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Are you Stressed by the Holidays? By Emma Borgstrom

As the holidays approach, people often feel an overwhelming push and pull: will the countless Christmas cookies de-rail me from my normal, comfortable routine of exercise and eating mindfully? Should I avoid these holiday temptations at all costs? People often feel burdened by this inflexible choice they have to make. Should I choose to be rigid, or should I risk losing my sense of control for a month of the year?

I took it upon myself to understand the mindset of the people in our Strength for Life community by asking other members the question, “How do you feel going into the holiday season?”

“Stressed” was Leslie’s answer. Leslie understands the exhaustion so many others are familiar with as the holiday season approaches, “Every year on Christmas Day, my family and I tell each other that next year, we’re going on vacation instead of having to stress over buying gifts for one another. Then Christmas comes again and we are still at home opening the gifts we ran around buying for each other.” As Leslie described, there are expectations surrounding the holiday season, high expectations: purchasing gifts for your loved ones, preparing Christmas dinner, and entertaining family.

Dael, another loyal SFL client, would agree with Leslie. Dael is anticipating the arrival of her family this holiday season, and specifically, the influence they can have on the decisions she makes. Having to entertain family over the holidays can often replace the time you dedicate to your exercise regime, and also interfere with the decisions you make in regards to food choices. Dael finds it incredibly important to, “savor everything you eat over the holidays and really taste before you have the urge to indulge.” It is essential to strike the balance between enjoying the holidays, but not over-enjoying them.

Sue, a regular at Strength for Life, has learned to anticipate changes in her schedule given her daily life as a reporter and anchor. Sue explained, “My schedule changes anyways, so I am used to things interfering.” Sue has learned to be adaptable given her daily schedule. But this does not mean that all worries surrounding the holidays are eliminated for her. Sue’s uneasiness begins after the holidays, when all of the running around begins to slow, the days become longer and colder, and the leftover temptations from the holiday season find their permanent spot in her refrigerator. This is where creating a sustainable, balanced lifestyle becomes essential.

Eating well is not about perfection, nor is exercise. Being human automatically labels us with a perfectly imperfect label, so it is impossible to perfect the art of eating well and exercising routinely. So how can one avoid adopting a restrictive, rigid mindset during the holidays? On the other hand, how can one avoid over-indulging? Below are some tips for helping you confront your fears surrounding the holidays with confidence:

1. Stay active and people-focused rather than focusing your attention on food.

The holiday season does not need to require an acute focus on food. Rather than obsessing about the idea of food, attempt to focus on what the season is truly about: spending time with loved ones, showing and expressing gratitude, and savoring the joy of family traditions.

2. Be forgiving towards yourself

If you do happen to indulge, do not allow guilt to take hold. Rather than obsessing over the reality that you ate one too many treats, simply make a gentle turn in the direction towards healthier options. Pay careful attention to how you felt while you indulged. Did you enjoy yourself? How did you react to the food that you ate? How do you feel post-indulgence? After considering these questions, simply move on by setting a new intention that focuses on returning to foods and activities that make you feel great.

3. Don’t deviate from your normal routine

If you have plans to attend a holiday party later in the day, begin your day as you would any other. Do not skip meals in preparation, or restrict calories earlier, so you can afford to splurge later. Eat a protein and healthy-fat enriched snack one hour prior to your party. Foods rich in protein and healthy fats curb cravings for sugar and processed carbohydrates.

4. Become the host.

If you have the freedom to host, take advantage of hosting your own holiday party to introduce your guests to wholesome alternatives to classic, indulgent Holliday favorites. Staying on track with your everyday routine and choosing mindful food choices can be more manageable when you host your own gathering.

5. Do not deprive yourself

It is important during the holiday season to learn how to say “no,” to every indulgence offered to you, but it is also equally important to learn that it is okay to say “yes.” It is essential to strike a maintainable balance. If you cannot establish a middle ground between indulging and being dedicated to your fitness goals, the end result will most likely be deprivation. Deprivation, more times than not, leads to bingeing on the holiday treats that you did not allow yourself to enjoy. Bingeing, in turn, leads to guilt, which will lead you down a path further away from your goals.

As the holiday season approaches, set small goals for yourself to stay on track this holiday season. Savor the cherished moments with your loved ones, even if that involves a plate of Christmas cookies. Be forgiving of yourself. Learn to say “yes,” but also learn to find the balance in refusing. Small changes will lead to monumental results.

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