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Prioritizing Your Health and Wellbeing During the Holidays

Chase Sterling

Prioritizing your health and wellbeing is difficult to begin with, and it becomes even harder during the holiday season. For some, the start of the holiday season can also cause increased stress, struggles with sadness, or feelings of loneliness. Between managing work, obligations with family and friends, and just keeping up with life, it can feel overwhelming to try to prioritize your own needs. Here are some tips to consider putting into place so you can prioritize your own health and wellbeing during the holiday season. While these tips may seem small, small changes add up and can keep us happier and healthier throughout the holidays.

Schedule time for your needs first

Make time for physical movement: staying active can help bring balance to your mind and body during the holiday chaos. Even just a few minutes of moderate physical activity can help you sleep better and reduce stress. Look for creative and cost-effective ways to integrate movement into your schedule, such as stretching during holiday movies.. Consider walking through a festive neighborhood rather than driving in a congested area, and park a little further away from your destination and avoid the stress of a packed parking lot.

Practice mindfulness: when was the last time you just did one thing? These days it feels like we are always multitasking and this doesn’t leave our brains feeling very good. Mindfulness is about being fully present in the moment and paying attention to your senses. Connecting with our breath and slowing down, even if just for a couple minutes, can help to decrease feelings of stress and regulate our nervous system. In addition to mindfulness consider weaving in a gratitude practice each day by simply listing a few things you are grateful for. These quick moments can help you be in a more positive mindset and be ready to take on the day.

Nourish your body: nutrient dense foods are better for your immunity, digestive system and overall wellbeing. This doesn’t mean you need to avoid your favorite holiday treats, but instead be mindful about how those sweets, festive cocktails, and decadent meals make you feel. If you know you’re going to enjoy an indulgent meal in the evening, try to balance out your day with meals full of vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. You want to be able to savor the foods that you love or that have special meaning, but also try to get in lots of fiber, water and nutrients so you have the energy to enjoy the season.

Focus on social connections that fill your cup

Say no to gatherings that drain your energy: it’s okay to say no to obligations you know will cause you heartache and disappointment. You’ll feel less stress and worry by declining invitations to events that you don’t have time for, simply don’t want to attend, or are with people who drain your joy and energy. Reserve your energy for the gatherings and events that mean the most to you, even if that is spending some time to yourself.

Set a time limit for obligations you must attend: sometimes you just can’t say no to attending an event, even if you don’t want to be there. Perhaps you need to show up for professional reasons or out of family obligation. For these events, which might be difficult emotionally, set a time limit on how long you’ll stay. If you go into it knowing you only have to be there for 45 minutes, or you can leave after an hour it might not fill you with as much dread beforehand.

Schedule time with friends and family you want to see: time can be a valuable gift and spending quality time with loved ones can leave you feeling rejuvenated. And spending time together could simply be an uninterrupted phone call or video chat if you are separated by distance. With the holiday season being busy, consider getting together in ways that won’t cause additional stress such as simply meeting for a walk or taking a gentle yoga class together. Even running errands can be more fun with a friend and doesn’t take up extra time you may not feel like you have this time of year.

Make time for preventive health
You may not be able to avoid illness during the holiday season, but there are several things you can do to decrease your chances of getting sick.

Stay up-to-date on your vaccines: flu shots, COVID-19 boosters, and pneumonia vaccines can all help decrease symptoms and prevent serious complications that could lead to hospitalization. Check with your doctor to see what preventive treatments are right for you.

Wash your hands frequently: our contact with others can increase exponentially during the holidays. Attending parties, shopping and traveling increases our exposure to germs and other contagions. Wash your hands often with soap and water and consider using hand sanitizer to help prevent the spread of preventable illness.

Stay home if you aren’t feeling well: while the holidays can bring pressure to attend events, if you don’t feel well you are likely better off staying home and resting. If you do fall ill and need to run errands such as getting groceries or picking up medication, wear a mask to protect others.

These tips aren’t just for the holiday season, but can be used year round to help you prioritize your health and wellbeing. While it can be difficult to put your needs first, doing so will help you be able to be there for others in the ways that matter most to you. Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season and new year!
Chase SterlingChase Sterling has dedicated her career to improving individual and organizational wellbeing in the workplace With over 20 years of experience, Chase brings passion combined with evidence-based expertise.

Dedicated to the mission of improving workplaces, Chase founded Wellbeing Think Tank which provides educational events as well as mentoring and networking for wellness professionals. Additionally, Chase partners with organizations to drive employee engagement through wellbeing at HHP Cultures . She has held leadership, consultant and educator roles at a variety of organizations including Cigna, Wounded Warrior Project, Google, the YMCA, and the University of Dayton.

Chase has been published in the The American Journal of Health Promotion and serves on PAPREN, the Physical Activity Policy Research and Evaluation Network Worksite work group. She holds numerous certifications including Certified Wellness Practitioner from National Wellness Institute, and is Faculty at the Wellness Council of America. Chase holds a BS in Exercise Science and Health Psychology and an MA in Industrial/Organizational Psychology with a concentration in Occupational Health Psychology.

Chase is also a veteran having served 7 years in the Army. She currently resides in Portland, Oregon.