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Surviving the Holidays: Body, Mind and Spirit - Strategies
by Jessica Setnick, MS, RD/LD

Feed every part of yourself during the holidays - mental, emotional, spiritual, AND physical.     

BODY

It will be harder to take care of others if you are not taking care of yourself.  Schedule time for yourself, and keep the appointment, just as you would if it were a business meeting.

As much as possible, maintain your regular sleep, exercise, and eating patterns.  This is not the time to "go on a diet" or make drastic changes to your lifestyle.  It is also not a good time to be sleep deprived.

Don’t skip meals, even if you have a big one coming up soon.  Eat on time so that you are not starving when you are surrounded by food.

If you eat more than usual at a holiday meal or party, remind yourself that overeating occasionally does not cause instant weight gain, and that your body knows what to do with that food.  It is normal to eat more than usual during the holidays, and it really is okay.  In all likelihood you will return to your normal eating habits the next day, and your body will normalize.  In fact, if you honestly listen to your hunger, you probably won’t be hungry again for quite a while, and your total food intake for the day may be the same.

Recognize your limits and practice saying no. This includes when people offer you food.  Never overeat because of pressure from others.

Listen to your body!  Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, rest when you’re tired, and relax when you’re stressed.

Think of activities the whole family can do instead of sitting around eating.

MIND

Be flexible about your expectations - almost nothing can turn out exactly as planned, so hoping for it will only lead to disappointment.

Plan ahead how you will cope with uncomfortable situations.  Have a "safe spot" you can escape to if family gatherings become stressful, and plan a way to excuse yourself.  Think about realistic scenarios that might occur and plan how you will respond.

Get as organized as possible so you don’t have to duplicate effort.  Write shopping lists and errands lists and organize them by geography.  Take things with you on the way to work so you can do them on your way home from work.

Try not to count calories or weigh yourself if either of these adds to your stress.  If the thought of not weighing worries you, find a friend who will weigh you backward and reassure you as long as you are within a 5 pound range.  This way you will know you are within your usual weight range without panicking over a 1 or 2 pound gain that could easily be due to water retention after a big meal.

SPIRIT

Don’t schedule so many activities that you become exhausted.  List all the parties to which you are invited, all your errands, etc.  Prioritize, then cross off those that are honestly not necessary or that will only add to your stress.  Determine what you enjoy most during the holidays and schedule time for it.  Determine what you enjoy least and cross it off your list!  If you are really honest with yourself, you may realize most of your time is scheduled to make others happy.  A little selfishness goes a long way this time of year toward making you happy.

Find a scripture or saying that is meaningful to you, and carry it in your wallet or purse.  Turn to it for comfort or a reality check when stress gets high.

Walk away from no-win situations.  Arguing when everyone’s stress is high tends to lead to more stress.

Try to look "on the bright side" whenever you can; laugh as much as possible, even (especially!) at your own mistakes.

Accept the things or family members that you cannot change.  Figure out how you can change your behavior or attitude to cope and to take care of yourself.  Prepare responses to things people may say that make you uncomfortable.

Make a pact with a friend or loved one to "just listen" to each other for 5 or 10 minutes each day.  No talking, no advice giving, just listening.

Find time to be spiritual in your own way, whether it is through religion, faith, meditation, giving thanks, art or your own expression of yourself.

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