Food, family, and festivity are at the top of the list of holiday traditions. But the most wonderful time of the year can also bring overeating, overdrinking, stress, and negative emotions. How can we celebrate without going overboard? How can we navigate feelings of sadness and depression and focus on our mental health during this joyful but often challenging time? With a thoughtful approach and advanced planning, we can create healthy holiday habits.
How Can I Avoid Overeating During the Holidays?
Delicious food is a rich part of our holiday traditions. But the season also presents challenges related to overeating. You can enjoy festive meals and holiday treats without overdoing it. Here are some tips for healthy eating during this very tempting time of year:
- Don’t skip meals. Instead, balance rich holiday meals with light, fresh foods, including fruits and vegetables. For example, when planning a big dinner, consider a lighter breakfast and lunch: fruit, yogurt, a salad or healthy soup are great choices.
- Add healthy fare to holiday dinners and gatherings. Vegetables can take center stage on your table with nutritious and creative dishes featuring sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, and other vitamin-rich choices. Creating a colorful veggie tray with your kids is another fun and healthy option.
- Savor your meals. When you’re enjoying a holiday meal, take the time to appreciate the experience. Eat slowly and let yourself enjoy the feeling of satisfaction a good meal brings. Pause before returning for seconds: sometimes, the sense of fullness doesn’t hit right away.
- Plan ahead and make conscious choices. Treat yourself to foods you love instead of mindlessly indulging in everything that looks or smells yummy. Select favorite items you know are worth it, and choose sugary treats wisely and consciously. For example, say yes to the festive homemade holiday cake you enjoy once a year, but avoid the store-bought cookies.
- Drink lots of water and limit sugary beverages and alcohol.
- Incorporate exercise into your holiday routine with options like family walks and other physical activities. It’s an excellent way to burn calories while having fun.
How Can I Limit Alcohol Consumption During the Holidays?
Enjoying a cocktail or glass of wine can make a holiday gathering festive. But we want to avoid binge drinking and excessive alcohol consumption. Here are some tips for moving through the holidays with moderation:
- Set time limits and/or drink limits. If you’re at a holiday party, give yourself a curfew or set a drink limit. You can head home or switch to water once you reach your limit.
- Focus on hydration and make sure you’re also drinking plenty of water whenever you’re consuming alcohol. Sparkling mineral water can be a festive and fun alternative to alcohol.
- Mocktails are a fun and fast-growing holiday trend. Get creative with festive blends using cranberry juice, pomegranate juice and other ingredients for healthy and refreshing holiday beverages.
- Limit the number of holiday events you attend. You don’t have to say yes to every party. Setting limits on your obligations can also help with holiday stress.
- Make social plans that don’t involve alcohol. Try an afternoon tea or morning coffee with friends instead of a boozy evening party. Get a group together for a walk or shopping excursion instead of cocktails.
- If your celebration includes alcohol, use designated drivers or organize outside transportation.
How Can I Protect My Mental Health During the Holidays?
The holidays can be filled with joy and connection, but for many of us, they also bring sadness and grief. Setting boundaries and saying no can help you:
- Acknowledge that you don’t have to feel happy and festive every moment. There’s room for negative feelings during the holidays.
- Take time to rest and avoid overscheduling. Make recharging a priority.
- Exercise and spend time outside for mental and physical health.
- Connect with other people who may be feeling sadness or negative emotions during the holidays. Find time to talk, connect, and be your authentic self.
- Make time for mental healthcare. If you have a therapist, avoid canceling scheduled appointments. If you need a referral, your primary care provider can help.
Holiday Wellness: Your Primary Care Provider Can Help
At Comprehensive Primary Care, our team supports patients’ mental and physical health year-round. We know that holiday stress and abundant opportunities for overdoing it can challenge our healthy habits. Mindfulness and finding the proper support are critical. Whether you’re working with our excellent in-house licensed dietician to craft a healthy eating plan or getting mental health support from our PCPs, we can help you finish the year healthy and get the new year started right.