holidays may drive you to your breaking point. Focus on the good rather than the bad—in fact smile more! Negative thinking can trigger your body's stress response, causing even more stress. Remember the holidays are time to celebrate with your family and friends. Staying positive and maintaining an optimistic outlook will help you manage any challenge that may come your way.

Even though it is very common to resort to bad habits, it’s important to take a step back and remember to take care of yourself and your well being. Focus on what the holidays are truly about—spending quality time with your loved ones.

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