The holidays are supposed to be a season of love, joy, and happiness. This is easier said than done.
Sure, good food, parties, gifts, and family gatherings are beautiful. However, just thinking about setting up the decorations, sending out holiday cards on time, shopping for gifts, attending holiday events, hosting guests, planning, cooking, and cleaning up can be incredibly overwhelming.
Do you want to enjoy this holiday season without overwhelming, fatigue, and health complaints? Do you want to experience more ease, joy, and health than the years before? You’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn how to protect your health, energy, and happiness, and how to survive the holiday hustles and bustles with a smile on your face.
How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays
Eat an Anti-inflammatory Diet
The holidays are full of temptations and indulgences. Unfortunately, many of our holiday classics from mac ‘n cheese to holiday roasts, from sugary cookies to sweet pumpkin pie, from egg nog to New Year’s Eve cocktails, are often inflammatory. Eating heavy, sugary, and inflammatory foods for a month or longer can be incredibly hard on your body. These foods zap your energy, create inflammation, and increase the risk of disease.
Instead, I recommend that you stick to anti-inflammatory foods during the holidays. Leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices, nuts and seeds, and fermented foods are your best friends. If you eat animal products, always choose organic, pasture-raised beef, free-range poultry and eggs, wild-caught fish, or wild game. There are so many healthy holiday recipes around made with whole foods to enjoy nutrient-dense foods without missing out on anything. If you still want to reach for some of your old favorites, I recommend that you limit them for the actual days of the holidays instead of eating them the entire month. If you are focusing on a nutrient-dense diet, you will notice how much better you feel!
Since your gut is connected to all parts of your body, its health is incredibly important. Inflammatory foods and stress may both compromise your gut health. If your gut flora and gut health are out of balance, your entire health can become compromised. Your risk of inflammation, fatigue, stress, pain, and disease increases.
A healthy gut, on the other hand, creates a balanced base that supports your entire health and well-being. While eating an anti-inflammatory diet is essential for gut health, I also recommend that you eat plenty of probiotic-rich fermented foods, such as sauerkrauts, kimchi, and kefir, and take daily probiotic supplements to support your gut microbiome. In my practice I use a variety of different probiotics, so feel free to call us and inquire about our monthly special for probiotics.
Burning the candle at both ends during the holidays can drain your adrenals. Too much stress, too little sleep, too much sugar, and junk food, or too many holiday alcoholic drinks may force your adrenals to overwork and may lead to adrenal fatigue.
To support your adrenal health and balanced stress response, I recommend adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens have been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries. They help your body to regulate cortisol, combat stress and improve fatigue. My favorite adaptogenic herbs include Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Licorice and Ginseng.
Exercise may be the last thing on your mind during the busy holiday season. However, it is crucial for your health and energy levels. Regular exercise can help to reduce stress, improve your mood, and boost your energy.
Ideally, you want to get some exercise for 20 to 30 minutes five times a week and stay generally active. Mix up your routine by including some cardiovascular exercise, such as swimming, running, or biking, strength- and resistance training, such as bodyweight exercises, weight lifting, or TRX, and low-impact exercises, such as yoga, pilates, and stretching. Stay active during the day by stretching throughout the day, going for walk during lunch, playing with your kids, taking the stairs, or walking your dogs.
Make Time for Yourself
If you are like most people, you try to please everyone during the holiday season and end up forgetting about yourself. It is certainly wonderful to have this opportunity to reconnect with family and friends and create beautiful memories together. But you also need some love – from yourself.
You deserve and need some quality “me-time”. Make “an appointment with yourself” time during the holiday season. Go for a nature walk. Take a hot, relaxing bath. Meditate. Breathe. Journal. Try some yoga. Curl up with your favorite book. Watch your favorite holiday movie. Even if it’s just a few minutes, try to make a little time for yourself each day. You deserve and need it.
Anxiety and gratitude cannot exist at the same time. Having a gratitude practice is the perfect way to improve your mood, reduce stress, and increase your zest for life. Remember the ‘little things’ throughout the day. Keep a gratitude journal jotting down the things that you are grateful for each morning and evening. Tell your loved ones that you are grateful for them and why you appreciate them.
When you spend too much time in the future, it increases anxiety and stress. Being in the present moment, on the other hand, can decrease anxiety and stress, and increase happiness. Spending only 15 to 30 seconds in the present being aware of your body can make a difference. Savoring positive experiences can stimulate and strengthen neural connections in your brain increasing positive emotions. Meditation and breathwork are fantastic ways to spend some time focusing your awareness on the present moment. You can also set your timer a few times a day reminding you to stop and slow down and check-in with the moment for 30 seconds.
Keep It Simple
The holidays can be an incredibly stressful time. If you have a large family, out-of-town guests, or too many holiday parties, it can be quite a hassle. Try to keep it as simple as possible.
Try not to set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Don’t be a perfectionist. Ask for help if you need to. Ask everyone to bring a dish or dessert instead of doing everything by yourself. Make decorations a family event. Involve others in planning games and other holiday activities. Most importantly, know your limitations and say “no” when you have to.
Remember to Have Fun
During the holiday season, we tend to spend too much time running around and trying to make everything perfect. You have to attend holiday parties, take care of your holiday shopping, plan your holiday meals, and decorate your house. It can be a lot when you are a busy person.
But remember the time when you were a kid? The holidays were fun! All the decorations, lights, holiday cookies, movies, and music. It was magical. Be a kid again for a moment. Allow yourself to have a bit of fun. Dance to your favorite song. Sing along with the radio. Play some games with your family. Be silly. This is what the holidays are all about.
Remember, the holidays don’t have to be stressful. You can enjoy this season with your loved ones in happiness and health. If fatigue, chronic pain, health complaints, or health issues slowing you down this holiday season, I recommend that you seek help from a functional medicine doctor, like myself.
As an experienced functional medicine doctor with an integrated expertise of both Western medicine and traditional Eastern practice, I can assess all the factors, including diet, lifestyle, stress, toxicity, allergies, sleep habits and medication that may affect your body in order to uncover the root cause of your health issues and prescribe a personalized and effective plan to improve your thyroid condition, repair your body and regain your health and well-being.
If you would like to get more information about autoimmune thyroid treatment or to schedule a functional medicine consultation, please call my office at 212-696-4325.