Holidays can be stressful. We get together with relatives and friends who we may only see once a year. We love them and want to spend happy times together, but quickly realize that our lives, and daily routines, are often very different. For example, our eating preferences, including the time of our meals and food choices, our need for a down time, and our sleep schedules differ from those others. But there are ways to adapt and enjoy each other’s company. A little bit of planning can go a long way! Below are three tips that can help you become mindful, healthy and happy during busy holidays.
Pack Your Breakfast and Snacks: You can actually plan some of your meals and snacks even when you are away from home. This, of course, depends on how far you are traveling. If you have the flexibility to bring a cooler, you can pack some of your breakfast items, snacks, and drinks that can keep your routine going.
For breakfast, you can pack your own cereal and make it healthier. I prefer cereal and snack choices with a minimum of 12% fiber (higher is better), as little added sugar as possible, and with ingredients that I recognize. Regarding sugar, I keep in mind that 10 grams per serving (which is the equivalent of two and ½ teaspoons) is more than I usually add to my cereal or tea. Less is better! If you take more, just keep in mind that excess sugar keeps you away from a healthy weight, if that is one of your goals. Also, do pay attention to the number of ingredients in the cereals and drinks you consume. The longer the list, the more suspicious I become. Some of them are nothing more than preservatives, sometimes disguised as “natural” ingredients.
To make your cereal healthier and to keep yourself fuller for longer, adding a handful of nuts and/or seeds will do the trick. Nuts and seeds such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are great sources of healthy fat, protein and other vitamins and minerals. Nuts and seeds are also good for snacks in between meals.
I highlight the importance of a high fiber (12% or higher) and high protein-rich food (10 grams or more per serving) with less sugar because this combination will help prevent sudden blood sugar level drops which makes you feel very hungry very quickly and sometimes cause you to become irritable. This tends to be worse among pre-diabetic and diabetic people. So, pay attention if you are in the high-risk category.
You can also bring your own fruits to snack on. I do not recommend bananas. They are a high calorie, high sugar fruit that won’t keep you satisfied for long. If you are one of those people whose only preferred fruit is a banana, having it with a spoonful of nut butter (peanut, almond, coconut) will slow down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream.
Apples are also a good fruit choice. Green apples (granny smith) have less sugar than other apples. Following these tips will not only save you money, but they will also ensure that you keep some control over what you eat during the holidays when you are away from home.
Bring a Bottle of Water and Plan to Refill It: Our bodies need more water than we sometimes realize. We are all dehydrated in the morning as most of us do not drink water in the middle of the night. I drink lemon water first thing in the morning, and then continue to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Sometimes I drink herbal tea or a blend of carrot and lemon juice. I drink most of my water before 6pm (before dinner), so that I do not to have to wake up in the middle of the night to relieve myself. If you are a coffee drinker, you most likely need more water than you realize. Coffee is a diuretic, which means that it takes water out of your body, hence making you even more dehydrated. For non-coffee drinkers, the recommended amount of water these days is half your body weight in ounces. So, if you weight 150lbs, then you body needs 75 oz of water per day to function properly. If you exercise and sweat a lot, then you will need more on those days as well.
Bringing your own bottle of water on holiday trips will ensure that you do not get dehydrated while travelling and that you have access to water as you need it. Plan when you drink it, based on how often you will have access to a restroom. Either way, a large glass of water first thing in the morning is a very healthy habit. Remember to refill your bottle before traveling home, unless you want to stop and buy bottled water, which is an option, but not a green one.
Prepare Your Mind for Company: Regardless of how we may feel about getting together with our relatives and friends, preparing our minds for company can actually help us get through the holidays feeling at peace with the whole experience. Our minds are tricky. They are loaded with all kinds of stories that we create and that run through our heads prior to family gatherings. The stories that roll around in our minds can help or hinder a pleasant experience with relatives. Planning can help here as well. Here are three ways that can help you prepare for a positive experience:
Prior to the Gathering Tame your Thoughts: Be mindful of concerns that you raise in your mind and that cause you to be anxious prior to your time with relatives. Learn to stop negative thoughts in their tracks and continue to pay attention to what is going on in your mind as you do this. If you get yourself in the habit of paying attention to these thoughts and stopping them before they get you anxious, then you are a step closer to being at peace with yourself even in a stressful environment.
During the gathering, be present and listen without judgment: Sometimes, we assume that we are going to have a bad time no matter what. Learning to be mindful of the present moment will enable us to appreciate the positive energy around us and to enjoy the company of those who are trying hard to keep everyone happy. Remember that negative people come from somewhere. Social gatherings may be an outlet for them to vent. They may be lonely or stressed and this may be the only time they are able to have a sense of belonging, feel safe and loved. Listening to them without judgment can help bridge the gap between you and your “negative” relative and create genuine connections, bring peace and healing. Preparing our minds to be positive and to notice the positive in others may enable us to appreciate subtle gestures of goodness in those we were initially not looking forward to spending time with. In the process, we may actually become the ones appreciated for spreading positive energy.
Guard your heart and soul: Sometimes, you can try hard to do your best to please others and worry when your efforts do not yield intended results. At the end of the day, however, no one will make you happy but yourself. So, guard your heart and guard your soul. While I would not recommend building a wall between yourself and others to keep yourself sane, this is only an option to consider when all else fails. You cannot control what other people do or say to you. If they are a positive influence, build you up, and help your best to come out, you are fortunate. Be thankful and look for opportunities to spend more time with them. If they are negative and make you feel worse than you even were initially, then know that you do not have to believe them. Be mindful of how they are impacting you. You can build a mental wall between yourself and what they say or do, and limit your time with them. This will help preserve your wellness and integrity. Ultimately, no one knows you more than you know yourself and therefore, no one will take care of you more than you take care of yourself.
Enjoy the holidays. Eat right and always be mindful!