Try this unique approach to staying balanced during the holiday season
Do a quick Google search of ways to stay healthy during the holidays, and you’ll get about 40,400,000 results. While many of these lists offer good advice, they focus on behaviors we should or shouldn’t do, such as avoiding overeating or staying physically active, and feel more like commands than advice.
When it comes down to it, these lists can be hard to follow when life gets busy during the holidays and you start feeling stressed or find yourself face to face with a tempting treat.
This year, I’d like to offer another way to think about staying healthy during the holidays that tunes more into how you want to feel and less into what you think you “should” be doing. Ultimately, focusing on how you want to feel and choosing to do things that support that feeling is much more motivating and sustainable.
First, take some time to think about how you would like to feel during the holidays this year. It can be helpful to paint a mental picture and choose words that represent that picture. Don’t overthink it – just start writing down words as they pop into your mind. Here’s a list to give you a little inspiration, but choose words that are meaningful to you:
Now go back through your list and pick the two or three that are most important. These words are the basis for how you make decisions during the upcoming months. When you decide to do (or not do) something, think about whether or not that action supports how you want to feel.
This process can also help you set up your non-negotiables, which are actions you need to make a priority in order to feel your best. Chances are, you already know what these actions are from experience, but they could be things like making sure you have time alone to relax, getting enough sleep at night or getting some type of physical activity every day. Many of these actions can be found on the healthy holiday lists, but now we’re looking at them a little bit differently. Instead of things that we feel like we should do, they now become actions that support our health and happiness.
Here’s an example to show you how to work through this process. Let’s say I chose energized, connected and present as the words I want to describe how I go through the holidays. I know from experience that eating healthy foods and getting physical activity help energize me and also manage my stress, so those are two of my non-negotiables. When I’m at my house, I make healthy meals and go for a walk every day. When I visit my parents for Thanksgiving, I feel connected with my family at the dinner table and enjoy recipes that have been passed down from my great-grandparents without any guilt. After eating, instead of all sitting down on the couch, I suggest we take the dogs for a walk. Making small decisions to support my health and well-being means I can enjoy the holidays and still feel good.
The holidays are a time that can be stressful for many. Instead of focusing on what you should or shouldn’t do this year, my challenge for you is to focus on how you ideally want to feel and make decisions that will support you.
About the Author
Sarah Sommer is the wellness coordinator at the Advocate BroMenn Health & Fitness Center in Bloomington, IL. She completed her MPH at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana with a concentration in health behavior and promotion. Sarah enjoys helping people define what health and wellness means to them and supporting them during their journey.