Every house on your block is lit up 14 ways to the North Pole and back. The tinsel fairy vomited all over your living room, and your kids are one step away from getting scratched from Santa’s “nice” list. There’s no sense in denying it any longer: the holidays are here.
Holiday prep can be stressful, even for the jolliest of elves. I know what you’re thinking: how is it even possible to spend time with your loved ones without feeling the urge to cover yourself in soot and hide out in the chimney? It wouldn’t be the holidays if they didn’t make you feel inadequate as you head into the New Year.
Fret not, friends. Now that we’re in the thick of holiday cheer, you don’t have to bury your head in the snow. Here are five reminders that will help you move forward with glee and maybe even melt away some of the pounds that keep creeping up after one too many shots of eggnog:
1 Stay Hydrated
This is the time of year when every office in America is full of treats: candy canes, cupcakes, hot cocoa, oh my! Every person from your boss to your assistant is bringing in delicious holiday treats to share. They’re thinking, “the more, the merrier!” You’re thinking, “Get out of my belly!” But you’ve got to be a little preemptive around the holidays. Think long and hard before you grab a handful of caramel corn when you walk into the break room. Grab that trusty 32-ounce tumbler that you bought during last year’s New Year’s Resolution challenge, and fill that bad boy up with ice cold water and a sprig of mint. Then guzzle it down before you walk the path of certain doom (the break room). Most people are dehydrated anyway, and the holidays make it worse. Focusing on proper hydration is great not only for your skin, but for your stomach, which seems to need a reminder that it’s not actually hungry just because there’s a bowl of white chocolate pretzels on your assistant’s desk. Every time someone says “truffles,” think “water.” Ensuring adequate water intake is an excellent habit that will take you well on your way to meeting your New Year’s resolutions.
2 Balance your food choices.
Being healthy during the holidays doesn’t mean you have to avoid treats completely. Simply try balancing out the delicacies with healthy food choices. Instead of gorging on a double scoop of macaroni salad at your clients’ holiday luncheon, treat your body to a generous serving of greens (dressing on the side) and allow yourself a small appetizer if you’re still hungry. You might want to increase your protein intake, too, during the holidays—particularly if your shopping list requires three trips around the Mall of America. These habits will not only help you stay healthy as you head into the New Year. They will reduce any feeling of guilt after making poor food choices, which can lower your stress immeasurably.
3 Skip the drama.
Family gatherings, no matter how much we love them, inevitably involve a dose of drama. Whether it’s your tipsy Aunt Betty who stopped in at the last minute, or your kids who are arguing over who stuck their finger in the cheese ball, drama happens—especially during this time of year. Sometimes the only way to avoid it is to have a backup plan the minute you suspect it’s coming. Having a fitness hobby is a great escape plan. If you’re a runner, making an abrupt announcement (“I need to go for a run!”) is one healthy way of excusing yourself from an impending family meltdown. It’s genius, guys. If you’re not into running, how about joining a local gym and taking up yoga? Ice skating and swimming are great, too, because no one can really blame you for taking steps to reduce the stress. These new fitness habits will not only reduce your stress, but they will give you hope and focus for the upcoming year. Start now, and you may find that you’re signing up for 2017 road races and Tough Mudder events in no time. Avoiding the drama AND getting a head start on your New Year’s resolutions: win-win.
4 Release the gift-giving pressure.
We all fall victim to the pressure to come up with the perfect gift for everyone on our list. Trust me: Not every gift is going down in the annals of history. You’ve got to see this pressure like the balloon it is, and let the air out of your expectations. Your kids? They know you love them. They don’t need to have the biggest and best of everything: the latest iPhone, the coolest skateboard, etc. As adults, we put so much pressure on ourselves to be “on” all the time: when we’re at work; at social gatherings; and even, at the gym. Take some time to exhale during the holidays. Try speaking a different love language this year by coming up with some non-material gifts this year: volunteer as a family at a local food bank, or focus on “experiential” gifts, like seeing a play or spending a day at an ice rink together. Spending time together is the true gift of the holiday season. And it’s an attitude that will serve you well, year-round. If money is tight and time is limited in your household, like it is for most families, ease up on the usual expectations. Your loved ones will notice a difference and you’ll be amazed at how easily your family members follow suit, improving the holiday spirit and even your post-holiday life by leaps and bounds.
5 Back off on the booze.
Most people can responsibly enjoy a holiday cocktail or three during the season without any problem. But it’s easy to take things a little too far and fall into a feeling of shame and regret after you’ve had a few too many hot toddies. Why not back off a little bit on the bourbon this season, and instead choose calories that will nourish you? Once you decide this is a season for good habits, you will feel less stressed, and you might realize you don’t even need alcohol to relax. Alcohol tends to dehydrate us, as well as disrupt our sleep and lead to unwanted weight gain. Make a vow to avoid the vodka this season, and instead, reach for a healthy seltzer spritzer, or maybe just some fruit-infused water. This is a habit that will serve you well, year round, and you’ll find some of those pesky pounds magically falling away—even without much effort.
Holidays don’t have to be a source of struggle and distress. If you can take a deep breath and focus on a few healthy habits, you’re bound to keep the true meaning of the season alive in your heart. Enjoy this precious time with friends and family—yes, even mothers-in-law—knowing that you can slip out any time “for a run” (aka: sanity break). You’ll be feeling good about the here and now and getting ready to make some positive changes for yourself in 2017.
Melissa does all of this from her heiferhood in sunny Phoenix, where her husband, teenagers and two crazy puppies remind her that we're all a little happier in a herd.