The holidays are a wonderful time to practice gratitude with friends and family and an ideal time to practice mindfulness. However, the busy-ness of the season may get us out of our normal health and fitness routine and make us feel out of balance through stress, poor eating habits, and lack of sleep and exercise.
The good news is you can still indulge in the food, fun, and activities of the holidays, while incorporating some mindfulness tips.
Here are five mindful health tips for the holidays that have helped me and my clients enjoy the season and start the new year on the right foot.
Maintain your PILates practice
This probably won’t surprise you when I say that one of the most important tips is to maintain your Pilates and other movement practices. A consistent Pilates routine will also benefit your mind, nervous system and overall well-being. Rather than trying to maintain your weekly hour-long sessions, commit to a condensed 15 minute daily practice. This can go a long way in keeping you mentally and physically fit during this season.
Need some inspiration? Check out these 10 great exercises to practice during the holidays. These exercises will give you a balanced and well rounded routine during this time. You can also check out my Daily Dose for a short series of 10-20 minute workouts intentionally designed to help you stay on track. The workouts will give you energy and keep the Pilates foundation you’ve built through the year strong and effective.
Staying hydrated is a pillar of health that is especially critical during the holidays, which can deplete our nervous system and increase our fatigue. Water is also one of the body’s best defenses against inflammation. Your body is constantly dealing with inflammatory free radicals from stress, environmental toxins and by products of your body’s normal processes. The hydrogen in water deactivates free radicals and clears them from your system.
But there’s a lot more to hydration than drinking 8 glasses of water a day. What’s really important is how much of that water reaches your cells and how your body uses it. You also want to make sure you have plenty of electrolytes in your hydration so your cells communicate electrically with one another. Consider adding magnesium as a supplement if you haven’t already. Be sure to follow the recommended dose your doctor or the bottle prescribes. Adding a pinch of salt to your water (preferably room temperature or warm) will also improve cellular hydration and help reduce fatigue.
Practice mindful eating
As we fall out of our routine during the holidays, our eating habits can suffer. We may eat too much, or indulge in foods that don’t make us feel our best. We may also eat on the run, or eat emotionally, also called stress eating. In fact, 33 percent of adults say that they regularly over eat or eat unhealthy foods to manage stress.
One way to avoid this, and especially during the holidays, is to keep your kitchen and office workspace organized with healthy, balanced foods. With some basic preparation you can plan your meals and have healthy snacks ready to go in advance. Create your grocery list with those healthy items and stash blood sugar balancing snacks like nuts or a healthy protein bar in your purse or car.
This encourages smarter food choices when you go to that office holiday party or friend’s cookie swap. When possible, eat a satiating snack or meal that contains protein, good fat like olive oil or avocado, and some greens. Be sure to also drink lots of water (with electrolytes) throughout the day. Then, there is less temptation to graze if your tummy is already happy. And – since it is the holidays, after all! – you’ll be able to make wiser choices about a treat or two that you select at the party.
Ramp up your breath or meditation practice
Though meditation has many proven benefits, I know this isn’t for everyone. However, one thing we can all do is to breathe better. Breathing better improves breath competency, which is our ability to more effectively oxygenate our brain and body in a conscious way.
However, over time our breathing patterns change due to environmental stressors and other causes of anxiety, like a busy holiday season. Stress causes shallow breathing and shallow breathing causes more stress. It’s a vicious cycle!
Research shows that deep breathing can have a direct effect on the overall activity level of the brain because the brain needs oxygen to function properly and optimally. And slow, deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain to the abdomen and is in charge of turning off the “fight or flight” reflex. Breathing slowly and deeply (preferable through the nose) for a few minutes a day, is a great way to calm down and feel more refreshed and alert.
Make sure to get enough sleep
Your sleep has an enormous impact on your health and daytime functioning. It affects your brain, your hormones and your immune system. The quality of your sleep will influence your daily mood, your perspective and of course your energy. Sleep is one of your foundations for stable mental and physical health as well as your overall performance.
The end of year holiday season can be a great time to optimize your sleep routines and improve your sleep. However, deciding how much sleep you need means considering your overall health, daily activities, and typical sleep patterns.
To improve the quality of your sleep right now, try a few of these suggestions.
- Limit screen time- yes that includes your phone, a few hours before bed
- Dim your lights in the evening as you wind down from your day, especially in your bedroom
- Try a yoga nidra, one of my favorites types of yoga to relax into sleep. You can find many apps like this one or YouTube videos for free!
Listen to this podcast for more inspiration and motivation.
Start the new year with a new Pilates practice
Staying committed or adding a few of the self care behavior changes above will pay dividends to your overall wellbeing. You will reduce your stress, create more mental calm and feel more energy and motivation to accomplish all your other tasks. And more importantly, you will make powerful life changes, creating more self-efficacy for the year ahead. In this season of giving, while you are thinking of all the gifts to share with others, remember to give back to yourself.
Want help staying balanced, fit and mindful throughout the holidays and into the New Year? Book a private session with me at my Austin-based studio. Or, sign up for my new 30-day Pilates challenge at leepilates.com, which will be live on January 15th, and you can sign up on February 1st!
Let’s start our New Year journey together. We will learn to move better as we strengthen, empower and transform ourselves building resilience and community along the way.