Reducing Holiday Stress | 5 Simple Strategies

Eat, drink, and be merry – that’s what we’re supposed to do over the holidays. And we’re usually awfully good (unfortunately) with the eating and drinking. Learn to reduce stress and focus on the “merry.”

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Below are 5 key holiday stresses, and how to defeat them. Over the decades, our Pritikin Longevity Center alumni have used them to help keep mind, body, and waistline in tip-top shape all the way through January 1.

Holiday Stress #1: “I’m going to gain a lot of weight.”

What to do:

Practice mindful eating. In the hubbub of holiday shopping and other frenzied activity, it’s easy to fall into the habit of grabbing food and inhaling it while getting other things done. Oh, what a mistake that is! Because we aren’t paying attention, the calories just flood in.

So be alert. When eating, focus on your food, and your food alone. Never multi-task. Don’t eat while driving, gift wrapping, or cruising shopping malls. Always do your best, even at parties, to sit down while eating. Look at your food. Appreciate its colors and aromas. Savor each bite.

The results can be priceless. Mindful eating not only brings back pleasure, it brings back control. Because we’re aware of every bite, and celebrating each one, we’re more aware of how much we’re eating, and when to stop. We feel good at stopping because both physically and emotionally, we’re satisfied.

Holiday Stress #2: “I can’t control myself at holiday buffets.”

What to do:

A strategy that has worked well over the years for our Pritikin alumni is sitting down to eat a hearty, healthy snack before they go to parties. Pritikin-perfect snacks that are both filling and low-calorie-dense include a baked potato topped with salsa, a sweet potato with a little Dijon mustard swirled in, or a nice big bowl of bean-rich soup like minestrone or black bean.

With hefty snacks like these, all you’ll be faced with when you arrive at the party is temptation, not hunger and temptation. When you arrive, enjoy other pleasures – good company, beautiful decorations, smiling children.

You’ll also enjoy how good you’ll feel about yourself. Today, this moment, you’ve made healthy choices. That’s something to be proud of all year round.

Another tip: When you step up to the buffet, plate in hand, fill three-quarters of it with foods that are low in calorie density, like green salad (dressing on the side), fresh fruit, roasted potatoes, and hummus dip with veggie sticks. It’s a lot of food, but not a lot of calories. Call it “filler” food; you’re filling up so that there’s less room in your stomach, and less appetite, for the cheese balls and other high-calorie-dense foods.

Holiday Stress #3: “I’m going to say something I shouldn’t.”

What to do:

Cut back on the booze. We all know family tensions can escalate during the holidays, especially if we’re living in close quarters for several days, and drinking too much.

To help keep your alcohol (and temper) in control at parties, sip your drink, don’t gulp. After one glass of alcohol, drink glasses of sparkling water with lemon or lime. In fact, at the beginning of the party, tell the bartender, “As soon as you see me heading your way, please mix me up another club soda with lemon.” Tip well.

Drinking less alcohol also means you’re less likely to overindulge in the wrong foods.

Holiday Stress #4: “I won’t have enough time to get everything done.”

What to do:

Say “No.” (The world won’t come to an end.)

How happier and calmer we’d all be if we realized that there simply aren’t enough hours to do all we intended over the holidays.

Prioritize your “to do” list. Some things, like buying gifts for the little ones, will certainly top the list, and they’ll get done, no matter what. But stuff closer to the bottom, like shopping for new tablecloths for the dining room, can simply wait till the after-holiday sales, or don’t bother with them at all.

Get to the bottom of the list if you have time. If you don’t, don’t sweat it. Your peace and happiness is far more important than new tablecloths.

Holiday Stress #5: “There’ll be people at my party that I just can’t please.”

What to do:

Let this stress go. The reality is, it’s simply not possible to please everyone. The most important thing about your event is not who’s displeased with the appetizers, or who’s frowning because of a fussy baby.

For every one or two naysayers, there are many more who love your event, love you, and love your efforts to bring everyone together.

Relish that. Be present with the positive. Enjoy the laughter, the happy conversation, the fun, the music, the moments of love and friendship.

Let others chip in, too. Save tree decorating till everyone arrives. Welcome offers from Cousin George to help with putting the platters of food on the table. Let Aunt Ida do the dishes. When you share the work, you not only lose the worry and the feeling that everything is left up to you, you get to enjoy the sharing, the smiles that surround you.

You’ll soon be smiling. There’s no better way to create a memorable, worry-free event.

Progress, not perfection

Above all, remember that success with healthy Pritikin living is all about progress, not perfection.

Let’s say, for example, you blow it at a holiday party. The sausage-laced stuffing was too hard to resist, not to mention the pecan pie.

The following morning, don’t beat yourself up. There’s a lot of area between a carrot stick and the whole pie. Pat yourself on the back for eating just one serving of stuffing and one slice of pie.

Then, no matter how much you ate the night before, get right back on track. Roll out of bed and climb on the treadmill for a brisk 3-mile walk. Lift a few weights. Turn on some nice music and stretch. And make sure your refrigerator and pantry are full of healthy Pritikin snacks.

One night of failure is simply one night. One night. Be grateful for all the successes you’ve achieved over the last year, and carry on.

The ultimate holiday gift | A Pritikin health vacation

For continued success in the new year, give yourself the ultimate holiday gift. Book a wellness vacation at Pritikin. That way, even if the holiday season gives you trouble, and your waistline starts expanding, you’ll have piece of mind knowing that you’ve already made the commitment to “get clean” in the new year.

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