Let’s get this out of the way: I love the candied yams with the toasted marshmallows on Thanksgiving. They’re delicious! If I could eat just those for Thanksgiving dinner, I would.
I’m sure you have you favorites too. Thanksgiving is a time of family – and that also means traditional family recipes. (And traditional family stress).
But now that we’re in the midst of Sugar Season, we need to be mindful of our choices – not just for food but also for how we live our lives during the most hectic time of the year.
Hard as it will be through January, balance is key.
The best way to plug in to the bliss of the holiday season is to avoid many of its stresses altogether. Ultimately this is easier said than done, and it is no coincidence that this time of year is the start of cold and flu season.
This means that choosing wisely means choosing good health.
My best advice? Have a strategy. If Starbucks is prepared to have red cups and peppermint lattes at the beginning of November, you can plan around your stress.
In naturopathic medicine, we emphasize vitality and disease prevention. This means, doing the little things now to avoid illness later.
Here are 7 tips to keep in mind to help survive Sugar Season’s second holiday, Stressgiving:
Moderation. There it is: a table full of Thanksgiving’s bounty. We pile our plates high and strive to finish every last morsel. (Then we crash on the couch and fall asleep.) We repeat this the following week with all the leftovers. This is indeed tradition, and one night isn’t going to kill us, but to maintain your energy, try to make Thanksgiving dinner as normal a meal as possible. Keep your portions at regular sizes. And if you want to fill up, start with protein and veggies – these will make you feel full first. Then, if there’s still room, have the breads, candied yams(!) and other carb goodies. At a minimum, you’ll avoid the post-dinner crash (so you can watch the Cowboys game).
Spend more than just a day of thanksgiving. Practice gratitude daily. What we think about, we bring about. Before you go to bed think of three things for which you’re grateful today. Say it out loud or write it down. It’s easy – and these positive thoughts beget more positive thoughts, which improves our well-being.
Show compassion. The good news: families are reuniting. The bad news? Families are reuniting. It’s nice to see everyone but for many it’s also time to rehash past issues.
If you find yourself getting annoyed, be compassionate. Try to remember the good about people and that your time together for the holiday(s) is temporary. When our bodies are in a lowered state of energy, our thoughts turn negative, which is also affected by our gut flora and overall health. Stay positive.
Get outside. The Arizona weather is finally perfect. Walking in nature has proven to calm us down. Even if you don’t have time for exercise, go for a walk. Or if you have more time, get out for a hike.
Just breathe. If you feel yourself getting irritable – pause — and take a slow, deep breath. Another method is “box breathing” — inhale for four counts, exhale for four counts and repeat four times. This will relieve tension and improve your mood almost immediately. Breathing also has other benefits too such as lowering blood pressure.
Start on New Year’s resolutions now. Why wait until January. Start now and keep your diet and exercise consistent so it is a habit when January 1 rolls around. Start with one small goal then build on that. There’s no time like the present and if you stay moving, you have a reduced chance for developing those extra ten pounds over the holidays, or worse, illness.
Make lists (and check them twice). Don’t wait until the last minute (or even Black Friday or Cyber Monday). Do your holiday shopping now when there is zero stress. Set a budget, make a list and get what you need for everyone. The least stressful is shopping online. Your presents show up on the doorstep (and you can even have them wrapped). This frees up time and helps puts the joy back in giving.
Have a stress free Thanksgiving and you’ll have a healthier and happier holiday.