Instead of featuring a recipe this week, I want to share my favorite tips for surviving the holidays and making the most of special moments with your loved ones.
I can’t think of a better time of year than the holidays to embrace all that life throws at us. Stress levels tend to soar about potential disasters many of us fear this season.
Does it seem inevitable that you will get sick, worry about family issues, blow your diet, or face delays at the airport? What if those worries weren’t necessary? The power is in your hands and all you have to do is simply choose to be the author of your holiday story.
What tends to get you worried about the holidays and have you thought about how you are going to make this year pleasant instead of stressful? From travel and family difficulties to food obstacles, health, and, of course, the cold weather, it is not surprising this time of year leaves many of us depleted.
I know all about travel. I do it year-round and have learned how to anticipate the usual problems that put a bog in plans. These are my tips for making the most of traveling this time of year:
Plan and Prepare. The less surprised you are the easier problem solving will be. Leave yourself plenty of time and remember that all that rushing around can beat down your immune system and make you sick
Take your Supplements. Especially nutrients such as zinc, vitamins C and D, probiotics and omega-3’s. These help buffer your immune system and keep you strong when exposed to germs in airports and trains. For more tips on how to boost your immunity, see my blog on immunity.
Pack an Emergency Food Kit. Who doesn’t need extra energy when traveling? I never leave home without a healthy snack or mini meal to keep my blood sugar balanced. Eating well and avoiding the junk in fast food that is lurking in most commercial spaces helps you breeze through hours of traveling and delays which can lead to poor eating.
My Emergency Pack:
- Small bag of raw almonds, walnuts, or pecans
- Grass fed jerky
- Small bag of cut carrots or celery with snack-sized containers of hummus
- Can of wild salmon or sardines
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Healthy whole food protein bar (eat half in morning, half in afternoon)
- Bottle of water
Check out my full blog on preventing a food emergency here.
The Winter Blues
The cold, wet, and wintry weather this time of year may actually have more of an effect on your health than you realize. Do those darker days tend to get you down and make you feel blue?
Nobody wants to feel depressed around the holidays. Yet, even with all the celebratory energy, some of you may still feel downright miserable. You might be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
If you think you need some internal uplifting, follow these tips:
Eat a balanced diet and avoid refined carbohydrates, excess sugar, and alcohol.
Try going gluten-free! This may help lift your mood and promote a happier brain.
Consider discussing these supplements with your healthcare provider: 5-HTP, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and an activated B-complex. To learn more about these supplements and which products I like to use with my patients, see my book The UltraMind Solution. Remember, if you are on any antidepressants, always check with your doctor before starting a new supplement.
Get outside and go for a walk, even if it’s cloudy. The fresh air and natural light can help regulate circadian rhythms and keep cabin fever away. Feeling well is all about keeping balanced. Wherever you are, you can always go for a walk outside. Just bundle up!
Establish normal sleep patterns immediately when you arrive at your destination.
Still feeling down and out? Check out this article I wrote on depression and follow some of the guidelines. Remember, there isn’t much you can do about the weather so stay positive and focus on what you can control.
If you have been following one of my programs, you know how important it is to eat well to feel well. Many people become so burdened with the “idea” of a diet that the stress around restriction can overpower the benefits of avoiding the sweet stuff.
Part of coming together for the holidays is enjoyment, pleasure, and enthusiasm for life. I want you to enjoy yourself this holiday season and that means giving you my best tips for navigating holiday eating:
Check in with yourself before a meal and assess your hunger. Decide on how you want to feel at the end of the meal. Remember, there is always another meal and leftovers. This way you don’t have to leave the table stuffed and miserable.
Start by eating protein. Follow the guidelines in my book, The Blood Sugar Solution, to learn how to use food as medicine to gain pleasure and energy.
Have a pleasure plan in mind if the urge to indulge strikes you. If you are the type of eater that gets lured in by a table full of desserts or rich dishes then come prepared with your own healthier version. This way you won’t feel left out while everyone is eating. For some of my favorite dishes see Eat Fat, Get Thin Cookbook.
Think fiber, fresh, and free. Unlimited amounts of low-glycemic vegetables, such as kale, are allowed. Heavy starches and grains are not. Choose wisely.
Limit or avoid triggers. Stay away from caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars, packaged foods, and anything that has high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils.
Eat mindfully. Slowly savor your food. Meals shared with others always taste extra special, so don’t rush through them. Give your whole body the experience of enjoyment!
True pleasure comes from feeling good and honoring your commitment to yourself. Remind yourself that this is far more important to you than tempting foods. Good health feels nice; blood sugar highs and lows do not. It is as simple as that.
Finally, remember the true meaning of the holidays is to come together to be a part of something more meaningful than your individual self. Does your family drive you crazy this time of year? Well, if social situations can bring us down, then perhaps they can also foster good health and wellbeing. I am passionate about harnessing our collective energy to promote the best in all of us.
Spending quality time with those we love reduces stress hormones and promotes health. Be present when your loved ones are talking to you. Make memories, have fun, let go, and relax.
Celebrate the good; there is always time to ruminate on what is bad or not working. Save these thoughts for your New Years reflections, but for now just allow yourself to be.
Living a life in which you get to call the shots and author your story is the ultimate way not to simply survive but to flourish. Make this holiday season the best by realizing your strength to live intentionally with regard for how each choice you make reflects on your complete health and wellbeing.
Wishing you and your family a very happy and healthy holiday!
To your good health,
Mark Hyman, MD