December 9, 2016

by Mankato Clinic

Whether we’d like to admit it or not, the holidays are often one of the most stressful times of the year. Between preparing a large feast for family, shopping for gifts and maintaining our every-day lives, this time of year we all tend to put our health on the back burner.

With so many places to be and things to do, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by everything on your seemingly never ending to-do list and you may forget to take time for yourself. Before you find yourself becoming more irritable or even catching a cold, learn some practical ways that you can make yourself more at ease this holiday season.

Though it may be hard to do some days, embracing healthy eat, move and sleep practices will actually help your stress level not only in December, but throughout the whole year.

Eat mindfully

Around every corner during the holidays, it seems there is a plate of cookies or a work pot luck, which is why people have a tendency to indulge in a more high-fat and sugar diet between the months of October to January.  Just because the holidays often go hand-in-hand with goodies of all kind, doesn’t mean that you have to lose track of your healthy eating habits, which can be hard because the holidays aren’t just a one-day event.

Holiday foods and celebrations are all around us, and they’re not just at home; they pop up all around our environments, which constantly presents a challenge. Avoiding overeating and holiday weight gain while trying to maintain a healthy diet can be difficult.

When it comes to these next few months, it’s important to not get distracted by things in our environment that influence us to eat. So much of what we do is triggered by what we see. In social situations, it’s common to be influenced when someone else is eating, or by walking in to the break room at work and noticing someone brought in a treat. As a society, we tend to reach for these snacks even when we’re not hungry.

To maintain a healthy lifestyle, incorporate smart food choices by eating more turkey and chicken. In addition, choose healthier side options like a low-calorie apple salad with a mustard vinaigrette dressing. For individuals who like fish, sushi is a very healthy and low-calorie option as well.

Exercise daily

As the temperature steadily falls and snow blankets Minnesota, it’s as tempting as ever to hibernate at home and catch up on our favorite TV shows. However, making a concerted effort to exercise during the holidays has a lot of health benefits.

Because working out releases endorphins, regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, stabilizes and elevates mood, and improves sleep and self-esteem.

Next time you feel yourself becoming increasingly stressed out over all you have to do, strap on a pair of snow shoes and walk around Sibley Park or head to the mall and walk a few laps. You may be surprised by how much more calm you feel after exercising.

Maintain healthy sleep

Often times, the category that suffers the most from stress is sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night to feel fully rested. Not only does it leave you tired, but lack of sleep can lead to poor job performance, memory problems and, you guessed it, a higher level of stress.

It’s common to occasionally struggle with restless nights but often times, the best way to achieve a full night of sleep can be found in your daily routines. To help yourself feel as rested as possible over the holidays try the following tips: keep a regular sleep schedule, naturally regulate your sleep-wake cycle, create a relaxing bedtime routine, eat right and get regular exercise and get anxiety and stress in check. If you struggle with sleep problems, take the Know More Sleep Apnea Risk assessment at