The holidays are a wonderful time of year to get together with friends and family, eat lots of yummy food, decorate our homes, exchange gifts and celebrate the year ahead. Sounds totally idyllic, right? But, the truth is, if you are anything like me, the holidays can also feel extremely overwhelming. I don't know if it is the change in seasons, the sun setting earlier making my day feel that much shorter, running around buying presents for everyone I know, or overindulging on all those delicious holiday meals; but I quickly become very aware of the toll it takes on my mind and my body. I feel more fatigued, more anxious, old physical symptoms start acting up and my emotional state becomes much more sensitive.
From all the years of living with chronic illness, and the knowledge I've picked up along the way since becoming a health coach, I know just how important it is to maintain balance in my life at all times, but that it's especially important during times in my life that I feel inundated with to-do lists, get-togethers, juggling schedules, etc. For me, the holiday season is definitely one of those times that my body immediately picks up on all the outer (and inner) stressors, and craves support and stability.
Here are a few of the things that I put on top of my to-do list, to help me maintain balance (and sanity!) during the holiday season:
1) "Me-time." I'm a huge advocate for self-care. It's a game changer for me. Most of us run around thinking of everything we need to do for everyone, that we forget about the most important person in our lives-ourselves. If we aren't caring for ourselves, how can we properly care for anyone else? I make sure to set aside time (even if I have to set a reminder on my phone) to ground myself. Somedays, that means allowing extra time to meditate or nap, taking a long walk, watching a sappy movie with my husband, or catching up with a old friend. Really, whatever allows me to feel like I can take a breather and re-energize my body and soul.
2) Take extra care of my home. And, by home, I mean my body. It is the place I will always live and I am solely responsible for how well (or how poorly) it functions. So why is it so easy to let self-care fall short? I continually remind myself that physical activity is important for not only my overall health, but for reducing those feelings of anxiety and depression. If I don't have time to hit the treadmill because I was holiday shopping, I take a few extra laps around the mall. I also opt to take the stairs rather than the elevator when ever possible. My husband, step-daughter and I were even recently talking about going sledding or ice-skating to make it fun for everyone. Whatever it takes to keep our bodies moving.
3) Eat grounding foods. Grounding ourselves is a way to keep our energy connected to the earth. There are several foods that create this effect in both body and spirit. I like to incorporate root vegetables such as beets, parsnips, carrots and butternut squash into our meals. We also love dark leafy greens, grown close to the ground, such as kale and collard greens. Snacking on nuts, and adding Celtic sea salt to meals also creates this effect. Everyone has different preferences, so it is helpful to play around and see what works best for our bodies.
4) Hydrate. I feel like I am constantly telling my loved ones that they need to drink more water. Daily hydration (regardless of time of year) is vitally important to our overall health. And, like I tell my 16 year-old, "Don't think you are fooling your body when you suddenly realize at 8pm that you haven't had any water so you start chugging a few glasses." As a gauge, I drink half of my body weight in ounces in water. For example, if you weigh 128 lbs, you would drink 64 oz (or 8 glasses) through out the day. I carry a 16-oz water bottle with rubber bands on it. Every time I fill the water bottle, I remove a rubber band. It helps me stay aware of how much I drink and to keep on schedule.
5) Ask for help. I know, this one may be the hardest step of all. It is human nature to lean on and support our loved ones-yet asking for it can feel extremely difficult. It took me a long time to get to the point of being able to ask for help, rather than resent someone for not being able to read my mind and know exactly what I needed with out me telling them. As soon as I stopped being afraid to ask for help when I felt overwhelmed, I was able to notice how quickly that feeling of being out-of-control, turned into feeling calmer and more balanced.
6)Practice gratitude. Yup, I'm a gratitude girl. I have a gratitude jar in our home that we all slip post-its in when we are feeling grateful. Every night before bed I lay with my hand on my chest and go over every single thing about that day that I am feeling grateful for-starting with the fact that I woke up. The more we are grateful for all we have, the more we attract into our lives. Taking time each day, no matter how crazy I may feel, and reflecting upon all the things, big and small, that I've experienced literally turns my mood right around.
These are the things that personally help me to get through stressful times in my life. Yours may look slightly different. The most important thing I've learned is to listen to that inner voice inside ourselves that is always trying to tell us what it needs. We just need to remember to take the time to listen.
Wishing you all the happiest of holidays and a very healthy new year!