Make Your Holiday Healthy By Managing Holiday Stress

Family at the dinner table at the Thanksgiving day.

You might feel pressured not to admit it amidst all the cheer, but let’s be frank: Holidays can be stressful. Whether it’s buying gifts, dealing with unruly relatives or resisting cravings, the hype can leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Fortunately, you can stay both healthy and happy during the holiday season by mastering these common seasonal challenges.

Nothing will make you crabbier than an over-full stomach and a large dose of guilt about what you just ate. The good news is that you can indulge in your holiday favorites without overindulging.  Rather than munching absentmindedly on appetizers and snacks, make yourself a sampler plate all at once with one or two bites each of your favorite things. That way you will be able to keep track of how much you are eating, and you’ll get a variety of foods that will satisfy all your taste buds. When it comes to dinner, fill a large portion of your plate with healthy foods like salads and veggies so you can still enjoy the taste of mashed potatoes and turkey without gulping down calories.

Skipping sugary, caloric drinks like eggnog, alcohol and soda is also a great way to save your calories for special foods you get only once a year. Also consider a pre-dinner (or morning after) run or family football game. Extra exercise won’t just flood you with feel-good endorphins, it’ll also burn calories, zapping away pounds and guilt.

Family Relationships
Most everyone has relative or two they wouldn’t miss at group gatherings, but don’t let it make you dread family time altogether. If you have a relative or family friend you haven’t spoken to in a while or have had trouble with in the past, try giving him or her a call a couple weeks before the holidays to check in and say hello. This can help break the ice and will make it less tense when you see each other at the dinner table.

Traditions shouldn’t be divisive. If there are some traditions that seem to be driving a wedge between family members, be open to changing them or starting whole new ones.

Hosting can be overwhelming, to say the least. If you’re going to be cooking at your house, decide in advance who will help you cook and who will help clean. If you can, try giving yourself a break either during the cooking process or the cleaning process so you get to socialize too. Preparing food a day or two in advance and keeping it in the fridge can also give you a head start, as can ordering (healthy!) food for takeout from a restaurant.

If people are staying in your house, be clear about house rules and preferences from the get go. Don’t be shy about posting signs asking people to remove their shoes at the door, or wipe down counters after use. It’s okay to delegate some of your hosting duties to others. Take some time for yourself every day that you have visitors by going on a walk or spending some time reading or napping in your room.

Gifts and Finances
Don’t let the holidays drain your bank account. Before the season starts, make a holiday budget and stick to it. Ask your friends and family what they want, rather than spending valuable time and money on something they’ll never use (similarly, include gift receipts in the package and promise no hard feelings if they want to exchange). If you have a big family, consider arranging gift exchanges or Secret Santa instead of buying a gift for every single person – and don’t be afraid to decide together on a price limits for gifts. Factor in the cost of holiday food and decorations, too, and rotate who buys big ticket items like the turkey each year.