Enjoy the holiday ride

Author Brett Blumenthal offers little ways to stay sane this season.

As beautiful and magical as the holiday season ought to be, we all know it is often tainted with stress. The shopping, wrapping, entertaining, family gatherings and travel can all add up to increased levels of stress, less time to work out, and poor eating habits. At this time of the year, most of us tend to prioritize everything except ourselves. This, ultimately, can do a number on our ability to really enjoy.

In 52 Small Changes, I give readers a new change each week, so that at the end of a year, they’ve implemented those adjustments towards a happier, healthier life. This small change approach works because it gives you time to slowly integrate new behaviors so they are more likely to stick for the long-term.

In keeping with this mindset, consider the following in order to manage stress and stay healthy this holiday season:

build in time for yourself

This will allow you to decompress and give your mind and body the rest they need to go full-steam ahead the rest of the time. Build in things that are relaxing and that bring you joy to help alleviate stress. Some ideas: take a bath, get a massage, do yoga, meditate, or anything else that provides you with some relaxation and pampering. At home, have a “time out” from family members where you block off a half-hour to an hour a day to yourself. If you are married with kids, ask your husband to take over for that period and offer to do the same for him. If you are a single parent, ask a friend or family member to help. Or, if all else fails, build it into your workday by making lunchtime your downtime.

say no

We often feel obligated to say “yes” even more during the holidays. Be especially vigilant about setting boundaries and saying “no” when necessary. If you struggle with this, ask yourself the following questions: 1) Do I really want to do this or would I do it out of guilt or obligation? 2) Will this activity cause me further stress or will it create happiness and fulfillment? 3) Do I actually have sufficient time for this request or am I trying to squeeze it in among many other things? Your answers to these three questions should make it clear whether something is worth your time.

imbibe moderately

A little holiday cheer may go a long way in helping you unwind and relax, but the calories can add up, and too much may cause a whole different kind of stress. Choose beer or wine, as they tend to be lower in calories than mixed cocktails. If you choose liquor, such as vodka, mix with club soda and fresh lime, as opposed to a sweet mixer, which tend to be higher in calories. After each drink, have one to two glasses of club soda with lime or water with lemon. This will fill you up, keep you hydrated and prolong drinking a second (or third) cocktail.

set limits to indulgences

Holiday parties bring about many delicious foods, desserts and other indulgences. Don’t deprive yourself, as this is what causes overindulgence. Instead, choose what you are most interested in indulging in beforehand and set a limit for yourself before each event. For instance, if dessert is your weakness, pass on some of the heavy appetizers and foods, and limit yourself to one cocktail.

set curfews

Sleep allows our body to rejuvenate and rebuild. This season, however, is synonymous with late nights, holiday parties and burning the candle at both ends. To combat lack of sleep, give yourself a curfew on those nights, especially when you know you're likely to push later into the evening. If you see a crowd starting to dwindle at a party or gathering, follow suit. Pay attention to those individuals with kids, as they are likely to leave on the earlier side as well. Make sure you have a few reasons to avoid pressure when you do make the break.