Are you thinking that the last few weeks of the year must, inevitably, be the most exhausting and energy draining on the calendar? (I sometimes feel that way.)
What often sets December apart are all the holiday details. Shopping for gifts, party commitments, visiting loved ones, and special activities of all kinds can seem like nothing more than another layer on top of your usual overwhelm of tasks and responsibilities. Now add celebrations, vacations, meals, sugary hostess gifts, and all the treats that mark the holidays. The unfortunate result: feeling off balance, bloated, and too burned out to enjoy the festivities and traditions that mark the season.
And who wants to feel that way during “the most wonderful time of the year”? Not me, and surely not you, either. So how about changing the way we approach that year-end to-do list?
Let’s keep this easy—no new programs or anything extreme that will sound like yet another item on your already impossible holiday agenda. Instead, I’d like to share with you some strategies to keep in mind while you celebrate that will allow you to feel great now…and even after the last New Year’s party is over.
Trap 1: Skipping meals
Going to a party or other food-centered occasion? Please don’t skip meals in anticipation of eating at your destination. Arriving starved will lead to poor eating decision-making and overindulgence. If you’re feeling bloated, tired, and out of sorts, especially after a celebratory event, you might be eating more than your share of sugar and other undesirable ingredients in the form of party food. Worse, a continued starve-gorge pattern can add up to weight gain by the time the new year is underway.
Don’t skip that pre-event meal. Before you go out, please remember to “eat before you eat.” Then continue to choose healthful protein and fiber every few hours to keep energy high and cravings at bay, as well as avoid digestive distress.
Trap 2: Feeling down when everyone’s up?
The holiday blues are sadly common. Special days often spark reflection on the past—though not always the happy past. And everyone else’s hectic activity and busy-ness can fuel a sense of missing out, making you feel isolated or reinforce your dissatisfaction with the here and now. Stress? Oh, yes—and that can in turn trigger secondary problems like out-of-control eating.
Be aware that, at this moment, you are yourself creating this sad and lonely reality. But you can change that mood of defeat by reawakening your self-esteem and inner strength. What people and activities best reinforce your best sense of self? Focus on those first.
And remember, this year is just about over. You can build hope with curiosity about what the new year will bring.
One final tip here: Minimize your contact with negative, bah-humbug types, and make a point of reconnecting with outgoing, upbeat friends and family instead.
Trap 3: Deplete all your resources at once
When many activities place a demand on your physical wellbeing, you face a real risk you’ll run out of steam. Dashing to parties, drinking, eating, shopping, baking, juggling tasks at work to meet end-of-year deadlines…and how many other responsibilities and interests are also attracting your attention? Your body and brain need a break, and they’re not getting it any time soon.
Keep up that breakneck pace and you’re sure to wind up overwhelmed, empty, and stressed, which is harmful to your immune system. And in addition to your physical wellbeing, your emotional self also takes a hit when activity is constant. Where is your happiness and sense of fulfillment when every bit of your mental energy is on doing, doing, doing?
Your best bet: Prioritize your activities, and then eliminate those that unnecessarily drain your reserves. Don’t wait until you’re feeling tense and desperate—take this critical step today! Which means you must avoid…
Trap 4: Not saying NO
A major energy zapper is the inability to recognize your personal limits. Sometimes, you’ve just plain had enough. Wouldn’t it be better to prevent the burn-out before it happens by turning down an(other) holiday invitation? refusing all those treats offered by home and office “food pushers”? declining that second, third…drink? sending “regrets” to parties when your schedule is already maxed out?
Of course simply declining would be better—and you owe it to yourself to do so.
Knowing and respecting your personal boundaries is essential to navigating the holiday season in a healthy, balanced way. And since the same will apply in the year ahead, this season is an ideal time to practice those skills.
Bonus tip: Saying “no” to alcohol will help you say “no” to overindulging in general. That’s a win-win.
Trap 5: Indulging in holiday treats…unreasonably
One highlight of the holiday season is surely the food…in quantity, that is—not nutritional quality. Everyone’s favorite treats—cookies, cakes, candies, chocolates (oh!)—you name it, our homes and offices are overrun with such.
You know what? Go ahead and have some. Good holiday eating isn’t about deprivation; it’s about mindfulness and balance, eating in a way that’s rewarding now as well as later. The key is, don’t overdo it. Check out the bounty before you take a bite, and then select one or two items. Remember, too much sugar now will take a toll on your energy later, not to mention increase continued sugar cravings.
Another tip: Both at home and at work, when you’re not in party mode, keep those yummy treats out of sight. That’ll help curb mindless snacking and temptation. And after the occasion, thwart further temptation by tossing or sharing any leftovers.
I encourage you to go out and enjoy yourself even as you maintain your sense of self-control—not to mention sanity!—among all the buzz and bustle. And always know that, by caring for yourself now, you’ll be heading into a brand-new calendar with more energy and wellbeing than you might have in any previous fresh new year. There’s truly no expiration date on beneficial attitudes and habits, not in ordinary daily life, and not during the holidays, either.
I wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous holiday season, and look forward to connecting with you in 2017!