Tips to stay healthy (and sane!) this Christmas
Christmas can be a time where traditions and emotions can take over and undo lots of the great healthy habits we might have had throughout the rest of the year. It really is worth the effort to stay mindful and focused during this week as so much can go in off the rails making the efforts needed in January so much greater! The key is to try to stay as mindful as you can and think ahead to how you can enjoy Christmas in a happy and healthy way. Start by having a think about your Christmas traditions to see how you can make some healthy changes. In what can often be a busy and stressful time, even small changes can really make a difference in creating a healthy Christmas.
Here are some of my tips to help you come out the other end of the holidays feeling rejuveneated and reenergized rather than bloated and exhausted!
As busy as we all are at this time of year, it is even more important to take time out, especially in the build up to Christmas. It is so easy to get carried away with the pressures of shopping and cleaning and cooking and…. that we forget what the heart of Christmas is all about. Taking just 10 minutes in the morning to sit and focus on your breath, focus on what you are grateful for and set your intention for your day can be really powerful. It will help to you get a good start to the day and from here try to stay as mindful as you can throughout your day. 10 minutes really isn’t too much to spend as as Tony Robbins (personal development guru) says “If you don’t have ten minutes to give yourself you don’t have a life!’
Try setting reminders on your phone and every time you hear them beep it is a reminder to be mindful. Apps like buddhify and headspace can be useful for this too. Or at the very least, try to remember to take a few deep breaths any time you feel yourself getting stressed and ask yourself or you worrying about the past or stressing about the future and bring yourself back to the here and now. Being present and mindful will help you make clearer and wiser decisions and take the stress out of the situation.
Think about your New Year’s resolutions early!
Rather than wait until January 1st to set your New Year’s Resolutions, take some time out now to think about what health goals you would like to achieve next year. Write them down and create a vision board around them. Doing this in December will help keep your goals fresh in your mind and be a gentle reminder to stay as healthy as you can over Christmas so you are not creating extra work for yourself come January!
When there are lots of family around it is really important to make sure you take some time out for yourself. It can help to mark out that window of time where you can keep some of your healthy daily routines going. The morning is generally the easiest time to do this as it is less likely to get railroaded by other plans. This might mean fitting your exercise in first thing in the morning, it might be making sure you have a healthy breakfast, or do your meditation or whatever healthy routines you might have in the morning. At least this way you start the day off well and will feel good that not all is lost! It also helps give you that space (that can be much needed!) from people that might not be the most uplifting to be around : )
It is seems like no matter where you turn at Christmas time, you are surrounded by food – and most often not the healthiest! It is nice to participate in social events and parties but keep the following tips in mind-
- Eat healthy food before you go so you won’t be starving when you are out and end up eating lots of food you wish you didn’t
- Watch your portion size – if you can, serve yourself or if not just ask for small portions, you can always get more if you need it.
- For Christmas dinner, try going heavy on the veg and lighter foods
- Use intention and visualisation to decide in advance of social situations what you will eat and stick with that – you can always check menus online or give the restaurant a call in advance
- Consider intermittent fasting on nights you are not going out – decide to not eat between 7pm and 7am to give your digestion a break
- Watch the alcohol – not so much for the empty calories but for the effect it has on lowering your willpower against munching on everything in sight!
Maybe try some healthier desserts for a change. However, if you are digging into Christmas pudding or cake, do it mindfully, savour and enjoy it and this way you will find you will need less than you thought.
Even if you are already a regular exerciser, routines can get thrown off over the holidays due to travel, gym hours being reduced, weather, family commitments etc. It takes more effort to get up and get out but a little creativity always helps. Consider what family activities you can do wherever you are – maybe you can hire bikes, explore new trails, do a Christmas day swim / run etc. Parkruns happen in 100 locations around Ireland and are a free 5km event every Saturday morning, suitable for all the family, so that might be worth a try. Many of them are putting on Christmas day runs too and there is also the Goal charity miles that happen around the country on Christmas day too. We do the Goal mile in my local town and I am hoping to fit in a swim in Fenit too!
How about planning a family walk/jog/cycle on Christmas day so everyone can get some exercise and fresh air. Start introducing new healthier traditions for the family – there are so many active events happening around Christmas week there is lots to choose from.
Pay attention to your emotions
Emotions are a useful guide as to whether we are grounded and aligned. If we find ourselves moving away from a place of feeling good, the key is to bring awareness to that. The more we do this the more we bring mindfulness to our moods and the more we can consciously try to change them. The key is to identify in advance what helps pull you out of a funk – for me it is exercise, music, essential oils among others but they are ones that work every time. When I start to notice my mood dip, I prioritise doing one of these things to pull me out before I start to wallow in feeling bad! It takes time but is such a worthwhile practise : )
Friends & Family
Think about the gifts you normally give and see if you can give healthier options this year. Instead of a box of chocolates how about a beautiful fresh fruit and veg hamper. This will make people think about what they give to you next year! If you want some ideas check out my previous blog on healthy Christmas gift ideas here.
We always ask Santa to consider bringing gifts that are going to encourage activity – bikes, scooters, goal sets, trampolines, helmets, rainsuits etc.
Christmas dinner itself can cause tension, especially if you are vegan or have different dietary preferences to everyone else or for numerous other reasons too! Remember to respect everyone else’s opinions and if you need some time out then take it!
Rather than visiting people at home or restaurants, arrange some fun family hikes or walks in nearby trails. You can find out what trails are in your area (or an area you might be visiting) by going to http://www.irishtrails.ie/. Nothing beats getting out in nature and fresh air after being cooped up for a day or two!
It’s also a great time to think about gratitude and random acts of kindness. It’s a perfect time of year to let others know what they mean to us and how we appreciate them. A simple kind act can help keep us focused on the love and connection that can often get lost in the busyness of Christmas.
Time with extended family can be fantastic but it can also be challenging as we often revert back to the roles we played in childhood which are often ones we have grown out of. As Ram Dass said “If you think you are enlightened go spend a week with your family!” A good mantra to help you navigate family dramas is ask yourself ‘What would love do here?’ It might not be the answer you want to hear but it will help guide you back to what is most important about the holidays and that is spreading love and light. : )
Wishing you all a very happy and healthy Christmas and every best wish for 2023.