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6 Ways to Improve Your Well-Being During the Holidays

Published on Dec. 18, 2019

Centering on your well-being can help you feel more balanced and whole as you manage the excitement and stress of the holidays. Here are six top ways to tune into your well-being this season.

1. Think About Your Health & Wellness Needs

Setting time aside for some self-reflection is a great first step to improving your overall well-being during the holiday season. As you focus on your well-being this season, ask yourself the following:

Is there anything I have a tendency to overdo? 

Consider what you tend to overdo (and perhaps later regret) during the holiday season. Making a mental note or written list can help you better understand your true needs. 

Common overindulgences can include: 

  • Attending too many parties/gatherings that leave you overwhelmed and tired
  • Overindulging in foods that don’t nourish your body
  • Enjoying too many alcoholic and/or sweet beverages
  • Exceeding your holiday shopping budget
  • Focusing on perfection

“Fun, not perfection,” is a favorite saying of Munson Medical Center counselors Bonnie Cleland-Olsen, LMSW, a counselor with Women’s and Children’s services and Beverly Warnaar, LMSW, a direct care social worker at Cowell Family Cancer Center. Cleland-Olsen and Warnaar also suggest familiarizing yourself with Harvard’s Holiday Bill of Rights as you explore your needs this season.

What am I usually missing during the holidays?

At first glance, this can seem like an odd question. But the buzz of the season can leave us feeling drained because we often trade our healthy habits for not-so-healthy ones as we participate in holiday festivities or cope with uncomfortable feelings the holidays may bring. As you consider what you tend to  overdo, reflect on what you might forget about during the season, including:

  • Rest and relaxation
  • Adequate sleep
  • Nourishing foods, like vegetables, protein, and whole grains
  • More meaningful connections with close friends and loved ones
  • Movement and exercise
  • Alone time
  • Journaling, meditation, or reflection

Neglecting your self-care can quickly lead to negative emotions and perhaps even impact your physical health. Bringing awareness to the things you may be lacking during the season can help you make more space for the things that support your well-being.

2. Eat Mindfully

With all of the holiday gatherings, you may feel especially pressured by what’s called “situational eating,” according to Munson Healthcare Community Health Coordinator Tara Rybicki, a registered dietitian and mindful eating expert. “Situational eating is when we eat not because we are physically hungry but because of certain triggers, such as the smell or sight of food.” Rybicki shares. “During the holidays, you might be more easily tempted to eat when you’re not really hungry because others around you are eating or there are goodies sitting out at the office.” To work around this, Rybicki suggests the practice of mindful eating. To explain this concept, we turn to one of Rybicki’s favorite mindful eating author’s – Lynn Rossy, PhD – whose BASICS can help remind us how to eat in a more satisfying way:

B - Breath and belly check – take some deep breaths and listen to your belly signals. Is your stomach growling? If you’re physically hungry, what are you hungry for?
A - Assess your food to determine if it’s what you really want
S - Slow down
I - Investigate your hunger throughout the meal, and stop eating when you’re satisfied (not stuffed)
C - Chew thoroughly
S - Savor  – don’t forget to enjoy the beautiful meal in front of you!

3. Schedule Physical Activity

Think of ways to keep your body moving during the holiday season. Physical movement is a wonderful way to treat your body and mind. Consider signing up for a weekly fitness class or adding gym time to your calendar. Snowshoeing, building a snowman, pulling your favorite little one on a sled, taking a ski lesson, or just simply taking the stairs are all great ways to keep your body moving while embracing the change in season. 

4. Do a Daily Check-in

Each day, take some time to check in with yourself to determine how you are feeling, both physically and emotionally. Perhaps you are in need of a relaxing bath, an earlier bedtime, more greens on your plate, a good book, or time with a treasured friend. Checking in with yourself is the best way to ensure your self-care, whether you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, sad, lonely, exhausted, or just so-so.

5. Simplify by Prioritizing

Simplicity is often an undervalued concept – especially during the holiday season! Finding ways to make things simpler this season is much easier when you’ve determined your priorities. Priorities can include things such as:

  • Quality family time
  • Savoring special moments, like a daughter’s holiday choir concert or a grandson’s debut in his school’s winter play
  • Honoring the traditions that are important to you and your loved ones
  • Finding joy each day of the season
  • Asking for help with decorating, cooking, or shopping
  • Making healthy choices
  • Giving back to a meaningful cause
  • Connecting with old friends
  • A sit-down with a good listener or therapist

Quality Family Time

Once you’ve set your priorities, simplifying is much easier. Maybe this means giving yourself permission to purchase a pie instead of making one – especially if it gives you more space to enjoy the parts of the holidays you really cherish. Or realizing that the gift of time is more important than that “perfect” present you’ve been searching for. It can even mean politely declining an invitation that just doesn’t benefit you this season.

6. Create New – and Healthier – Traditions

Once you’ve made note of what you truly need during the season and prioritized what’s most important to you, think about creating an all-new holiday tradition that serves your mind or body. A family ice skating night, introducing a new healthy side dish, or volunteering for a local organization that holds meaning for you are all different ways to celebrate the joy of the season while honoring your well-being.

Local Resources through the Holidays

We’d like to give a special thanks to Community Health Coordinator Tara Rybicki, MS, RDE, CDE, Munson Medical Center counselors Bonnie Cleland, LMSW and Beverly Warnaar, LMSW who shared many of these tips and more at a recent Learning for Longevity workshop: Healthy Living through the Holidays. Learning for Longevity is an ongoing and FREE monthly health and wellness series, hosted by Munson Healthcare’s Community Health Library and the Grand Traverse Senior Network. Sign up for an upcoming Learning for Longevity classes.

Find a complete calendar of other Munson Healthcare events, including fitness classes such as Pilates and yoga as well free community health events on the events calendar.