Although the holiday season is meant for a time of rejoicing, relaxing and spending time with the ones we love, it more often than not ends up being a hectic time laden with stress. This stress often leads to abandonment of exercise routines, overeating and lack of sleep. And, all of these resulting issues actually cause more stress which can result in a vicious circle.
It doesn’t have to be that way! With a little planning and common sense, you can turn this holiday season around right now and truly enjoy the time while also taking care of yourself. Use the six-week holiday survival guide below to stay fit, healthy and stress free (or at least less stressful) during this year’s festivities.
Six Weeks Out
Start by marking down the dates you have specific commitments that can’t be altered (e.g. dinner with your Aunt and Uncle, office holiday party, etc).
Commit to a minimum of 60 minutes per week of cardio activity and 30 minutes per week of strength training. It doesn’t matter how long each session is only that you complete the total amount in each seven day period. So, you may do 10 minutes one day, 5 minutes the next and 20 minutes another day. These sessions should also be scheduled as appointments on your calendar. The 60 minutes is a minimum if you can fit in a little cardio every day that will be even better as it will help keep your metabolism revved up.
Promise to be realistic with your treat indulgences. A small piece of pie two or three times during the season and a few cookies here and there is perfectly fine. After all, if you are too strict with yourself you won’t have an enjoyable season and may ultimately indulge to an extreme. But, also don’t allow yourself a free-for-all on calories for six weeks or you’ll be starting the new year with the unwanted gift of extra pounds!
Make a list of everything you need to do to prepare for the holidays. Mark the items that you most look forward to doing. For some this may be decorating your house or getting gifts ready for charity (it can be anything – remember this is YOUR list).
Now get your calendar or online scheduler and mark the days that you will complete each of the above tasks (keeping in mind the days you already marked for commitments).
For the items that you didn’t mark (the ones you might actually dread), consider first if they are necessary to do. If so, then find ways to make them more enjoyable. For example, if you despise going to a shopping mall, then purchase gifts online or make shopping more of an event – include a special lunch (alone or with someone) and maybe a manicure for yourself to break up the day.
Be sure to also include in your schedule simple holiday pleasures (baking with kids or other loved ones, checking out a holiday flick at the theatre, etc.)
Strive to get as much as is reasonable done before the three weeks out mark. This will help you decrease your last minute stresses and help you stay on track with your eating and fitness.
Less Than Three Weeks Out
Evaluate your fitness and eating progress for the past three weeks. Have you been able to stick to your 60 and 30 minute commitments? If so, give yourself a pat on the back and keep going strong! If not, ask yourself why not? What’s gotten in the way of your plan? And, is it really more important than taking care of yourself?
Have you been eating 5 meals per day, drinking enough water and limiting your indulgences? If you’ve been skipping meals and eating cookies every day, then it’s time to reevaluate your plan to determine how to get back on track with your time.
If despite your best efforts, you are feeling behind on your tasks then why not hire some help and consider it a gift to yourself. Think about how much your time is truly worth (remember, time is money) and contract out accordingly. For example, consider hiring a cleaning service to clean your house either for that upcoming party you are hosting or just for your sanity.
You might also consider using a gift wrapping service. Also, use the time management strategy of delegation, and assign some tasks to other family members.
Don’t forget to get enough sleep. Lack of sleep leads to stress and stress leads to overeating. Fast forward to January and all those hours of sleep you missed have now manifested as extra fat on your body!
One Week Out
This is not the time to rush around in a frenzy, lose sleep and get cranky with the ones you love because you’re stressed out. If you have a long list of to-dos left then it’s time to do some cutting.
Many of us do what we do during the holiday season just because we always have and think we have to stick to traditions. But, do you really need to make 100 chocolate balls? It’s time to drop some items from your list so that your holiday can actually be festive.
Don’t give up on your healthy eating and fitness plan during the last week. You’ve made it this far (hopefully) so don’t give up when your on the 10-yard line. Stick to your 60 and 30 commitment and you’ll feel refreshed after the holiday rush has ended rather than feeling like you are ready to hibernate. If you haven’t met your weekly commitments don’t throw in the towel. Regroup and try to meet you goal during this last week.