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Holiday Survival Tips

living well Nov 24, 2017

Have you ever noticed how many holidays in different religions and cultures happen during the winter? Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, or the Winter Solstice, chances are that you are preparing to celebrate and gather with loved ones over the coming months.

While being with friends and family can be fun and fulfilling, the opposite can be just as true. Here's a list of FIVE actions that can kill your holiday bliss and what to do instead: 

1. Big Meals and Binge Eating

Yes, that juicy apple pie with the flaky crust tastes as succulent as it looks.... so does the ham, the mashed potatoes, the baked chicken, the cranberry sauce, the mac & cheese, the dinner rolls, and the sparkling cider. We know you've spent hours in the kitchen churning out a feast and you rightfully deserve to splurge, but from a digestive perspective, unless you're an Olympic swimmer, your body isn't prepared to eat 4,000 calories in one sitting. 

It may take days or weeks to recover from the stress your digestive system takes on in just those few hours. If you're anything like I used to be, it doesn’t necessarily stop after that hearty Thanksgiving meal - the overeating continues for much of the early winter as the cookie, cake, and fudge gifts arrive.

I wouldn’t dream of telling you to completely skip the goodies, but do you really want to reach the new year bloated, 5 pounds heavier, and exhausted?

Instead, here are 3 easy fixes:
1. Eat your main meals off a salad plate instead of a regularly sized dinner plate. There’s a reason why all-you-can-eat buffets use smaller plates. Even when completely filled, you’ll be eating less.
2. Avoid eating past 7 PM. Give your digestive tract a chance to do its job before going to sleep. Give it a boost by going for a short walk after dinner as well.
3. Substitute healthier options as much as possible. A dark chocolate, Paleo-inspired mousse beats a white flour and sugar laden pastry any day. Keep in mind that you don’t want to overdo with these either, however.

2. Massive Unplanned Spending

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Save Money Saturday... I made that last one up, but you have to admit, these "sale" days are getting out of hand and seem to be starting earlier every year.

Many folks think their holiday expenditures consists only of gift buying. It's much more than that. It's the food, the drinks, the decorations, the cards, the travel, and then the presents. It adds up. Without careful budgeting, you might find yourself stressing over nickels and pennies. 

If you thoughtlessly swipe your plastic at every opportunity (especially if it’s a credit, not debit card), you might want to pump the brakes. Pushing debt forward is one of the reasons so many families struggle in the beginning of the new year.

Instead of maxing out your cards on gifts, get creative and use this time to enjoy your friends and family. One of my best Christmas holidays was when I was dancing and had extremely limited funds: I handmade everyone’s gift that year - and I still cherish how my mother loved the counted cross stitch rug I gave her because she appreciated the hours it took to make. Most of all, your full presence may be the best present for your loved ones. 

3. Hectic Travel Plans

You’re going to his mother’s house, then your brother's place, and what about the company parties? "Winging it" is okay when you’re close to home, but before you hop in the car for a 6-hour drive to Grandma's house, be sure to check the weather, the roads, and your vehicle. The last thing you want is to start the car, and the car conks out before you get there. 

It's never too early to make holiday travel plans. Keeping an open line of communication with your spouse is crucial. Have you gone to visit your relatives for the last four years? Maybe it’s time to switch. Sit down and discuss where you're going, how you're traveling there, and the estimated costs. It's not bad to have a backup plan either. Icy roads and runways have a knack for derailing holiday plans in an instant. 

4. Turkey Talk with the In-Laws

Her family voted the exact opposite of your family. This past year has been one for the record books, with increasing division between political parties and their followers. As we're giving thanks for the abundance we share, it may be best to avoid partisan conversation.

There are plenty of other riveting discussion topics, but if you find yourself venturing into political turkey talk, do so respectfully. This isn't merely politeness, but acknowledging the fact that, in the end, we are all one family - and I mean this globally.

Set the example for your kids that politics does not divide families, refusing to love does. Be willing to listen and understand, knowing that there is truth on both sides of the spectrum. Or play a game of Monopoly and release all the hostile energies there. 

5.  Losing Sight of Priorities

You're making cookies for your daughter's 4th-grade class and the icing on one of your sugar cookies is slightly crooked. You didn't get a chance to vacuum the rugs again before company came. If every small problem sends you over a cliff, you should consider dialing it back. As much as you'd like everything to be perfect, it's probably not going to be. 

Instead of turning up the tension in your home, take a minute to breathe or meditate. Dance to your favorite artist. There are even apps that help you take 5 minutes out of your day to reset.

Remember those cookies that had you so frazzled? The kids looked at the icing for 1.3 seconds before they were devoured. It'll be okay. 

Surviving the holidays joyfully isn't difficult: just remember to breathe and focus on what you're really celebrating this season.





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