The gift of giving to yourself

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Here come the holidays — and they’re bringing with them a host of activities. Decorating the house, cooking, holiday parties: Instead of singing, “Let It Snow,” you might be humming “Let It Stop.” For me — and maybe you, too — the most stressful part of the holiday season is gift-giving. Every year, I feel overwhelmed by making a list and checking it twice for my family. But what if we shifted our focus to give ourselves simple, effective, health-minded goals? Here are just a few ideas:

GET MORE SLEEP

Sleep eludes most people, regardless of the time of year. Even still, we need to be extra diligent about sleep this month. A sufficient amount bolsters our immune system, improves our overall mode and helps with satiety (thus no overeating at the Christmas party)— just to name a few benefits. 

Set a bed time for yourself that allows you to get a minimum of seven hours of rest. It will help if you don’t bring your smartphone to bed; give yourself at least 30 minutes of a relaxing activity like reading, journaling, or talking with your spouse. During the day, avoid high-fat, high-calorie, overly spicy or sugary foods and alcohol, especially three to four hours before bedtime. These foods and drinks can negatively affect your digestion and hormones.

BREATHE

This sounds obligatory, but this month really focus onbreathing. Most of us breathe from the sternum, often without equanimity. We need to deepen our breath so that it originates from the navel, making sure we inhale and exhale evenly. 

When you start to feel anxious, recognize it. Take a moment to yourself and inhale, through the nose, to a count of three to five. Then exhale through the mouth to a count of three to five. At bedtime, once the lights are off, lay supine. Place one hand on your heart and one on your belly. On the inhales, feel your torso inflate. On the exhales, feel your torso deflate. Do this 10 times or more. 

WORK UP A SWEAT

For many of us, the hustle and bustle of the holidays mean our exercise routines are out the window. At the start of December, commit to an exercise program for the season. This could mean buying a one-month yoga or fitness membership, getting out your calendar and inputting your workouts for the next few weeks, getting a health coach or personal trainer, or all the above. 

To motivate yourself to exercise, combine low-, medium- and high-intensity workouts into your week. Or try starting a walking group; you’ll log time with your friends and walking and talking will exercise both your body and your mind. And don’t forget to hydrate — try an electrolyte supplement before or after your workout. My favorite is Nuun; the tablets can be found at Go Tri Sports or Whole Foods.

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY

Many of us set the bar too high during the holidays. Rather than feeling like everything has to be perfect, try to be realistic and present in the moment.

Set aside one day with the whole family and delegate the decorating. Put one family member in charge of the Christmas lights, another in charge of hanging wreaths, etc. When it comes to the holiday table, remember that you don’t need to whip everything up yourself from scratch. Maybe you can make the gravy, but get the stuffing from a local restaurant. 

And gifts and holiday gatherings don’t have to be expensive, over-the-top affairs. Instead of giving gifts to friends or family, write thoughtful, personalized notes instead. And nothing beats a cold winter night snuggling on the sofa with someone special to watch a classic holiday movie.


Becca Edwards is a wellness professional, freelance writer, and owner of b.e.WELL+b.e.CREATIVE (bewellbecreative.com).