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Healthy habits over the holidays: is it realistic?

While Christmas is coming closer and we’re busy wrapping up the year, keeping up with our healthy routines might sound more difficult than ever. The freezing temperatures in the last week have probably discouraged most of us from our daily park trail, while cars and buses have become alternatives to cycling or walking in our everyday transfers. When it comes to holidays, things might get even worse, with our healthy meals messed up by big festive dinners and our sleep routines re-arranged. Ultimately, all those bits of weekly healthy ‘me time’ that we have proudly built over autumn seem to be disappearing in the hustle and bustle of festivities. So is it realistic to aim to keep up with our healthy habits over the holidays?

Short answer: relax and accept, first. When everything else around us gets quite demanding, the last thing to do is to be demanding with ourselves as well. Holidays are meant for having a break and relaxing, after all, so adding pressure upon ourselves during this time won’t be helpful and can end up causing stress - more stress than we already have, I mean. And the ultimate purpose of any healthy habit is to be well, mentally as well as physically, and not stressed. So the first step is really to accept the fact that there will be changes in our routines. Forcing ourselves to keep up with habits that would normally fit into an ordinary day, might leave us feeling frustrated if we cannot keep up our schedule during the festivities.

Once accepted that our life will look a bit different for a few weeks, we might be tempted to leave any resolutions of keeping our healthy habits over the holidays to have a total break. Even if this might sound awesome for some of us, it’s not really for our wellbeing. Imagine overindulging at any meal (and even outside formal meals, with all those treats around), getting drunk every evening out, sleeping until midday every morning and staying awake until late at night and spending any free time watching the telly sitting on the sofa. If this looks too similar to our memories of past festivities, we might recall how difficult it could be to come back to our usual daily routines after two weeks of complete dysregulation. Rather than feeling energetic and recharged after some time off, we would need a couple of weeks more to recover.

So, as usual, virtue sits in the middle. The trick is to find a balance between what’s realistically achievable given the circumstances, and what can make the festive time a good time for our wellbeing, rather than the contrary. There’s no secret formula that works the same for everyone, telling what’s the best wellbeing routine for festivities. Simply, because we are all different. We all have different healthy habits that work in our everyday lives, we all have different ways to celebrate festivities, and some might not celebrate at all, and have to cope with the rest of the crazy world! Ultimately, what’s most beneficial to our wellbeing and which festive traditions we care most about, and not willing to give up, are different to each of us, so the best we can do is to adapt and adjust our routines to what fits better with us.

Basically, it’s about being flexible, and a bit creative. If we are too prescriptive with ourselves, it could be very hard to keep any wellbeing routine during the holidays. What’s most important is to focus on the goal, the consequence of a healthy habit, rather than the same habit itself. In other words, we can adapt our routines to be something we can easily carry out during the festivities while obtaining a similar wellbeing result. If we feel we need plenty of fruits and vegetables to take care of our delicate digestive health, we can plan festive meals that include plenty of this in a different form than usual. If we need to give up for a couple of days our coloured lunchbox salad that normally makes us feel so refreshed and energetic, we might find a similar result by filling our Christmas tables with vegetable pies, quiches, soups or a rich pinzimonio. If we need to give up our gym classes for a week, we might find that having a group hike in the snow with family or friends keeps your muscles active in the same way - or even more! To sum up, think about what normally makes up your wellbeing and what you don’t want to lose over the holidays, then find an alternative, more achievable way to pursue it in the changed circumstances.

The common denominator to any adjustment that would allow us to keep up with at least some form of healthy routine during the holidays is to set boundaries for our wellbeing. There’s a lot of social pressure around Christmas and traditional get-togethers, but even if we happily embrace all of this, we need to set limits that allow us to have time for ourselves and space for decision-making, to be able to opt for healthy alternative choices, without being forced into situations that are unhelpful for our wellbeing. Finding an ally among your family or friends might make this easier. You might be willing to wake up at a reasonable time in the morning during the holidays, but it might be difficult to resist the temptation to lounge in bed for long hours if everyone else in your life is doing so. If anyone, your partner, a friend or your child is happy to schedule an activity with you in the morning, it will be easier for you to accomplish your aim to get up not too late. But if you are still alone in pursuing your festive habits, don’t give up, we are with you. And remember, your boundaries create a space that is invaluable for your wellbeing, so protect them.

Final thought: when coming to the New Year after the festivities, most of us tend to set resolutions for new habits to add to our routines. But maintaining healthy habits from the past year throughout the new year could be one of the greatest achievements. In doing this, the festivities are an excellent challenge for our current habits. If we survive this and demonstrate to be able to adapt them flexibly, we are likely to be able to take those habits with us for the entire new year, regardless of the challenges we may meet from time to time. If you’re willing to hear more about how to realistically set New Year’s habits, stay tuned for the release of our new webinar in January by our Life Coach Grace!




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