After a tough two years, the world is opening up to a new kind of holiday season. Traditionally, this time of year can be a time of excess, stress, and anxiety. This cycle usually begins around Halloween with pleasure-bingeing, exhaustion, and feeling guilt and shame for overindulging in fun. We repeat the process until New Year’s Eve, when we vow we will be healthy by committing to workouts and extreme diet fads that are not sustainable. Then we give up on being healthy by February 1.
However, after spending the last holiday season in lockdown, many of us have a different perspective on health and wellness. We are ready to embrace a different style of “holidaying” from a place of balance connected to good health and grounded in joy, during what can be the most exasperating time of the year.
Staying healthy through the holidays isn’t just about the food we choose to eat. Here are seven simple tools for staying healthy through the holidays.
When stress occurs, it’s easy to allow our minds to spin, which can cause us to stress out. Taking the time to notice how your body feels is Embodiment 101. Catch what’s going on with you before reacting. You can do this by taking three deep breaths before taking action. Physical activity is another way to get into your physical body and out of your thinking mind. Walking, running, meditation, breath work, spin class, yoga, dancing, playing sports, playing musical instruments, and having great sex are all wonderful ways to practice embodiment alone, with a partner, or in community. When we fully participate in activities that require our physical, emotional, and mental focus, it compels us to use our mind-body as a unit in the present moment. Taking time during the stress of the holiday to get embodied is key to staying connected to that holiday joy.
Feed your brain with foods filled with “neuro-nutrition.”
Many holiday conflicts are amplified by “hanger” (anger fueled by hunger). No matter how busy you are, be sure to stock your fridge with foods that nourish your brain — and eat! Berries, green leafy veggies, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, fermented foods (like kombucha & kimchi), and mushrooms are nutrition-filled foods that spark the brain’s neurotransmitters to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps us feel happy. While serotonin is not in food, many of its precursors are. While cooking, keep small bowls of neuro-nutritious snacks near your prep area and eat to nourish yourself while you cook. Drink water. When the brain is content, we can better deal with holiday drama.
Have a pair and a spare.
Use any space for surplus supplies as a backup plan. If you are cooking something you’ve not cooked before, keep extra food that you can easily prepare just in case the fancy new recipe doesn’t work out. Take time to think about what could go wrong and make backup plans just in case. Even if you never have to use the backup, it’s nice to know you’ve got your bases covered.
Embrace the messy.
Why is it that we expect families who don’t speak to one another for 11 months out of the year to magically get along when they visit for the holidays? If you can’t stand your cousin but have to invite them because your father enjoys their company, allow space for the messy. You don’t have to solve every problem that comes up. Do the best you can. Everything will never be perfect, so why create added pressure on yourself by trying to be perfect?
Remember to breathe.
Breath is life, yet when we are running to make a tight plane connection, we first hold our breath. During the most stressful situations, remember to breathe. The simple act of noticing our breath allows the mind to slow down just enough to supercharge our bodies to manage whatever challenges we face.
Transform problems into possibilities and ask for help.
Human beings thrive on solving problems, and none of us accomplish anything alone. Ever notice how people who don’t have any financial burdens or responsibilities go out and create problems to solve? They climb mountains, surf monster waves, or skydive, and they know how to delegate. How many of us like to solve puzzles to unwind? How many of us know how to delegate? Think of the challenges that come up during the holidays as opportunities to strengthen your problem-solving muscles. If one place doesn’t have the Christmas tree of your dreams, get those creative juices flowing and find a solution. Trying to do it all by yourself is overrated. Be clear when asking for help and don’t expect the help you receive to be perfect.
When it’s all said and done, the holidays are about connecting to the people you love. Many of us have been away from one another for almost two years. We are all experiencing some kind of social awkwardness that is understandable after enduring this global pandemic. If we can get to our physical destinations in one piece and be with our loved ones this holiday season, we have succeeded big-time.
This time of year is filled with great expectations. So many of us have endured the loss of loved ones recently. We’ve dealt with more than we possibly could have imagined having to deal with, and we are in the process of coming to some sort of new normal. The most powerful tool in staying healthy through the holiday season is practicing gratitude. Yes, the gifts and the parties are fun, but when we let go of the pressure of “trying to” and just embrace the reality of being, we can give ourselves grace and embrace our authentic health and wellness through the holidays, into the new year, and beyond. The best tip to staying healthy through the holidays is to just celebrate being together.
In addition to being a contributor to Black Girl Nerds, Jeanine T. Abraham is a certified health coach since 2010 and has helped hundreds of folks stay healthy through the holidays.
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Jeanine is a Writer, Actor, member SAG/AFTRA, AEA, Podcast host, Producer, CEO VisAbleBlackWoman Productions, Certified Health Coach and Conscious Dance facilitator. Jeanine's mission, centering Black women's stories to preserve our legacies.