The holiday season: make it healthy, meaningful and memorable

For many years, I greeted December and the upcoming holiday season with both anticipation and trepidation. I looked forward to time with family and friends, but more or less dreaded the “holiday hoopla” that seemed to cover the month from start to finish.

While some people are quite happy with making it a month of indulgence, often adopting a “the more the merrier” approach when it comes to office parties, get-togethers, food, wine, gifts, etc., it’s often a time of year where expectations fall short, healthy lifestyle routines take a back seat, tempers flare, colds and flu find their way into busy households, anxiety and depression take hold, and many wind up completely exhausted by the time they ring in the New Year.

To make this busy time of year more manageable and more meaningful, I’ve adopted a few tips and tricks that work like magic. I hope they’ll work for you too.

Avoid over indulgence. Period. More food, more wine. More shopping. More gifts. More parties. “More” won’t make you happier or healthier. The solution is quite simple. Learn to say NO and don’t feel guilty.

Manage your calendar. Whether on your own, with your partner, or as a family, schedule and plan only as many gatherings as you can agree to. Schedule time for yourself, your partner, and as a family to ensure you’re not shortchanging the people you want to be with most.

Be active. Whether or not you exercise regularly (and you should by the way), a little physical activity every day will benefit your physical and mental health. If you exercise regularly, keep up your routine. If you can’t make it to the gym or do things as you normally would (kids on break from school for example) then switch up your usual activity for another one – swimming or skating with the kids perhaps? If physical activity isn’t exactly top of your list, put it there and follow through. Even a brisk daily walk around the neighbourhood for half an hour counts and offers terrific health benefits.

Make time for yourself. It’s not selfish to carve out 30 minutes of “me” time each day over the holiday season. If you don’t make it happen, nobody else will. Go ahead and soak in the tub, paint your nails, read a book, enjoy a hot cup of tea, or meditate. You deserve at least 30 minutes of self-care a day.

Volunteer. The great work done by charitable organizations in your community could be greater still if you pledged a few hours of time to help out.

Watch what you eat. Do you really need that side plate full of cookies? Do you really want to feel sluggish after that second glass of wine? What about that enormous portion of food being heaped onto your plate? Before you eat or drink this month, take 10 second to ask yourself if you need it, want it, or if it’s the healthiest choice you could make. If you do this, at least nine out of 10 times, you’ll make a better choice that might include loading your side plate with fresh veggies and hummus, enjoying sparkling water, or asking for or serving yourself a more reasonable portion of food. Don’t deprive yourself. Do eat and drink mindfully.

Stick to your sleep routine. The occasional late night probably won’t hurt, but sticking to your sleep schedule will leave you feeling refreshed and better able to cope throughout the season. Want an even better night’s sleep? Don’t eat or drink a thing for three to four hours prior to going to bed.

Connect and disconnect: Not everyone has someone to share the season with. For some, there are no family get-togethers, parties, festive buffets, gifts, or people to talk, laugh and make memories with. We all know someone who is lonely, in pain, or sick. Connecting with these individuals will brighten the season for you and for them. But when it comes to your phone, disconnect as often and for as long as you can. Be present with those you cherish – your time together is the greatest gift of all.