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How to Get Through the Holidays Feeling A Little Less Stressed

Published in Weight Management, For the Health of It, Healthy Eating Tips Author: Michelle Lee, Exercise Physiologist and Coach, Lifestyle Health

Keeping up with the demands of the holidays can be stressful and this can cause higher levels of cortisol, which is a hormone that is released in response to stress. Chronic high cortisol levels can cause weight gain and also has been linked to greater food intake. Because there are more unhealthy foods in our environment and our schedules tend to be busier at Christmas, controlling our stress levels is important. Here are some ideas to guide you to a more peaceful holiday season.

Take care of you

The holiday season is supposed to be a happy time, but we recognize that there are also a lot of emotional stressors that can make us feel overwhelmed. As hard as this might be, don’t forget to sleep and take some time for yourself. Sleep deprivation can interfere with hunger and fullness cues which can have an impact on overall food intake. Another important self-care strategy is to add purposeful movement into your day. Even if it isn’t structured exercise, activity can have a positive impact on your mental well-being. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention laughter, since it is “the season to be jolly!” Laughter goes a long way in the fight against stress.

Focus on people and not the food

Remember that holiday parties and social gatherings are a time to get together with loved ones and friends. Get into the spirit of Christmas and focus on nurturing relationships and making memories. Recognize that the food doesn’t need to be the center of attention, instead focus on the treasures you have surrounding you.

Plan ahead

Planning ahead can go a long way in protecting your weight throughout the holidays. Read Haleigh Strokel’s blog post about Handling Holiday Eating.

Practice mindful eating

So, what is mindfulness? Mindfulness is about observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself. Mindfulness can be a lifelong approach to healthier eating. Let’s break it down in more detail. Mindless eating is a symptom of the fast, treadmill-like pace of life. Whereas, mindful eating is developing a close relationship with your mind. Mindful eating also will allow you to become more familiar with what you are thinking and feeling and less reactive to emotions, thoughts and possible food cravings. Challenge yourself to slow down when eating and heighten your awareness to savor the appearance, texture and taste. Does the food taste as good as expected? Are you eating out of stress, boredom or reward?

Stop with the food rules and end the restriction cycle

Focus on the healthy eating habits that you have been adopting and give yourself permission to enjoy some of your favorite foods without the guilt — which can be a powerful trigger for overeating. Giving yourself the ability to enjoy food and avoid the restriction over-eating cycle, allows you to take the power back from the food. So, go ahead and enjoy!

When there are so many things that are competing for your attention throughout this holiday season, prioritizing some peacefulness can help you stay connected to yourself and attuned to your body needs.

Make this Christmas more enjoyable! Safe travels to you and your families!