Start with 1 cup of planning and preparation
Mix in a dash of spontaneity
Add 2 scoops of service & outward focus
Season with a sprinkling of gratitude
Blend in 4 tablespoons of regular exercise
Garnish with liberal amounts of rest and relaxation
The holidays can be a season that makes us rejuvenated and refreshed. It can also be a season that leaves us frazzled and exhausted- feeling like we need a holiday to recover from our holiday! Here is a recipe to help you make your holidays a time to enjoy, that your health and wellness will not get neglected but will improve from your time of celebration!
1 cup of planning and preparation. Santa makes a list and checks it twice. If you want your holiday to go well, you should too! Making a plan can save extra trips to the mall and reduce unnecessary stress which takes a toll on our mental health and holiday cheer! It can also help the family members to get on the same page, so there are not mis-matched expectations of how the holidays will go- with one family member planning joint shopping sprees and the visiting of relatives while another family member is expecting time on the couch to watch sports or Christmas movies. It really helps to plan ahead- to think through what times in the holiday one's "health routine" might suffer. There may be parties that will lead to over-eating or excess drinking. There may be times staying with relatives that will involve sleeping on couches or uncomfortable guest beds. Routine will be interrupted, and this can play havoc with habits from exercise to remembering to floss our teeth! If we think through how things will go, while we are not "in the moment", we can have a greater influence on the outcome. There is nothing wrong with deciding to eat some extra Christmas goodies or enjoy a cup of holiday cheer, but planning how much to imbibe before the event can help you stay safe and healthier. If you have a "buddy" with whom you can share your plan, it makes it even easier to follow as you hold one another accountable! If you are going to visit relatives over-night, bringing your own pillow (if possible) can help you enjoy a better sleep. Use that packing list to make sure your vitamin pills and tooth brush joins you on your trip.
a dash of spontaneity. As said previously, there is nothing wrong with going outside your usual routine if that is something that you would like to do! If your life is usually quite scheduled, allowing yourself some down time when you can do whatever the mood strikes you can be quite rejuvenating. There can be a temptation to pack the holidays with events and gatherings. If this will leave you exhausted so that you look forward to returning to work in the New Year, you might want to re-think the planning and allow for some free time!
several measures of service and outward focus. The holidays are a tremendous time to be outward focused- whether it is volunteering for an organized charity or inviting an elderly neighbour over for some holiday cheer. Unfortunately, because it is a busy time of year, the opportunities to be outward focused can get squeezed out. This goes back to the planning and preparation section- think about what you would like your holiday to be like! We all know that we are happier when we are not "selfishly inward focused". We are healthier then too! According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, "Research demonstrates that volunteering leads to better health." A study by Brown (et al) in 2005 showed that those who gave social support to others had lower rates of mortality than those who did not. Volunteer activities can strengthen the social ties that protect individuals from isolation during difficult times, while the experience of helping others leads to a sense of greater self-worth and trust. A study in 2002 showed individuals suffering from chronic pain experienced declines in their pain intensity and decreased levels of disability and depression when they began to serve as peer volunteers for others also suffering from chronic pain. (Arnstein et al., 2002). This past weekend was busy for our family. I organized a Nativity play at our church- rehearsing a children's choir and outfitting 30 kids in costumes. Sunday morning was successful, fun and tiring! Sunday afternoon I had been scheduled to lead a Christmas Carol sing-a-long at a Seniors Home as that was the only time that would work, and I wondered if I would have the stamina? I was pleased to find that the visit with the residents energized me, and I felt more refreshed by serving them than by the Sunday afternoon nap I had envisioned after the play.
a sprinkling of gratitude. If you look back at our blog post from Thanksgiving, you will see an outline of the health benefits of gratitude. The holiday season is a time where we receive gifts, and advertisers work very hard to tell us all the many things that we need and how our lives are not complete because of what we lack. Taking stock of our blessings can help us fight the temptation to buy more, or to focus on what we don't have and wallow in discontent.
4 tablespoons of regular exercise. It doesn't look like we will be shovelling any snow over the holidays, so we will have to find another way to work off those Christmas cookies! While it is okay to break routine a little, it is important for our health and energy levels to still be active. If we are doing regular stretching, (which we should!), the lack of routine in the holidays can make us forget. Also, it may be a good time to start thinking about the New Year and planning an exercise routine we would like to do in January. Sign up for our "All About Fitness" workshop next month!
liberal amounts of rest and relaxation. We are in a fast paced society. It is important to enjoy some down-time over the holidays and recharge our batteries. If we already have sleep issues, we may not want to oversleep in the mornings, as that can make night-times harder to get to sleep. Instead, if this is an issue, get up at your usual time in the morning but allow for some afternoon naps (of a controlled length) and get some exercise after the nap. Plan to get an appointment at our office over the holidays, as it will help to release patterns of stress when we are out of the routine, and you will get a better overall rest.
However you choose to spend your time, we wish you a safe, happy and healthy holiday!