By Zara Seligson, Nutritionist
The holiday season can be a mixed blessing. A time of celebration, love, gratitude, reflection and major stressors that disrupt our daily routines and trigger our deepest patterns. I think many people are familiar with going through this time of year in a certain way. Assuming and accepting that they are going to get less sleep, less exercise, less healthy food and less self-care than they would want or normally make time for, with the mind-set that they will deal with those affects in the New Year. Commonly by making unbalanced or unrealistic new years resolutions that tax the body and aren’t sustainable. It is normalized to let a lot of what we’ve worked very hard for inside our self and in our health throughout the year fall by the wayside. This can set us up for major set backs in our health and emotional well-being as well as having us start the new year at a deficit. What if you could go through the last months of the year in a way that would have you arriving in the New Year feeling like you were more refreshed, that you had truly connected with the people you share this season with, and like you had made maintained or even made progress with your personal and health goals? What would it look like to arrive in the New Year not playing catch up?
This article is in no way discouraging people from enjoying and indulging in the season. There are a lot of delicious things that come around this time of year from food, to presents, to old flames (for the unmarried, certain generation)…
And, I am saying there is a way to do it that doesn’t set us back for the first weeks or months of the New Year. I am saying there is a way to go through this time of year in a way that values all the work we have done throughout the rest of the year, while actually enjoying it. When we are listening to and honoring our own needs we are in touch with ourselves. And when we are in touch with ourselves we are able to connect even more with loved ones and with the spirit of this time of year. Regardless of religious, spiritual, or cultural orientation.
The three major things I see people let slide are their food sensitivities, their need for time to themselves, and their sleep health. Three areas that can have a major affect on digestive, cognitive, hormonal and emotional health. It is a choice and a commitment to continue to honor, stick with, and make space for the practices that help us feel healthy and clear inside ourselves during this time of year. It is definitely going against the grain. If we make space for these things throughout the rest of the year, why would we discard them during the holidays? Self-care or daily practices don’t have to take all day. It is about identifying what you need, what would be helpful for you, and then making space for it. It can be 10 minutes in the morning to your self to meditate, stretch, drink tea or take some deeps breaths. It can mean leaving a party early to get more sleep. I believe we can make this time of year an integrated part of our life, in the sense that we incorporate the practices and views we have the whole rest of the year into this time as well. A great place to start is to pick one or two areas or intentions. Such as maintaining your way of eating as best you can during the holidays, making time to exercise, or making space to meditate every morning before you start your day. It can be something very simple that helps you stay connected to yourself with so much other energy and influences around.
A few ways I do this in my own life and recommend others to try are:
- Finding alternatives to favorite holiday desserts and dishes based on your food allergies, sensitivities, intolerances or preferences. Think stuffing with gluten free bread crumbs, corn bread or wild rice. Naturally sweetening desserts, and using dairy free creamers, milks, ice creams etc. There are so many “free” recipes out there- check epicurious.com, food52.com, and mynewroots.org for many inspiring and healthy options.
- Bring a favorite dish, dessert or alcohol free beverage to dinners, gatherings and parties. This is a way to guarantee you have something to eat or sip on and a great way to share something that can be a tricky topic sometimes.
- Share why you aren’t eating or doing something in a way that is non-judgmental and about taking responsibility for you choices. “I’m finding it to be really helpful for (fill in the blank)” “This is really working for me” “I love sleep!”
- If you do eat something that you’re more sensitive too, try to only have a little, drink a lot of water and herbal tea after, take probiotics, exercise the next day, and be very mindful of the snowball affect of continuing to eat those things.
- Balance going out to see people with needing time for yourself. Taking time to reflect on the end of the year, and to take advantage of the days off to rest and stick to your sleep rhythms as best you can. This might mean not saying yes to every invitation that comes your way. How do you really want to spend your time? And with whom? Say yes to those things, and fully enjoy them.
- Invite out of town friends and family for hikes at favorite places to get outside, exercise and have another option to environments such as bars or the common, “lets grab a drink and catch up” (being someone who doesn’t drink alcohol this is a way to keep in touch and connect with people in a very genuine way, without compromising myself, and most people are super happy and excited to be out in nature on their vacation)
I am proposing that we all give ourselves the gift of honoring our health and our self during this upcoming holiday season. By continuing with, and incorporating more of the things that preserve, enhance and advance our goals of well being, we have the chance to arrive in the New Year more grounded, more centered, more clear in body and mind, and more available to enter the next chapter that is there for all of us.