Joy Puleo (M.A., PMA-CPT, Balanced Body Education Program Manager, and member of the LGBQT community) has put together tips to stay sane, centered and active this season, and Portia Page (Balanced Body Education Program Liaison and certified pilates instructor) will help you kick off your “New Year, New You” wellness plan.
Holidays, though a time for cheer and good will, can also be a time of stress and anxiety. Holiday dinners and parties with family and friends throw our schedules into upheaval, not to mention provide lots of temptation and indulgence in rich food and drink. Schedules are put aside, family shenanigans abound and, to top it off, evenings are spent schlepping from store to store in the elusive quest to find the perfect gifts. And make no mistake, the shortened and often cold, winter nights take a toll on our mojo.
How to remain sane, composed and active during this time is challenging. Below are tips on how staying mindful and mind+body movement can help you stay as healthy as possible.
Every moment is an opportunity to reset: You may have had too much bubbly the night before or you may have eaten too many of the holiday cookies at work, or both. There was a time when I would think, “Well, now I blew it, I might as well continue to eat and drink and worry about it after the holidays.” Give yourself permission to enjoy, but do not let the indulgences accumulate without some modulation. Every moment is a good moment to reset. After drinking the night before, wake up and have a healthy breakfast and drink lots of water and start the day fresh. Eat the cookies and, instead of beating yourself up afterwards only to dive into a chocolate cake after dinner, go to a yoga or Pilates class. Balancing indulgences with doing something healthy and nourishing will help you to keep your mental and physical equilibrium and will also help you to maintain your health and weight during the holidays.
The holidays only come once a year, but cookies are forever: The holidays bring with them cozy fires, oversized clothing and the primal desire to bake. Remember, though the butter cookies are shaped like Christmas trees and reindeer, they are still just butter cookies. Sometimes we indulge because we feel it’s such a unique treat, but the reality is, it is a butter cookie and it can be made anytime. Truly, the availability of food during the holidays combined with the winter doldrums make the cookies that mount up in the common room at work most irresistible. Instead of walking to the common room, put on your jacket and step outside for a walk. When the urge to reach mindlessly for that cookie rises, mindfully choose an alternate activity instead. Not only will this redirect your attention, but it will help you to remember that what lies beyond in the common room is just a butter cookie and has no particular magical, mystical holiday powers.
Stay mindful and check in with your body: I have not stepped on a scale in three years, except for the occasional doctor’s visit, and even then, sometimes I decline! I, like all of us, have spent the better part of my life a slave to a number. Instead of getting on the scale I take moments, preferably transitional moments, such as when I wake up, when I park the car in the parking lot at work, and when I am on my way home, to check in with how I am feeling and what I need from this next moment. In so doing, I organize my thoughts. This helps me be less reactive to my environment and, particularly during the holidays, helps me stay centered and less susceptible to whims and cravings. I also have a much better sense for how my body feels, how my cloths fit and whether or not I feel good and confident in my own skin. I am not advocating you avoid your scale during the holidays, but I am advocating that you check in with how you are feeling about yourself. You will find that how you feel about yourself is a far more accurate marker for how you are doing then any number on the scale.
Stay active doing an activity you enjoy: Keeping your perspective during the holidays is challenging as events seem to get the better of you. With that in mind, staying active is a must at this time. I know, you are thinking there is simply no time. But the reality is, being active should be a priority. Find something you enjoy doing and make it a part of your holiday schedule. Mindful activities, such as yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates and others are ideal for this time of year as they help you to stay in tune with the needs of your body. They also help you to feel strong, confident and flexible at a time when all the excess food and drink send the exact opposite message. Most importantly, staying active helps you stay emotionally and physically balanced which helps you stay centered and refocus’ your awareness internally. How nice, at a time when we are so busy thinking about everyone else, to take the time to remember yourself.
Get plenty of sleep: Sleep and exercise are finally getting the recognition they deserve as key factors to staying healthy and well. No longer is it about getting your ‘beauty’ rest or working out simply to be skinny, but it’s about sleep and exercise being the recipe for better overall health and wellbeing. As already explored, staying active is an imperative this time of year but so is getting enough sleep. Sleep provides the brain an opportunity to heal, process and support the intellectual and mental work you do all day long. Sleep also provides the body an opportunity to heal, process and support the physical work you do all day long. You shortchange your sleep and, in the long run, you will shortchange your health.
Get some Vitamin D: Instead of going to the break room for that cookie, walk outside. I know, it can be cold, but when did a little cold stop you before? Going outside for a walk will help you reset your mind and keep you active during the day. Getting outside in the sunlight will also expose you to vitamin D, which by the way is a must for your bones. An added, and often overlooked benefit, is that by drinking in the cool fresh air not only will you energize your body but you will also trigger your metabolism to bump up its calorie burning potential in an effort to keep you warm. I highly recommend that you take some time, every day, regardless of the temperature, to step outside drink in the air, who knows, you just find you are less likely to want to drink in the punch!
Never go hungry: Do not forgo breakfast and lunch before a big event. We think that if we bank our calories by not eating regularly during the day, we can enjoy ourselves more at the event. This is erroneous on many levels. Not eating at regular intervals during the day will cause a physiological cascade of events that will only serve to lower your resolve when in the presence of food. As a result, in a short period of time you will be prone to over-indulge. Make sure you eat, eat well and that you are satiated before heading to the party. This will allow you to enjoy yourself and make choices based on what you feel rather than be at the whim of what your body demands.