Holiday health – don’t succumb to the temptation

Holiday health - don’t succumb to the temptation

Andrea Lam, Health Promotion Esquimalt ~

The holiday season is a time to reflect on the year we’ve had, to reconnect with good friends and family, and to recalibrate by relaxing and doing what makes us happy.

But for many the holidays can bring up mixed emotions, especially for those who are spending the first holiday season without a loved one, or struggling with the temptations and over indulgences that come with holiday festivities, or the stress and anxiety of holiday pressures and expectations. 

Here are a few ways to help live in the green this holiday season:

Remember the Low Risk Drinking Guidelines
Go out and have fun, but keep the low risk drinking guidelines in mind.

For these guidelines, “a drink” means:

  • Beer 12 ounces – 5% alcohol content
  • Cider/cooler 12 ounces – 5% alcohol content
  • Wine 5 ounces – 12% alcohol content
  • Distilled alcohol 1.5 ounces – 40% alcohol content

For women:
10 drinks a week with no more than 2 drinks a day most days.

For men:
15 drinks a week with no more than 3 drinks a day most days

Manage your holiday stress
Let’s face it, the holidays can be stressful. Crowded malls, last minute shopping, living up to familial expectations and traditions, cooking, cleaning, entertaining – the list goes on. The holidays are also a very social season, which can cause a lot of anxiety and be somewhat overwhelming at times. So try out these tips for managing your holiday stress.

Relaxation techniques
Practicing daily meditation or breathing awareness can relieve chronic stress and realign your outlook in a more positive way. Good breathing habits alone can improve your psychological and physical well-being

Set realistic goals
Learning to say no is essential for some people. The holidays are often filled with invitations for parties and gatherings, so asses your schedule and identify tasks or activities you can or should let go. Don’t automatically volunteer to do something until you’ve considered whether it is feasible and healthy for you to do so.

You don’t have to train for a marathon, but regular, moderate exercise helps ease tension, improves sleep and self-esteem. Aerobic activity can also reduce anxiety. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise (exercise that requires oxygen, such as skating, swimming, walking) can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.

Athletes achieve results by picturing themselves crossing the finish line first. Use the same technique to practice “seeing” yourself succeed in whatever situation is foremost in your mind.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle
A good diet is often the first thing to go when we’re feeling stressed. Try making yourself a healthy meal rather than buying one. The simple act of doing something good for yourself can soothe feelings of stress. Talk about your life’s stresses with a friend. This can help put things into perspective and remind you that you aren’t alone. You may also learn some other ways to manage stress effectively.

Manage your expectations
Don’t strive for perfection; good enough is okay. Don’t expect your family to be perfect during the holidays. Be realistic about who they are and what your relationship is like with them all year around.

Make a budget and stick to it
The price of the gift is not equal to how much you love someone. Focus on the people that you care about instead of the stuff that really doesn’t matter. Beware of the joy-to-stuff ration: more stuff does not equal more joy.

Get as much sleep as you can
Schedule some time to rest and relax. Give yourself permission to stay at home and enjoy some time with your loved ones.

Healthy Nutrition Tips
Gingerbread, egg nog, candy canes, and fruitcake are holiday temptations and indulgences that only come around once a year. But it’s important to keep a healthy and balanced diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such fish, nuts, seeds and eggs, protein and whole grains.

Don’t deprive yourself of all holiday treats, just keep in mind a few of the following tips:

Watch your portions
The best way to maintain a healthy weight and enjoy delicious holiday foods is to be mindful of portion size. One good tip is to use a smaller plate.

About liquid calories
Soft drinks, punch, and alcoholic beverages can add hundreds of calories to your daily intake if you aren’t careful. Try opting for soda water with lime or lemon, a mocktail, or herbal tea.

Be physically active
Go for a walk with your family, get out for a brisk hike, go skating or put on some music and have an impromptu dance party.People who are active an hour each day are much more able to maintain a healthy weight over the long term.

Dealing with grief
The holiday season can be tough for those who have recently lost a loved one, or who lost someone close around this time of year. Societal expectations about family togetherness and taking the time to celebrate with the special people in our lives can be extremely difficult when we are dealing with the grief and emptiness after someone passes away.

Here a few tips to help you or someone you know get through a potentially hard time:

Talking about the deceased person is okay.

Your stress will only increase if the deceased person’s memory is allowed to become a landmine that everyone tiptoes around.

Acknowledge that things won’t be the same.
It’s normal to feel at odds with yourself and family events when dealing with grief. Do no isolate yourself, but limit involvement when you need to and plan new events and traditions.

Seek Help
If things become overwhelming during the holidays (or anytime for that matter), know that there are resources available. If you, or someone you know, is struggling or displaying behaviours in the Yellow, Orange or Red, get help now.

  • Vancouver Island Crisis Line: 1-888-494-3888
  • Member Assistance Program (MAP): 1-800-268-7708
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP): 1-800-268-7708 (24hr)
  • Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC): 250-363-2640
  • BC Bereavement Helpline: 1-877-779-2223
  • BC Mental Health Info Line: 250-310-6789 (24hr)
  • Chaplains (Padres): 250-363-4030

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