Holiday season can be a time of mixed emotions for some. Holiday joy and cheer can be marked by overwhelm, sickness, sadness and low mood. December is one of the darkest months of the year which can bring on seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It is also a time when there are lots of pressures and financial stresses. A challenge for many this year in particular.
Aside from seeking individualized support from your naturopath or other health care providers, here are a few ideas that may help protect your sanity at this time of year.
Don't give up your workouts: Regular exercise will help keep your mood and energy levels stable over the holidays. Schedule in your workouts, get up extra early to squeeze it in, or negotiate with the kids - iPad time while you work out for 30 minutes never fails. When possible, get physical activity as a family. My kids enjoy "kid themed" workouts on YouTube while I use my phone and AirPods to do a Peloton workout. Tobogganing and skating are also fun holiday activities.
Get your vitamin D3: Our levels decline drastically starting in October. By December, most of our levels have tanked if we are not supplementing. Low vitamin D3 can contribute to depression, anxiety, low energy, poor immunity, eczema/rashes, insomnia and hormone disturbances. If you aren't already, get yourself onto a liquid or gelcap vitamin D3 supplement (the tablets are poor quality and don't absorb well). For specific dosing, speak with your ND or GP.
Plan meals accordingly: If you know you are going to a Christmas party in the evening, plan to eat extra healthy at breakfast and lunch. If you eat enough protein through the day, you will be less likely to overindulge at the party. Protein also stabilizes your mood and energy levels. Also, hydrate hydrate hydrate to offset any extra alcohol.
Plan for indulgences: Indulgences are an important part of life, particularly during the holiday season. Indulgences don't have to mean you are "breaking the rules" or "being bad". They can be part of your plan. I recommend going into the season with a mental list of your favourite holiday indulgences (ex: Rum and Egg Nog, glass of Prosecco, holiday cookies, etc.). When it comes to temptations, you already have a plan in mind and are holding out for the "good stuff". You will feel less tempted along the way because you already decided what is worth it to you.
Avoid over scheduling: It can be tempting to squeeze in visits and social outings, but we really do need to make space for downtime. This is especially true if you have busy day to day lives or have young kids. Or if the holiday season is a time that brings sadness. Make sure you spend days at home reading, watching movies, playing games and relaxing. Avoid doom scrolling on your phone. If you feel like you need a break from the kids, send them to a grandparent's house or if the grandparents are visiting, send them out for some special one-on-one time so that you can have some peace and quiet at home.
Don't sweat the small stuff: There is always something to stress about over the holiday season. The decorations, the Christmas baking, the family Christmas cards, etc, etc. But most of the time, these stressors are small and self imposed. Try to keep perspective on what is important. Cherish the quiet moments, be present and prioritize time with your loved ones and express gratitude for what you have.
Wishing you a memorable and healthy holiday season!
Dr. Melissa Bingeman, ND is passionate about mental health, hormones and gut health. She has a virtual and in-person practice in Kitchener, Ontario.