Life Boost with Dr. Amelia: 7 self-care tips for a happy and healthy holiday season
In Life Boost with Dr. Amelia, Associate IndeVet and health coach Dr. Amelia Knight shares tips to lead a happier and healthier life as a veterinarian.
Ah, the holidays. Such a magical time of year! Or, is it? The holidays can be a time of joy, celebration, connection, and comfort. They can also be a logistical nightmare.
Juggling the holidays on top of everyday life can feel like a lot. The added stress of a full calendar, constant temptations, extra expenses, navigating family, making the most of vacation time, and trying to stay cheerful and merry while DOING IT ALL can be overwhelming. Here are 7 tips to help you stay healthy and sane this holiday season!
Tip #1: Breathe.
Any time you start to get caught up in all of the things you “should” be doing or the stress of the holidays, pause, and take a deep breath. The holiday season will whirl by without you taking a single deep breath if you let it.
Let a deep breath be a safe space for you to return to at any point during the holidays (and beyond) for a reset. When you exhale, let go of the tension and overwhelm you’re carrying, so that you can inhale a clear mind and a fresh start. Keep this quote by President Dwight Eisenhower in mind,
“What’s urgent is seldom important, and what’s important is seldom urgent.”
Clearly he didn’t work in emergency, so let’s move beyond that. Think of how this applies in other aspects of your life outside of vet med.
Taking a deep breath gives you a moment to refocus on your priorities and mindset. Go ahead and practice right now. ?
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Tip #2: Identify your priorities.
When you think about the holidays, what is most important to you? What are the things that bring you joy, fill up your cup, and give you energy? How do you want to feel?
Before you get caught up in the holidays, take a few minutes to sit down and really reflect on how you want to navigate the next couple of months. Write down:
- Your top 3 priorities
- A list of the things that bring you joy and boost your energy and a list of the things that drain your energy
- How you want to feel physically and mentally during the holidays (and beyond)
There are endless things you’re going to feel like you “need” to do during the holiday season. Any time something new comes up, refer back to this list. Does it align with your priorities? Is adding that onto your plate going to increase your energy or decrease it? Are your actions in line with the way you want to feel during the holidays?
Tip #3: Savor without guilt.
It’s okay to have that epic slice of homemade cake. Enjoy it guilt free. When there’s a special meal or treat you look forward to all year, there’s no reason not to have it. One meal isn’t going to derail anything. Just be mindful of the things that you truly want versus the things that are tempting just because they’re there.
This time of year, there are lots of sweets and treats that seem tempting. For example, we’re heading straight into Christmas cookie season. Be thoughtful about the food and drinks that you want. Is it a mediocre container of cookies that you could have any time? Or, is it a special homemade cookie fresh out of the oven that’s only made this time of year? Be mindful of what you really want.
When you constantly snack on cookies just because they’re out and available, none of them are going to taste that special, and you’re going to start feeling pretty blah. If you’re thoughtful about the times you want to indulge, the level of enjoyment you’ll get will be greater.
Remember, you can have sweets any time of year. The first few bites are always the best! Pay attention to how you feel while you eat and afterwards. If you don’t like the way you feel after, it’s okay. That feeling will pass, and that’s really valuable information you’re learning about your body to help guide your future decisions.
The more aware you are of the way you feel AFTER eating food (and not just the taste while eating it), the easier it will be to help you decide which foods you truly want and which ones you just like the concept of in the moment.
More from Dr. Knight: 6 tips to set and maintain boundaries in work and in life
Tip #4: Be kind to yourself.
Protect your energy. Make sure that you and your body are playing on the same team. Is the food you’re eating helping you to feel good physically and mentally? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you giving yourself time to recharge?
If you find yourself participating in behaviors that you later regret — like eating one too many cookies or having a few too many cocktails at a party — leave the judgement behind. There’s no reason to make yourself feel physically AND emotionally crappy.
That tends to lead to a vicious cycle of punishing yourself for not “being good” only to overindulge the next time when things get stressful or you feel like you deserve a break because you’ve been overly restrictive.
Instead, approach the behavior with curiosity and kindness. What was really going on that led to that behavior?
- Were there tons of cookies within arms reach that were hard to resist?
- Were you nervous at the party and needed social lubrication?
- Has your stress level been high and you needed an escape?
When you leave the judgement behind, you open up an opportunity to see your behaviors from a new perspective. When you do this, you can start to work on giving your body what it really needs.
The holidays are an important time to establish boundaries. It is not selfish to prioritize you. When you put everyone and everything else first, you don’t show up as your best self. No one benefits when that happens. Having the energy to be kind to others starts with self-compassion.
Tip #5: Nourish with nutrients.
When navigating buffets, parties, and decadent meals, focus on what you can add to your plate to nourish your body. There are lots of amazing, nutrient-dense, delicious foods this time of year!
See how many different plants you can add to your plate for optimal gut health and stable blood sugar. Consuming at least 30+ different plants (vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds, beans/legumes, whole grains, and fresh herbs) each week is optimal for gut health.
Plants provide food (fiber) for the good gut microbes you want. Different gut microbes have different food preferences (just like people). The greater variety of plants you eat, the greater variety of amazing microbes you’ll have! Not only that, including fiber in your meals will help to stabilize your blood sugar (even if you’re also consuming some sweets). See how nicely that all works out?
It’s much more fun to focus on what you can add to boost your health instead of what you “shouldn’t” have. Enjoy creating a diverse, colorful plate and your tastebuds and body will thank you.
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Tip #6: Be present.
The holidays are meant to be a joyful time of year. Yet, it’s so easy to get so caught up in all of the little obligations and commitments that you never actually enjoy the moment. Don’t get so caught up in what you “should” be doing that you miss out on what’s really important to you.
Part of being present means putting away the phone. Simply having a phone on a table increases distraction and decreases enjoyment. Whether you’re spending time with family and friends or doing something on your own, see what little delights you notice when you’re freed from constant notifications.
Tip #7: Block time for you.
Your calendar can fill up before you know it. Block time just for you. A block of free time can be the greatest gift you can give yourself.
This block of time is not for you to do something productive, it’s time for you to recharge. Have FUN. Do nothing. Go for a walk outdoors and soak up the sounds, scents, and sights around you. Curl up in a blanket with tea and a good book. Schedule a massage. Do the thing you always say you want to but never have time for.
Think about having an open block of time, and do the thing that gives you a little burst of joy when you think of having time for it.
While these tips are for the holiday season, I encourage you to apply them year-round! When you take the time to breathe, nourish your body, enjoy the present, and make time for you, you’ll have more energy to show up as your best self in all aspects of life.
Amelia Knight, VMD, cVMA, INHC is an Associate IndeVet and a veterinary life coach. Learn more at lifeboost.today and follow her on Instagram at @lifeboostwithamelia.