Genius Hacks For Staying on Track During The Holiday Season

From healthy eating to taking care of your mental health, here’s your healthy holiday season game plan.

By: Dominique Michelle Astorino

The holiday season is upon us, and not only can this bring on some added stress when trying to stick to a healthy eating and exercise routine, but this year also seems different since many of us may not be celebrating the holidays as we usually would. 

But here’s the thing — now’s the time to get both our mind and body ready for the busy months ahead so we can stay on track with our wellness goals, while also enjoying everything that comes with the holidays too. We’re showing you how with simple hacks to prep for a healthy holiday season. 

Getting Your Mind Ready For the Holiday Season 

The best possible thing you can do for yourself this holiday season is to focus on stress reduction. Consider it the greatest gift you can give yourself and your loved ones: a happier, healthier, more present, more attentive version of yourself. Can you imagine a stress-free holiday season in which you just enjoyed everything? It *is* possible.

Between the pandemic, the election, and the general dumpster fire of 2020, taking care of your mental health is even more important, and may require some extra self-care! By doing so, you’ll also lead by example for your loved ones, so hopefully, they can get some of the mental and emotional TLC they deserve, too.

Here are seven wellness hacks to consider for a lower stress, healthy holiday season. 

#1 Release Expectations

This year is different in so many ways, and unrealistic expectations can lead to serious disappointment and emotional frustration. Don’t lead yourself down that path — release the expectations now, early on, and enjoy any good thing that comes your way. Be ready for a year of new traditions, broken traditions, FaceTiming, recipe experimentation, and possibly some ups and downs.

#2 Start Meditating

If you don’t already, now’s the time to start. Meditation is crucial for maintaining emotional equanimity and reducing stress, even if you just do three to five minutes a day. It might sound daunting at first, but put it in your calendar each day, and block off five minutes. We’ve got guided meditations to get you started and help you maintain that calm focus.

#3 Journal

As part of your healthy holiday season game plan, give yourself a few moments in the morning and evening each day to recount a list of things you’re grateful for, set an intention for the day, and pat yourself on the back for all the positive things you did for yourself and others. The holidays can get hectic, and it’s easy for the good stuff to fall out of focus. Refocus yourself via this journaling exercise.

#4 Make This List

There are certain things you do have control over, and a longer list of things you do not — write all of this down on a piece of paper. What do you have control over? Your mood, your responses to relatives in conversations, how much you sleep, your workout routine, etc. What do you not have control over? Behavior and words of others, pandemic restrictions, the expectations of others, etc. Reminding yourself that you can’t change or ‘fix’ certain things (but you can go work out for 15 minutes and get some extra hours of sleep) can keep you grounded during a period of uncertainty and stress.

#5 Schedule a Therapy Session or Two

If you already have a therapist or digital service for talk therapy, make sure to schedule yourself some time to talk and work through any major points of stress. Voice fears, problem-solve, and put your mind at ease. And if you don’t already have a therapy setup, maybe now is the time to give that to yourself — the gift of health is incomparable!

#6 Communicate Openly

Are you going to be spending time with family? Are you able to communicate boundaries and needs with each member of your family? Maybe that’s voicing how you want to be supported, what you need help with, or what you don’t want to talk about (read: politics, who you are or are not dating, etc). An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so try to be open early on (even if it’s a little nerve-wracking!) to prevent any potential tension, especially if that’s something you’re concerned about. 

#7 Pre-plan a Respite

How do you best recharge and calm down? If you know that certain gatherings or interactions are going to be stressful, triggering, or anxiety-inducing, pre-plan how you’re going to take care of yourself. Maybe that’s escaping to a room with a book or a meditation for some quiet time, taking 30 minutes to go for a quick run or walk with the dog by yourself, or leaving early to take a hot bath with a mug of tea. Think about how you want to recover from any emotional stress, and build that into your schedule.

Getting Your Body Ready For the Holidays 

You know what’s better than counting calories and sweating bullets over nutritional facts this season? Feel-good exercise that’ll reduce your stress, boost your mood, and give you some extra confidence knowing you’re treating your body right.

One of our favorite things to do on Thanksgiving morning is a family (or friend, or solo + dog) workout to set the tone for the day, followed by some fresh-squeezed juice shots or a fresh smoothie (read ahead for more on that). It adds some much needed mental and emotional balance, particularly if thinking about holiday eating is a source of stress. This isn’t to “earn” your meal later or to “make up for the calories,” but rather to put your body and mind in a positive and healthy place so you can fully enjoy the holidays.

There tend to be two ways people like to use exercise for stress-relief: calming and grounding (to bring down those high-stress levels) or energizing and sweat-soaked (to burn off that excess anxious energy). We’ve obviously got both of those for ya, ready to roll, depending on what your body needs.

Calming, grounding low-impact: yoga, pilates, barre

Burn-off-the-anxious-energy cardio: HIIT, Dance, Kickboxing 

In addition to these categories of exercise, we’ve also got some supershort, equipment-free, do-anywhere workouts that don’t require gym equipment or weights. You can keep yourself consistent and on top of your routine (which tends to make a lot of people feel better overall) if you stick to quick workouts like these!

Equipment-Free Workouts, 15 Minutes and Shorter

Healthy Holiday Season Nutrition (No Deprivation Required) 

Ok, the final category of taking care of your mind and body and getting prepped for a healthy holiday season is, of course, food! We can’t talk about the holidays without talking about all the yummy food — from pies to those family traditional recipes. And, here’s the thing — we don’t want to go into the holiday season already thinking about what we can’t or shouldn’t be eating. Deprivation is not the answer. Instead, try thinking about it as a balance. 

We’re definitely not here to tell you not to enjoy that slice of pumpkin pie, but we are here to offer some hacks on how to stay on track by finding that balance. 

#1 Start Your Morning With Something Nourishing 

Remember that morning juice or smoothie we mentioned? Thanksgiving morning is a great time to not only get in a quick workout but to also nourish your body with something wholesome. Get in that shot of green juice paired with a veggie omelet or start your day with a protein-rich smoothie with dark leafy greens and berries. 

Kickstart your holiday morning with something nourishing — you won’t regret it. 

#2 Healthy Swaps 

Healthy swaps are a total gamechanger when it comes to a healthy holiday season. They make it possible for us to still enjoy some of our favorite treats, but without the guilt. This holiday season, try swapping out sugar in your favorite recipes for pure maple syrup or raw honey. Or try a low-carb option like monk fruit or stevia. 

You can also try swapping out dairy for things like coconut oil instead of butter and use almond or oat milk instead of dairy milk. 

Gluten is also easy to swap out with the use of simple all-purpose gluten-free flour — gluten-free alternatives are way better than they once were, making it super easy to enjoy some of our favorite holiday treats without the gluten this year. 

#3 Fill Your Plate With Colorful Veggies First 

A healthy holiday season is possible even if you do plan to have a piece of pie — why? Because it’s really all about balance. If you know you’re going to have your favorite holiday dessert later, then optimize your holiday meal by filling up your plate with lots of colorful veggies first, followed by a protein source (like turkey) with some room for a healthy fat and complex carb. 

Balancing your meal with wholesome foods will leave you feeling full and nourished, meaning that just a quarter of that pumpkin pie may be good enough vs. the whole slice. 

#4 Be Mindful of Your Beverage Choice 

It’s easy to add liquid calories to our diet this time of year. From cider to hot chocolate and holiday cocktails, but these are often loaded with added sugar and calories. To help you stay on track this holiday season, try ditching the sugary drinks and opt for something lower in sugar like this Healthy Hot Chocolate with Hidden Superfoods

Cheers to a Healthy Holiday Season 

With the holidays upon us, there’s truly never been a better time to focus on how we can support both our mind and body. From adding in an extra dose of self-care to staying active, it can go a long way in helping us stay on track and feeling our best during this busy, and often stressful time of year. 

And, as we gear up for the holidays where we are inundated with sweet treats, remember that deprivation is not the answer. Don’t get hung up on what you can’t eat, and instead, focus on healthier swaps and all the yummy foods you can eat. Life’s about balance, and so is getting through the holiday season and enjoying this time of year!