Healthy Holiday Season Survival Guide

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

By: Lexy Parsons

Wondering why you feel stressed and overwhelmed during the most joyous time of the year? You’re not alone. Surviving the holiday season is no easy feat! Despite the festive cheer, the holidays often carry an unexpected burden of stress and chaos. Between inevitable family drama, a seemingly never-ending stream of social invites and holiday gatherings, gift shopping, holiday cooking, cleaning, and entertaining… It’s no wonder that your holiday spirit gets overshadowed by a cloud of anxiety and overwhelm. According to 2022 survey data, 64% of Americans experience stress during the holiday season. But, what if you had a holiday survival guide that could allow you to say goodbye to stress and enjoy the season? Good news, your holiday wish has come true, because we’ve got just the thing. 

Ahead, your ultimate holiday self-care survival guide with simple hacks that will help you stay sane, happy, and healthy this holiday!

Balance Your Holiday Plate Without Stress Or Deprivation

#1 Indulge Mindfully

Staying on track with your fitness goals during the holiday season doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself of your favorite treats. In fact, setting harsh food restrictions can often backfire. Not only does it decrease satiety, but it also increases hunger cravings and cortisol levels. The secret is to indulge mindfully!

Wondering how? Here are some tips. 

Be Cautious of Liquid Calories: Holiday beverages (whether it’s a cocktail or mocktail), are often loaded with artificial and added sugars. Be mindful of ingredients and try to opt for healthier alternatives, such as homemade low-sugar lattes or healthier holiday cocktails.

Crowd Out Your Plate: Rather than limiting what’s on your plate, crowd out those not-so-healthy foods with an abundance of nutrient-dense choices! For example, if you opt for a slice of pie, try to enjoy a colorful salad, roasted veggies, and turkey, too! Although you’re indulging, you’re still balancing your plate with an abundance of nutrients that will help to 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!

#2 Make Healthy Holiday Swaps

Worried that you’ll sacrifice all your progress 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, or dairy-free. However, 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
  • Whole grains in place of white bread (think: stuffing made with quinoa or gluten-free bread)
  • Coconut cream for whipped cream
  • Greek or dairy-free yogurt for sour cream
  • Medjool dates for sugar
  • Mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes

RELATED: 10 Healthy Holiday Swaps That Are Surprisingly Weight Loss Friendly

#3 Make Meal Prep Your Friend

Whether it’s prepping a quick and healthy breakfast, making family dinner 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 veggies in advance. Wash, peel, and chop veggies (such as potatoes and carrots) in advance!
  • Pre-cook grains and legumes. Foods like rice and quinoa take up time (and prime real estate on the stovetop!)
  • Bake/prep sauces, desserts, and sides in advance. Think: baked goods such as pie crusts and cookies, sauces like gravy, and sides like stuffing or cranberry sauce.

#4 Boost Your Plate With Nourishing Foods For Stress & Anxiety Reduction

Did you know that foods rich in nutrients like complex carbohydrates, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants can help manage holiday-related stress and anxiety? 

Shown to lower cortisol, benefit brain health, and boost mood, here are the top anxiety-reducing foods to consider adding to your holiday plate:

Prioritize Your Mental Wellness During The Holiday Season

#5 Be Selective With Your Holiday Schedule 

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? Set healthy social boundaries!

You don’t have to say 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. 

RELATED: How to Cope With Family Stressors During The Holidays

#6 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.

#7 Shower Yourself with Self-Care

And while you’re at it, why not do a little self-care shopping for yourself? When you fill up your cup, you’re able to do the same for loved ones. Especially when it’s wellness-inspired gifts, like our FitOn kits! Here are some ideas from our FitOn store to inspire your shopping:

  • Yogi Essentials Kit (which includes a block set and yoga mat)
  • Self Care Set (which includes a silk eye mask and a set of scrunchies)
  • Ultimate Wellness Kit (which includes a yoga mat, set of resistance bands, sliders, recovery foam roller, and a sustainable water bottle)

#8 Don’t Skimp on 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 weight gain and illness.

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 short midday nap or early bedtime)
  • 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)

#9 Give Yourself a Daily Dose of Mindfulness

When it comes to supporting your mental health, setting aside uninterrupted ‘you’ time is more important than ever. According to 2022 survey data, nearly 50% of Americans reported increased feelings of anxiety, 40% experienced increased depression, and 64% experienced stress induced by holiday finances. Make sure you’re making your mental well-being a priorityaccording to research, as little as 5 minutes of mindfulness per day can significantly reduce stress and anxiety!

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
  • Try a nervous system reset with a before bed Yoga Nidra meditation

RELATED: 10-Minute Hacks to Reset Your Nervous System

#10 Seek Support & Community

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).

#11 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!

Make Space for Movement: Staying Active During The Busy Season

#12 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.

RELATED: 17 Simple Tips to Add More Walking Steps to Your Day

#13 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: 9 Tips on Scheduling Workouts on Busy Days

#14 Make Movement 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!

#15 Squeeze In Exercise Snacks

Just like food-based snacks, these bite-sized workouts provide us with a burst of energy — for both our brain and our body. Similar to eating snacks in place of a full meal, the idea is to integrate quick exercise bouts into your routine on busy days when you can’t squeeze in a full workout. This could be a quick set of pushups or squats in between a work call, a walk around the block to break up your day, or a set of sun salutations on your yoga mat to move and stretch your body. Not only will these exercise “snacks” keep you mobile, but they’ll also help to boost your metabolism, regulate your mood and energy, and lower stress.

Here are some ideas:

  • Perform your favorite bodyweight exercise (like squats, push-ups, lunges, or planks) for 30-60 seconds. Repeat for 3-4 reps, or several times throughout the day!
  • Take a break from your desk job for some mobility work. Stretch out your neck, shoulders, hips, and glutes to alleviate built up muscle tension.
  •  Keep a set of resistance bands in your desk or bag. Use them to perform resisted squats, lunges, or glute bridges when you have a few minutes to spare.

RELATED: What is Exercise Snacking + 5 Reasons You Need to Try It

#16 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 during holiday travel or a strenuous workout, tension could be due to 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, regular stretching, mobility work, and active movement (including foam rolling it out) can help release stuck emotions. 

Pack our FitOn foam roller in your holiday bag — it’s compact, lightweight, and perfect for travel! 

Looking to mobilize your body with some movement? Try a FitOn mobility workout

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

Plan Ahead & Proactively Boost Your Immune System

#17 Keep Healthy While Traveling

Traveling during the holidays can increase your risk for colds and flus, thanks to increased exposure to various pathogens and winter weather. To stay healthy while on the move, prioritize healthy hygiene practices. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Carry travel-friendly hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes
  • Stash healthy travel-friendly snacks to avoid reliance on processed foods during long journeys (especially during lengthy road trips or while at the airport)
  • Pack supplements like probiotics, vitamin C packets, and elderberry syrup
  • Bring a thermos or insulated mug for immune-boosting teas or bone broth packets
  • Pack an eye mask and earplugs for long trips to ensure you get quality sleep
  • Bring a foam roller to prevent muscle tension or cramping

RELATED: 9 Things to Do Daily to Help Avoid Getting Sick

#18 Stay Hydrated

During the busy holiday season, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water (especially when there are so many holiday beverages to be enjoyed, such as PSLs and festive cocktails). However, staying hydrated is crucial for immune health (and overall well-being). Aim for at least eight glasses of water a day, and make a conscious effort to keep a sustainable water bottle handy, like our FitOn water bottle!

#19 Bolster Your Diet With Immune-Supporting Nutrients 

Eating a balanced diet rich in immune-supporting nutrients can significantly bolster your body’s defenses. Focus on foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and various antioxidants

Here are some of the best immune-supporting foods to reach for:

  • Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit
  • Bell peppers
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut butters (such as pumpkin seeds, almonds, and walnuts)
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Salmon
  • Mushrooms
  • Avocado

RELATED: 6 Immune-Supporting Eating Habits

#20 Boost Your Gut Health

Speaking of immune-boosting foods, gut-healthy foods like probiotics not only support your gut health, but they also support your immune system. Think: yogurt and fermented foods like kimchi, fiber-rich foods like fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains, and a wide variety of colorful plant foods. You’ll also want to be mindful to avoid excessive consumption of sugary and highly processed foods, which can disrupt the balance of your gut bacteria. 

RELATED: The Best Foods For a Healthier Gut According to an RD

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 from 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!