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Neal Pire, MA, CHC, EP-C, FACSM | National Director of Wellness Services

The end-of-year holidays present unique challenges to your healthy lifestyle. Between overindulging at holiday parties, stressful family visits, staying up to all hours of the night wrapping presents for the kids, and not having time to take care of yourself, it can be easy to fall off your “wellness wagon.” Fortunately, enjoying the holidays does not have to mean abandoning your wellness goals. To stay on-track, you must be aware of your challenges and plan accordingly.

Here are some SENS Solution® tips for the most common holiday season challenges.

SLEEP. It is a happy season, and you want to enjoy it, but if you miss out on sleep you might end up being more like the Grinch than jolly old St. Nick.

  • Stick to your daily schedule: Late nights can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule, so you should try to keep it as regular as you can. If you have an evening holiday party to attend and you plan on staying up late, try to keep your wake-up time the same, even if you feel tired the next day.
  • Go dark: Turn off holiday lights at bedtime. All those bright lights can disrupt your sleep.
  • Soak up some light: Days are shorter during the winter months. Try to get outside and soak up as much sunlight as you can to avoid seasonal affective disorder, a sleep disorder linked with a lack of daylight.
  • Alcohol in moderation: It might help you fall asleep, but once your body metabolizes it during your sleep cycle, it may disrupt sleep and wake you up.

EXERCISE. We all agree that exercise is important year-round, but it is especially important during an overindulgent and busy holiday season, when we might be inclined to eat more and move less than usual.

  • Book it: Open your calendar and block out 30 minutes a day for any form of physical activity, even a brisk walk. We schedule absolutely everything but personal time. Make time for your health and wellbeing.  It’s the holiday gift that keeps on giving.
  • Move – no matter what: If you have access to a gym for a workout, that’s great. If you don’t have a gym, plan an outdoor walk or a walk in a shopping mall or large department store.  Don’t want to leave the house? Play your favorite tunes and dance around the house, do some bodyweight exercises, stairclimbing or rope jumping.  Time crunched?  Try the 7-Minute Workout
  • Make it social: Bring a friend, co-worker or family member, or grab a headset and phone a friend while you’re active.  Time will fly.  Instead of meeting at a restaurant for appetizers and drinks, try a nature walk instead.  You will burn calories and enjoy the quality time.
  • Travel fit: If you are traveling for the holidays, avoid sitting in airports or bus stations.  Move about and collect some steps.  You can combat long periods of sitting by moving every 45-60 minutes.  If you can’t get up, try chair marching for two minutes (lift and lower your legs while seated) or stand up and lean back then move your arms and legs to boost circulation.

STRESS. Some of us envision the “perfect holiday,” often leading to unrealistic expectations. Trying to make everybody happy can easily lead to overspending on gifts, travel, food and entertainment. Stress grows if we spend beyond our means and then worry about how to make ends meet. It is important to be aware of our “seasonal stressors,” and learn coping tactics that will keep us on an even keel through the New Year.

  • Relax: Learn abdominal breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or other relaxation techniques. These strategies will help you defuse during stressful moments, and unwind at the end of the day.
  • Take 2: Sometimes you just need to breathe.  Take two minutes to refresh your energy and focus.  Close your eyes and listen to your breath as you inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four.  Add a count with each breath until you can count to 10 on each inhale and exhale.

So, in between the hustle and bustle of the gift buying, cooking, and spending time with the ones you love, be sure to give yourself the best present of all, mind and body wellness.