'Tis the season to eat all the foods, enjoy all the parties and indulge in all things. That’s what makes the holidays wonderful and horrible at the same time. It starts with Halloween, but it ramps up to warp speed between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
I’m not going to try to teach you how to party in moderation. I’m not going to tell you how to substitute your favorite dessert with a healthy alternative. Frankly, I enjoy the holidays — cookies and all. But there is a way to partake and participate without burning out.
1. Be active. Remaining consistent with your workout routine is not only kind to your waistline, but it’s kind to your mental health as well. This season, as joyous as it is, can be stressful, even when everything is going well. But here’s a little secret: When we expend energy, we gain energy. It’s why we feel so tired after a long car ride. It’s why we’re sluggish after a Netflix marathon. Our bodies are meant to move. Get your blood flowing. One hour of physical activity can do wonders for our energy levels. It boosts our mood and helps us get through our days a little easier.
2. Be realistic. Now’s probably not the best time to try that new fad diet or sign up for a marathon if you’ve never run a 5K. Big goals come in small steps. If you know the next few weeks are crammed with family get-togethers and activities, don’t tell yourself you’ll hit the gym every morning for two hours. You’re more likely to get something done if it’s a manageable expectation. Only have time for a 30-minute run? Put it on the calendar, get it done and be happy about it. Going to a party where the hostess always makes your favorite pecan pie? Plan on eating a slice, enjoy it and move on.
3. Be kind — to yourself, that is. It’s easy to make the holidays about everybody else, especially if you’re a parent. And that’s OK. In fact, that’s part of the fun and joy of the holidays. But there’s no joy when you’re exhausted. Carve out some time to do something you enjoy. I have to schedule my life to make it happen. Last year, I was frustrated because I bought a book I never got to read. I was wrapped up in holiday hoopla. I became resentful that everyone else was enjoying what they loved, but I wasn’t. But they didn’t force me to do all the baking, wrapping and planning. I put that on myself. I neglected what I loved. That was my fault. This year, I have a new book and for one hour while the kids are making lunches for the next school day and getting showers, I shut my door, ignore the laundry and read. It’s only been a couple weeks, but I’m loving it. Take a long bath. Take a nap. Do something kind for yourself.
4. Be cruel. “Wait! What? I thought she said to be kind?” Now I’m telling you to be cruel. Look at your calendar. Look at the planned activities, the must-do’s on your holiday to-do list. Which of those items make you happy? Which do you absolutely have to do? Which do you dread? What can you cut? I’m never going to skip my children’s school concerts, but I gave up Christmas cards years ago. I just hated doing them. I love watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” with the family, but the annual trek to Temple Square started to feel like drudgery. Now we only do it when the mood strikes. I realized years ago that a lot of the activities I thought were traditions were actually constraining our family. I was doing us all a disservice by forcing us to be merry. Letting go of the obligatory activities and doing what we truly loved has given our family the gift of time.
5. Be present. Put away the devices. Yeah, I know. We hear this all the time, but I mean it. So much of the holiday blues comes from comparing our reality with others’ social media facade. We may know that much of what we see is surface smiles, even totally unreal, but it gets to us still. Those devices not only invite the misery of comparison, but they also steal time from those we love who can bring us real joy. Three years ago we were celebrating Thanksgiving in our new home. Our youngest was only 6. At one point she stomped her feet and sighed in frustration. Of the 12 of us in the room, 11 of us were looking at our phones. She was the only one truly present. No phones or tablets this year. We’re pulling out our UNO deck instead.
Holiday health isn’t just about moderating our cookie intake. It’s about feeding our mind, body and soul. Focusing on how we feel as opposed to how we think we should feel. Doing the things that make us truly happy and not what others say should make us happy.
Enjoy your pie. Enjoy each other. Enjoy this season.
Kim Cowart is a wife, mother, 24-Hour Fitness instructor, marathoner, and Headsweats and SunRype Ambassador. You can follow her running adventures at www.kiminthegym.com.