No doubt about it, the holidays are usually the highlight of the winter. But with all the good food, shopping and time spent with family, also comes new sources of stress—from traveling, changing your routine, spending more money, and so on.
Stress can really put a big damper on your quality of life, interrupting your sleep, slowing down progress of your workouts and even potentially leading to weight gain. And that’s just about the last thing you want when you’re trying to soak in the festivities and enjoy yourself. Some level of stress is beneficial, because it actually keeps us motivated to get thigs done everyday. The problem is that today, especially during chaotic times of the year when our to-do’s become packed, we operate as if we’re in a constant, low-grade state of emergency. This can drive up cortisol levels which depletes energy, can lead to increased food cravings, and generally just makes you less fun to be around. Stress can also impact immune function—making it more likely you’ll become sick—along with brain functionsince it can have devastating effects on your personality, memory and learning.
Here are several ways to lower your stress load around the holidays so you can stay focused on what matters most this time of year:
- Don’t Expect Perfection
If you’re staying with relatives, taking time off from work and making your rounds to holidays parties, chances are you’re going to veer off track a bit when it comes to your healthy diet and exercise routine. Not every party host is going to accommodate guests who strictly eat paleo, and holiday get-togethers might mean you need to skip the gym more often than you’d like. But remember not to stress the small stuff here – it’s not perfection that’s the goal, but progress and consistency.
It might help you to bring a dish you’re comfortable with eating to parties, this way you know you’ve at least got something you can eat to balance out the rest of the food bring offered. Remember if you eat something that’s not Paleo, have one too many drinks, or go too long without a good workout, that you can get back into the swing of things the.
- Sneak in Some Exercise
Exercise is beneficial for a lot more than burning excess calories off from all those holiday cookies you’ve been eating —it’s also one of the best ways to lower the impact of stress of your hormones. Exercise gives you a “natural high” and can help you sleep better, blow off steam and prevent fatigue. Even if you’re stuck working out indoors, or not able to do as much as you normally would other times of year due to a packed schedule, remember that every little bit counts. Even 20 to 30 minutes is much better than doing nothing at all. So try to find ways to sneak little bursts of activity into your day, whether doing more errands by foot, going to an exercise class when you’re visiting a new town, or simply trying some new home workouts using DVDs and free videos online.
- Prioritize Your Sleep
Sleep help restores the body to homeostasis, since it balances cortisol and other stress hormone levels which can skyrocket during tougher times. Being short on sleep also increases your cravings for refined carbs and sugary snacks, since the body knows these are quick sources of energy that can keep you on your feet. Finally, getting enough sleep will give you more motivation to be physically active and also social, two keys to feeling balanced, happier and healthier overall.
- Make More Time For “Kicking Back”
Sometimes it you have to carve out time for stress-reducing practices in order to really make an impact. You can you do things at home, or work with a teacher/professional if you’d like to really lower the effects of stress. Or, try getting a professional massage, going to a yoga or meditation class and taking warm baths, as the weather gets older. Even reading, writing in a journal, or reflecting more can make a big difference, plus these options are totally free and you can do them from anywhere, anytime.
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