Whether you love them, hate them or are somewhere in between, it’s clear that the holidays can be really stressful and they can derail your plans for staying healthy. And this year may be even more so—or at least different. After almost three years of isolation, working from home and curbing travel, it seems like the gates have burst open and we’re stepping out again. Getting back to the office, hopping on a flight, eating out and being in crowded spaces again can feel overwhelming and like a new adventure at the same time.
So while the holidays this year may feel a little bit different, there are still a number of easy things that you can do to keep your health on track. Did I mention easy? Here are some of my favorites:
- Acknowledge that the holidays can be stressful and give yourself permission to take it easy. This may mean giving yourself permission to skip a social event that you really don’t want to attend, taking a much-needed yoga class or allowing yourself quiet time to just read or meditate. Gift giving can multiply the stress, both on your mental health and your budget. Think about setting monetary limits on gift items, making your own or giving coupons for outings or services you’ll fulfill during the coming year. Sometimes just recognizing how stressful this time of year can be and cutting yourself some slack can be immensely helpful (and healthy!)
- The holidays are also an invitation to go overboard on eating and drinking. Plan ahead so you don’t arrive hungry to an event, and pace yourself at the appetizer table. And if you’re drinking adult beverages, drink a glass of water between every cocktail to keep you hydrated and avoid being hungover. And it goes without saying, don’t drive home.
- Your regular exercise routine is more important now than ever. It will help control stress and keep your attention on your physical well-being, even if you’ve been overdoing it in other ways. Trust me; you’ll just feel better overall.
- A lot of socializing, holiday food and late nights make the need to get good sleep even more important. Make it a goal to get between 7 and 9 hours when you can. Know that drinking alcohol can mess with the quality of your sleep. And while there’s really no such thing as catching up on lost sleep, an afternoon nap, when possible, never hurts.
- Don’t give up on your regular health routines. Floss your teeth, put your medications by your toothbrush and set reminders for any other health habits that are important to you. Also, if you’re taking herbal supplements that we’ve prescribed, make sure you have enough to get you through the holidays. Let us know if you need a refill.
- If you’re traveling during the holidays, know that it carries its own kind of stress. You’re not sleeping in your bed, eating your usual foot or setting your own schedule. Try to keep what routines you can while you’re on the road (again, set reminders), and plan for a couple of days of recovery when you get home.
- Build in time for natural treatments that will keep you healthy through the holidays. Acupuncture can help with stress, boost your immunity, support your digestion and treat other health issues you may be having. Naturopathic medicine can help in a number of ways, including getting your nutrition on track, weeding out toxicities and supporting your overall health through assessment and supplementation. A therapeutic massage is not just therapeutic, it also feels really good. Your massage therapist can address your aches and pains, stress, muscle spasms and back issues. Consider any of these health treatments a gift to yourself.
Finally, remember that the holidays are a special time, and that they only come once a year. They will end and you’ll be facing January trying to put your routine back together. Or not. If you’ve kept your health habits in place and not gone completely overboard with the holiday “spirit”, your plan for January may involve only a few tweaks. Either way, January is coming and your chances for success in achieving new goals are greater if you’ve spent some time planning for them in advance.
Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.