Avoid the stress of the season by treating the holidays like you would any athletic pursuit. First, get a game plan.
It's the most wonderful time of the year--the holidays of course! Rich in beloved tradition, wonderful connections between family and friends, and, of course, celebration, everyone's favorite season can also be the most stressful time of the year. From travel obligations to gift expectations to being tempted at every turn by rich foods and drinks, we may find ourselves at the crossroads of creating treasured memories and simple hoping to power through it so we can start anew.
So how can you, as an athlete and health-minded person, survive the holidays without letting stress conquer you? Consider simply changing your outlook. Prep for the season as you would your next athletic competition and develop a game plan to ensure your holidays are happy, well spent, and guilt free (well, as guilt-free as possible, at least).
First and foremost, focus on the things you can control. Athletes know that there are few things in sport, and in life, that are controllable. Ultimately, only thoughts, feelings, and actions fall into the "can control" category. The heart of the game plan, then, should be to focus on what you can control and make choices from there.
Here are some ideas to consider when contemplating choices you might have to make during this busy time of year:
Just say no! There are only so many hours in a day, and there never seems to be an end to the to-do list. Plan ahead and prioritize so you can pick and choose what you will commit to in order to conserve your energy.
Take 15 minutes each day to sit and center yourself with some focused breathing or meditation. This calming practice will help support your athletic goals as well as soothe the emotion center of the brain, so you're mentally equipped to respond to (instead of impulsively reacting to) stressful holiday situations
Flight attendants tell passengers to secure oxygen masks for themsevles before assisting children in the event the plane loses cabin pressure. It makes total sense: an oxygen-deprived passenger is in no condition to take care of anyone else.
Similarly, taking care of yourself during the holidays allows you to be your best self for friends and family. Take a walk on the beach, get a massage, or do something that you know will recharge your batteries.
The holidays come with many mixed feelings, not all of them positive. While there's ample excitement, gratitude, humility, and comfort, there might also be loss, loneliness, guilt, and anger. Unfortunately, that second group of emotions is just as easily triggered this time of year as the first. Acknowledge and accept all of these feelings -good and not-so-good- without judgment and with confidence that they will pass.
SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Know thyself! This is a time to expect obstacles to fitness and nutrition goals. Follow your daily routines as closely as possible, and try to let go of mistakes just like you would a bad shot, run, or minor workout misstep. Judging or ruminating on every little slip-up takes you out of the game and only increases the negative energy you project onto yourself and others.
Practice moment-to-moment focus and try to be present with family and friends. This can be particularly effective for managing calories during holiday parties where the focus is often on the food. Remember: this is the exact same practice that propels you into "the zone" during athletic performance.
Choosing to focus on what you can control, the proactively taking steps to master those things, generates power and will help you not only survive, but thrive, during the holidays. Remember: athletes are especially well equipped with tough inner mettle, so you can create your own joy this season!
Wishing you all health, happiness, and love!