It’s the 11th hour and you’re scrambling to finalize your gifts and preparations for the holidays. Ah the holidays – a time of family, food, gifts, parties and fun. And if you’re a human being, all of those things probably also have some pretty stressful aspects to them too. These can come in obvious forms as well as very subtle forms. Holiday gatherings and parties can be occasions where people who normally don’t spend a lot of time together or really understand eachother get together and spend hours and hours on end together. Then there’s the shopping and the crowds, the cold weather, the party-planning and the list-making, and a lack of time to get it all done to the level of perfection we desire, all while messing with our normal daily routine. Sound familiar?
At The Tasteful Pantry, we love, love, love holiday feasts and holiday foods. But we also are very aware that there can be a tendency to overindulge in food and drink, sometimes as a way to escape from the stress and discomfort that the holidays bring up for us. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Below are some practical tips to help you work with everything that comes up during the holiday season – the good & delicious, and the difficult & bitter – and to ENJOY what you’re doing and where you are.
1) Plan ahead.
Especially if you have dietary restrictions, planning ahead is KEY. It can also be fun to plan out your meals and your gifts ahead of time to extend the holiday cheer and avoid the crunch time as the actual holidays approach. You may find that the more time and space you give yourself to think about your loved ones and what gifts you can give them to bring a smile to their face, the more it puts a smile on your own face. And the further ahead you start brainstorming foods you can eat or contribute to a holiday meal, the more you may feel inspired to be creative and to add a healthy element to your meals!
2) Stay physically active.
This doesn’t meaning driving around to as many shopping malls as possible 🙂 It means actually taking the time to go for a walk/run, to continue with your normal workout routine, or to try a new class at the gym. When we can tune in to our bodies and take the time to get our hearts beating, our blood flowing, and our muscles strengthening, we stimulate our brains and our hearts, and increase our overall mood and energy levels. Make this time for yourself a priority and we promise it will help with everything else on your list.
3) Breathe and feel.
With all the holiday preparations to do and gifts to buy, the busy-ness of life may start to feel a bit much. It is possible to be busy and get things done but not feel overwhelmed. The way to do that is to remember to breathe. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? When you’re running from errand to errand, take a second to tune in to your breath, to what it feels like to breathe and be alive in your life that very moment. Tune in to all your senses and feel connected to the earth. Then you can go back to rushing around 🙂 And when you feel that sense of busy-ness creeping up again, repeat the above.
4) Don’t over-schedule, forget perfection.
What does perfection mean anyway? Probably something very different to each of us. The important thing is to remember that you’re HUMAN and beautifully imperfect. That means giving yourself the time and the space to be who you are and not some idea of who you “should” be (or who someone else thinks you should be). That may mean learning to say no and remembering it’s ok to slow down. Sometimes the less you do, the more you (and those around you) enjoy. So for the sake of enjoying your holiday season and helping those around you to enjoy it, be intentional about how you spend your time and don’t sweat the small stuff!
5) Eat mindfully.
They say you are what you eat. I’m not so sure if that’s a good generalization for all of life, but how I eat definitely affects my energy and mood. But sometimes when we’re super busy or feeling emotional, or if we’re faced with an amazing spread of food, we forget to really taste and experience that food. Instead our minds jump to what we’re going to do or eat next. If our minds keep jumping ahead, it’s hard to feel satisfied, let alone truly enjoy our food. Our advice here is similar to #3 above – take a breath and tune into your body and senses as you eat. Enjoy the smell and texture of each bite and sip. Enjoy the feeling of putting something delicious and nutritious into your body. Really feel how it feels to have that nourishment in you and when you’ve had enough.
If you know that you are prone to stress-eating during the holidays, accept it, prepare for it and work with it. Repressing it or feeling guilty will only make it worse.
6) Eat healthily.
In addition to #5, to avoid overindulging at the holiday table, make sure you haven’t gotten so ravenous by the time you sit down that you just wolf everything down. It can be very hard to sense when you’ve had enough when this happens. So eat healthy, nutritious, yummy snacks in between your meals, especially if you’re on the run and need that fuel. Go especially for snacks that are high in protein and fiber to keep you satisfied longer. Also, you can prepare NOW by consuming nutritious foods that will feed and fuel your body. Avoid high sugar foods and check out these immunity-boosting tips that will help you stay healthy and energized during the holiday season. And drink lots of water, which will give you energy and aid in digestion!
7) Seek out opportunities to laugh.
Laughter is scientifically proven to lighten your mood and induce changes in your body (e.g. stimulating circulation and muscle relaxation). It may seem a bit contrived, but try to seek out opportunities to laugh. Even if that means choosing something funny when you watch TV, or cracking more jokes than you normally would (then maybe laughing at yourself if they’re a flop). Be creative with it…and don’t take it too seriously 🙂
8) Reach out to others.
For many of us (especially us introverts), our natural tendency when we face stress or difficult emotions is to withdraw and turn inwards. When that happens, force yourself to get out of the house and be in an environment with other people. Even if that just means going to the store and looking the cashier in the eye when you check out, try to make a small connection with someone else, even if it’s not verbal. It may help to broaden your perspective and remind yourself that other people are probably going through the same thing.
9) Don’t worry about other people.
You can’t change other people, and sometimes you can’t change the situation. But you can change how you relate to it all. Often the holidays and big family gatherings can come with lots of expectations, from how we should be living our lives to how the table should be set. Don’t worry about how you or they think the holidays should be, and focus instead on enjoying the elements of the holidays you can (with the help of this list). That beautiful snow flake, the delicious bite of pie, the look of surprise when someone opens an unexpected gift. There is a lot to enjoy about the holiday season, and the more we can relax and tune in to our bodies and environment, the more we can partake in the festivities with genuineness and joy.