CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — The holiday season that spans from November through early January is a wonderful time of year where the focus is on family, friends, and often delicious food and drink. But after all this festiveness, January can often bring the post-holiday blues. To avoid this January slump, take a little time now to think about what is important to you and your overall well-being for the long term. Start by practicing better self-care during holidays.
With national and religious holidays that either focus on foods or have many food-based traditions, it can be easy to overeat during this season. Turkey, pies, sugar and butter cookies, latkes, and eggnogs will surely be around this time of year. These celebratory foods and drinks are a way of marking the season and showing our loved ones we care. While these foods and drinks taste good at the moment, they are high in fat, sugar, and/or sodium and can leave us feeling sluggish in the days after we eat them. Our digestion can be disrupted, and our healthy routines can get off course.
Some common holiday obstacles and some creative solutions to overcome them this season.
This is the most common challenge during the holiday season. While you do not need to avoid your favorite holiday treats entirely, it is a good idea to moderate your intake. You could think about your favorite few dishes and focus on enjoying those instead of loading your plate with every option from the buffet. Instead of deprivation, focus on healthy additions. Start the day with a healthy breakfast of whole grain oatmeal and fresh fruit for healthy fiber and vitamins. If you plan to host a celebration with family or friends, consider serving nutrient-dense appetizers such as a vegetable platter with a dip made from Greek yogurt.
Too much alcohol
Drinking too much can lead to poor judgment, feeling flooded with emotions, depression, or other health problems. It can be hard to say no to another glass of wine when others are indulging. If you choose to drink alcohol, be sure to drink twice as much water between each drink. This will help to keep you hydrated as well as slowing down your consumption. If you would prefer not to drink but do not like being left with only water or kids’ drinks as an option, a “mocktail” could be a welcome option. You can create a celebratory drink that is alcohol-free and lower in calories while still feeling festive and enjoying the moment.
Increased sedentary time
While most of us like to sit down to a football game after Thanksgiving dinner, it is easy to get stuck indoors in the cooler months. Instead of creating a new dent in the sofa, try to create some new family traditions. Take a winter hike or have a family ice skating trip. Have a holiday craft night where the activity is making ornaments or small gifts instead of baking and eating cookies. Go for a post-meal walk to admire your neighbors’ holiday decorations. There are many ways to be active and festive and enjoy the outdoors even in the winter months.
Not enough time for yourself
Having so much time dedicated to family and creating a festive atmosphere can be overwhelming and we may find ourselves exhausted at the end of the holiday season. Even with the spirit of giving in the air, we can be generous with ourselves and allow small windows of time to reflect with gratitude on the beautiful gifts in our lives. Do not feel bad about declining an invite to a party if you need a little quiet time for yourself. Pay attention to the signals your children are sending. They could be feeling overwhelmed as well and modeling healthy boundaries is a great way to show them how to manage situations that can become overstimulating.
By incorporating even a few of these strategies, you will arrive in the new year ready to continue your healthy behaviors rather than starting all over from square one. Building on small behavior changes for the long run will help you accomplish your overall wellness goals throughout the year. Wishing you a festive, safe, and healthy holiday season.
–Jennifer Onopa, Penn State Extension