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‘Tis the Season for Self-Care

For some people, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is the highlight of their year. They look forward to cooking turkeys, buying presents, singing carols and spreading the spirit of the holidays to everyone they meet.

Then there are the rest of us. We’re not exactly Scrooges, but for us, celebrating the holidays can be a monumental effort often filled with stress. If the holidays make you say “oh no” rather than “ho ho,” consider checking in with the primary source of happiness: yourself.

Recommit to a workable routine of self-care to ward off stress, says Larry Cammarata, PhD, a clinical and consulting psychologist, mind-body wellness expert and certified tai chi chuan instructor in Escondido, California.

Exercise. “Take time to do what you normally do to manage stress, such as weight training, aerobics, meditation, yoga, tai chi, Pilates, etc.,” says Cammarata. “Stay [dedicated] to this routine before and during the holidays.”

Mary E. Miriani, a personal trainer at Reality Fitness Inc., in Naperville, Illinois, puts her workouts at the top of her holiday list. “The positive music playlist [I have created] changes a little to include a ‘peace on earth’ theme,” she says. “I do not restrict myself to only holiday music, but anything that fits that theme. After working out to this music, I find that I cannot help but be calm and joyful.”

If you don’t have as much time to exercise as you usually do, consider a reduced workout schedule, suggests Kate Larsen, executive coach of Winning LifeStyles Inc., in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. “This is better than no exercise at all,” she says. “The physical release of body and mind with exercise has a ripple effect that may allow you to let go and relax more through the holidays.”

Sleep.Cammarata recommends committing to getting a full night’s sleep every night. “Regulate your waking and sleeping times, and cut down on late night TV and computer use. Also, [know that] alcohol can increase feelings of depression and interfere with the quality of your sleep.”

Eating. Larsen advises being vigilant about the foods and drinks you consume. “Holiday foods will zap your energy and cause your blood sugar (and mood) to wave up and down,” she says. “Keep asking yourself whether a ‘fun’ food is worth the impact on your body and soul.”

Miriani uses a “get real” approach for food at holiday parties. She prepares for them by giving herself “permission to be ‘off-duty’ and enjoy some of my favorite foods and drink,” she says. “As wellness professionals we are held to a higher standard regarding eating, and it is hugely stressful when people expect us to only eat carrot sticks and always forego dessert. I like to stay real by keeping in mind that I eat well most of the time, and my exercise routine is always in place. Furthermore, I do not judge my friends and relatives who are enjoying some holiday treats.”

April Durrett, an IDEA contributing editor, is an award-winning health, fitness and lifestyle writer and editor. She can be reached at [email protected]

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