How many times have you planned to attend a holiday party where you knew you’d eat and drink a few too many festive treats, but still vowed to wake up early the next day and sweat off your transgressions with a killer workout?
Except after the fact, all you want to do is cozy up on the couch in your jammies with a blanket, a mug of hot cocoa and an entire season of your favorite TV show. Uh oh — the slippery slope of winter hibernation has officially begun!
“Self-care is important all year long, but it’s vital in a season of big dinners, traveling, office parties and stressful family situations,” says Karen Azeez, certified health coach and owner of Well Beings With Karen Azeez.
“These conditions are the very same ones that often keep people out of the gym or out of their exercise/meditation/self-care routines. In my experience, it’s so much easier to stay on track rather than repair the damage of a huge derailment.”
So if your calendar is full of nonstop fun and festivities this season, Azeez says these seven simple strategies will stave off a world of hurt and get you through the winter fit and happy:
Step into the light.
As human beings, we will always need sunlight and exercise no matter how cold and dreary it is outdoors. Not only do our bodies need vitamin D from sunlight to keep our immune system and bones strong, but getting a dose of morning light also helps keep our internal clock in order (so that we feel awake during the day and sleepy at bedtime). So no matter how difficult, strive to get out into the morning light for at least 10 or 20 minutes a day. Make a morning walk pact with a friend or stroll part of the way to work. And remember, you can still enjoy outdoor sports (skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing). Just layer up and get out there.
When your schedule includes parties, travel, holiday shopping, decorating and entertaining, it’s hard to fit in exercise, right? But it’s easier if you keep this advice in mind: Exercise stays on your schedule — scorched into your digital calendar like the Ten Commandments — and everything else fits in around it. When we exercise regularly, not only are we burning off that slice of pumpkin pie, but we are also creating greater awareness of our bodies, boosting our self-esteem and managing stress more easily.
Stop the snooze.
You may want to pull the covers over your head and get an extra hour (or two) of sleep at this time of year, but resist the urge — too much can leave you feeling foggy-headed and listless, throw off your sleep cycle and cause insomnia, and even exacerbate depression. So push yourself to get up earlier than feels comfortable. If you move around and you’re still tired, then you are actually tired. If not, you were just warm, comfy and sleepy.
Don’t let the fear of derailing your goals keep you from being social and enjoying the holidays — isolation can lead to depression, and depression can lead to weight gain and insomnia. Being with people is energizing in body, mind and spirit, so offer to host a game night with healthy snacks, a soup tasting, a clothing swap or even a tea party.
You may not feel as thirsty as the summer months, but your body still needs at least 70 ounces a day of water to keep going. And while the gingerbread lattes and eggnogs may be delicious, they don’t count toward that goal. Staying hydrated keeps our energy levels up, promotes sounder sleep and staves off overeating and cravings. So your water bottle should be the No. 1 weapon in your arsenal — keep it at your desk, with you on the plane and in your purse while running errands.
Get back to your roots.
It’s normal to crave cheesy dips and tons of mashed potatoes during celebrations and on cold winter days. In fact, it’s our body’s way of reminding us that with the change of season, we should transition to heartier and more warming foods instead of the salads and smoothies of summer. Thankfully, these are the kind of foods that Mother Nature provides to us from the earth in the winter — namely in root veggies, such as carrots, parsnips, potatoes and beets. Whip up a batch of freshly made soup (avoiding the creamy ones) to satisfy your need for coziness without the extra fat.
Keep calm and carry on.
If you do the above steps, you’re well on your way to handling the extra dose of stress the holidays tend to dish out. Now you just need to add some breathing techniques to slow the nervous system and meditation to quiet the mind. Just like exercise, you can program these breaks into your phone’s calendar or reminder system to make sure they stay a part of your daily life. And don’t underestimate the power of locking yourself in a coat closet and counting to 10 when your cousins start fighting again.