Healthy Holiday Season Survival Guide

Less stress, more joy, and zero guilt or deprivation!

By: Lexy Parsons

Surviving the holiday season is no easy feat. Between inevitable family drama, what feels like endless holiday invites (that you struggle to decline), shopping, cooking, cleaning, entertaining, and more, there’s a lot of angst in the air! As jolly a season as it is, it’s normal to want to throw in the towel and call it quits on the holidays due to feelings of stress and overwhelm. But what if you had a holiday season survival guide that could help you prioritize your well-being and navigate the usual holiday stressors? Well, good news, we’ve got just the thing. Think of this as your holiday wish list come true! With these simple hacks, say goodbye to stress and hello to a happy and healthy holiday.

RELATED: 8 Ways to Indulge Mindfully & Stay Healthy During the Holidays 

Finding Balance Without Stress During The Holidays

Say No to Deprivation, But Indulge Mindfully

Depriving yourself of your favorite holiday treats and setting strict food rules is simply not the answer. One cookie won’t break you. And stressing over your indulgences can actually be more unhealthy than indulging without guilt. The secret is to indulge mindfully!

Wondering how? Here are some tips. 

Be Cautious of Liquid Calories: If you indulge in a drink, know what’s in your cup! Avoid simple syrups and sugary mixers that are well, pure sugar. 

Crowd Out Your Plate: Rather than limiting what’s on your plate, fill it full (of nutrient-dense foods!). If a slice of pie makes its way onto your plate, no biggie. You’ve got a colorful salad, roasted veggies, and turkey to go alongside it! Although you’re indulging, you’re still balancing your plate with an abundance of nutrients. This can help stabilize your blood sugar, promote satiety, and reduce cravings!

Eat Slowly: A huge part of mindful eating is slowing down to enjoy your food. Sit rather than stand. Avoid eating while distracted. And yes, eat slowly enough to chew your food and savor all the mouthwatering flavors!

Make Healthy Holiday Swaps

You worked so hard to reach your health and fitness goals. Worried that you’ll sacrifice it all over the holidays? Don’t stress — calling on healthy holiday swaps is one of the easiest holiday survival guide tips! We’re not saying every meal needs to be 100% gluten-free, sugar-free, and dairy-free. But swapping out highly processed or artificial foods for healthier alternatives can save you tons of calories and stress. 

Here are some food swaps to consider:

  • Avocados for heavy cream
  • Sweet potatoes or yams for white potatoes
  • Ancient grains for bread (think: stuffing)
  • Coconut cream for whipped cream
  • Greek yogurt for sour cream
  • Medjool dates for sugar
  • Mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes

RSVPing? Make Your Yes’s Count

If you currently accept every holiday invite that comes your way, this simple holiday hack can help you say hello to balance and goodbye to stress. The secret? Stop saying yes to everyone! Be selective with your time and energy, especially during this crazy time of year. Choose the holiday parties that mean the most to you, and politely decline anything else that comes your way. Not only will this free up your schedule (and save you stress), but it also makes you more available to the people and things that truly matter.  

Make Meal Prep Your Friend

Whether it’s prepping a healthy breakfast for busy holiday mornings, making family dinners in advance, or pre-cooking some of your holiday dishes, meal prep can save you so much time and stress (maybe even money, too!).

If you’re the host this year, give these holiday meal-prep hacks a try:

Prep Your Veggies Ahead of Time: Prep and peel any veggies like carrots and potatoes. Carrots, onions, and celery need slicing? Do it in advance!

Pre-cook Grains Like Rice and Quinoa: Not only do they take up time, but they also take up prime real estate on the stovetop!

Make Baked Goods, Sides, and Sauces in Advance: Such as pie crusts, cookies, gravy, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.

Mental Wellness During The Holiday Season

Skip the Stores, Shop Online

Between sitting in holiday traffic, searching for parking, and waiting in never-ending lines, holiday shopping can be stressful. Why not save yourself the stress and shop online this year? You can snag some great deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, avoid the crowds, and save some valuable time during this busy season. 

Savor (Every Ounce) of Sleep

If you want to survive (and thrive) through the holiday season, don’t even think about skimping on sleep! We get it — there’s lots to do and little time to do it. But sleep deprivation won’t do you any favors. When you snooze on sleep, you’re left feeling tired, foggy-headed, irritable, and impatient — a recipe for stress, burnout, and dampened holiday joy. Plus, you’re more likely to experience mood swings, sugar cravings and even increase your risk of getting sick.  

If you implement anything from our healthy holiday season survival guide, make it these sleep tips!

  • Maintain a consistent sleep and wake time as best you can (especially on the nights you’re home without plans!)
  • Go to bed when you’re tired (whether it’s a midday nap or capping the night off early)
  • Reduce alcohol consumption a few hours before bedtime to avoid sleep disturbances 
  • Press play on a sleep meditation to help clear your mind and calm your body
  • Diffuse stress-busting essential oils like lavender and bergamot 
  • Optimize your sleep environment (turn down the temp and grab your sleep mask and ear plugs)

Give Yourself a Daily Dose of Mindfulness

Setting aside uninterrupted ‘you’ time is more important than ever. According to 2021 data, 3 in 5 Americans feel their mental health is negatively impacted during this busy season. And of those already coping with mental health struggles, 64% of people report feeling worse during the holiday. Make sure you’re making your mental well-being a priority — make it a part of your daily routine! 

Here are some ideas:

  • Start the day with a five-minute meditation 
  • Wake up a few minutes earlier to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in silence
  • End the day with a candlelight bath and some calming music 
  • Take a few minutes to pause and breathe in nature — especially during those busy days
  • Power down your devices and curl up with a good book
  • Clear your head with a daily journal or brain dump

Find Support 

Friends, co-workers, siblings, a therapist, or medical professional — any outlet you can call on or confide in when you need support. The holiday season can feel stressful, but rather than isolate or internalize your feelings, lean on the support of others. Reach out to a friend, schedule a call with your therapist, join a support group, or find a local community (like a yoga studio or volunteer organization).

Practice Gratitude

A tip to survive the holiday season? Practice daily gratitude — even (and especially) when it feels hard to find thanks. Start the day by writing or saying one thing you’re grateful for and one goal for your day. This helps you reflect back on the people, things, and experiences that have supported you while also priming your brain with positive thoughts for the day. Plus, simply practicing gratitude has been shown to improve mental health!

Staying Active During The Busy Season

Squeeze In Extra Steps Whenever You Can 

The holiday season survival guide secret — get your steps in! Take the stairs over the elevator, park further away from your destination, and make those steps count while you shop! Not only will walking benefit your physical health by burning calories, boosting your metabolism, and lowering your blood sugar, but it will also boost your mood, clear your mind, and benefit your mental health. Plus, it’s a great way to get exercise without feeling like you’re working out.

Schedule Your Workouts

Struggling to stay consistent with your holiday workouts? Schedule them in! If you plan ahead, you’ll be less likely to skip your workouts. Think about scheduling them into your calendar just like you would a holiday party or work meeting. And use time to your advantage! If you’re a morning person, schedule your workouts first thing so you can check it off your to-do list. If afternoon or evening workouts are more your thing, scheduling ahead will help you be more prepared. 

To make things simple, you can schedule all your workouts right in the FitOn app. Press play on a program, join a challenge, or choose your own workout and set workout reminders.

RELATED: 10 Simple Ways to Fit Movement Into Your Busy Holiday Schedule

Make It a Family Affair

Spending time with family, friends, or loved ones this holiday season? Why not create some new memories focused on movement and physical activity? We’re not saying you have to sign up for a family Turkey Trot (though you totally could). In fact, it doesn’t even have to feel like exercise! It could be as simple as sledding or skating as a family, or having a competitive snowball fight in the yard. Maybe you go on a family hike or simply take a nightly post-dinner stroll around the block. Find something you love, and make it a new family tradition!

Stretch it Out

Is your neck feeling tense and tight? Are your shoulders hunched and rounded? Maybe your hips and back are feeling more achy than usual? While it could be the result of prolonged sitting or a strenuous workout, it could be holiday stress. Yep, it’s common to store repressed emotions in our muscles! The good news? Because our emotional health and physical body are intimately connected, regularly stretching it out with mobility work or active movement can help release stuck emotions. 

Here are some FitOn exercises to try:

RELATED: 5 Expert Hacks to Ease Stress-Related Aches & Pains

Switch Off Survival Mode and Find Holiday Joy

The holiday mayhem can do a number on our mental health. But maintaining your mental health and feeling good in your body shouldn’t feel like an impossible feat! With a little support and guidance — ahem, our healthy holiday season survival guide —  you can start and end the holiday season unscathed. Plan ahead, call on support, keep it moving, and call on mindfulness and moderation. The hustle and bustle of the holidays have got nothing on you!