Surviving the holidays for many people is, if not a literal challenge, a spiritual one. If you’re like me, you love the holiday season but instead of it being the most wonderful time of the year, it’s the most stressful. This year, my goal is to come out the other side of the holiday season not only with my sanity preserved but my physical health and mental state of mind actually better than before. And here’s how I’m doing it…

Keep in mind some of these tips will be an example of “do as I say, not as I do.” Let me explain…

You see, for my first tip, on some days, there’s no way I can do it. My first strategy for surviving and thriving during the holidays: take micro stress-management breaks. So why can’t I do that on some days? 

As an emergency department nurse practitioner (NP) in a hospital, I don’t have the luxury of being able to Zen out in the break room. I’m on the go-go-go for a 12-hour or longer shift. Hopefully, you don’t have a stressful job but even if you do, you can always take deep breaths to calm your nervous system down. 

Holiday Health Tip #1: Practice Deep Breathing 

On days when I’m not working at the hospital, I can manage the stress of being a mom of 4 by escaping to an unused room in the house, having my wonderful husband watch the kids and meditate. 

I realize that meditation to some people is some foreign, exotic, or maybe even strange religious rite of passage. But meditation doesn’t have to have a religious tone and it doesn’t have to be all New Agey foo-foo stuff. 

All you need to do is breathe deeply 10 times or so and the results will be profound. To practice deep breathing, get comfortable any way you like, inhale through your nose to a count of 4 or 5 and let it go for the same amount of time. 

That’s all you have to do. Study after study supports deep breathing for all kinds of health benefits. For instance, this research concludes that deep breathing induces an effective improvement in mood and stress parameters, such as heart rate and salivary cortisol levels.

But if you feel exhausted and lack motivation, taking that first breath will be the most difficult part of the journey. If you’re feeling stuck, a new you starts with a complimentary 30 minute discovery call

Holiday Health Tip #2: 3 Short Walks A Day 

With more and more people working from home these days, sitting all day has become the new smoking. One complaint I hear a lot from my health coaching clients is that they don’t have the two hours it takes to go to the gym, workout for an hour and get all sweaty, take a shower, change and hop back in the car. Nope, there’s lunches and dinners to make, houses to clean, soccer practices, food shopping to do … it never ends. 

But the good news is that the research shows that doing a few shorter bouts of exercise is just as good for health, if not better. In fact, a study in an obesity journal concludes, “Short-bouts of exercise may enhance exercise adherence and also enhance weight loss and produce similar changes in cardiorespiratory fitness when compared to long-bouts of exercise.”

Hopefully after reading that, you’re inspired to be more active and won’t make excuses. But there is one excuse I wouldn’t blame you for making. Many people think that exercise means the same thing as high-intensity cardio, squats, deadlifts and other forms of torture. 

From now on, I want you to replace the word exercise with “movement.” So the goal is not to exercise more, it’s to get your booty moving more. Take a few short walks around your neighborhood. Or put some fun, funky music on and dance for a few minutes. 

To some people, exercise is like a dirty four-letter word. Replace it with another 4-letter word: MOVE. 

Moving more often during the day improves blood flow and just makes you feel all-around happier. 

Surviving The Holidays Tip #3: Eat More Real Food, Snack Less

Many people get sick this time of year and it’s not just because of the cold weather. Stress is a major factor in winter holiday season illnesses. And one major stressor to the body is sugar

Sugar weakens the immune system. Eating processed foods with added sugars basically sends your immune system into a coma for several hours. 

So to cut down on your snacking on empty calories, here’s what I want you to do:

  1. Eat larger main meals. Eating a turkey sandwich with a little lettuce and tomato on white bread won’t cut it. Instead, fill your belly with whole grains, lean protein and a little healthy dietary fat. 
  2. Stop eating and drinking anything with calories by 8 p.m. Then go at least 12 hours until you break your fast. 
  3. Break your fast with a veggie drink. 
  4. If you do need a snack, eat a handful of berries and nuts/seeds. 
  5. Try to eat only real food. If it’s in a box and the ingredients label is the longest thing you’ve read all day and you can’t pronounce some of the ingredients, don’t buy it and don’t eat it. 

I realize it’s difficult to go at it alone. That’s why I’m here for you. Schedule your 30 minute discovery session with me now. 

Happy holidays!

Jenna Witt, NP