Like many of you, I’m dashing through this week: tying up loose ends at work, finishing up holiday shopping and making my rounds at all the holiday parties. Add in running, bike rides and squeezing in every pilates class I can, and essentially every second of every day is spoken for until I get to the airport. This holiday season, I’m traveling back home to Nebraska for a week. Nothing beats going home to my parent’s house and reliving childhood traditions. Lounge time by a beautifully lit Christmas tree and fireplace, board games with my cousins, and a visit to my favorite restaurant for a Nebraska original: the reuben sandwhich. It really is the most wonderful time of the year, but it also has the potential to be one of the most stressful times of the year.
First, I don’t get back to Nebraska much — with so many people to see and places to visit, the holiday vacation often becomes less relaxing and more like a sprint to see everyone. Second, I’m 9 weeks out from my half marathon and in full training mode. Despite my determination, the colder temps (18 degrees!) paired with a busy schedule leave me worried that my mileage and training will suffer. Not to mention, the holiday trimmings don’t exactly cater to those with fitness goals. I’m looking at you, Grandma, with your epic cheesy potato casserole.
My approach: much like Thanksgiving, I am keeping it simple. I know I feel and think my best when I begin with exercise, coffee and devote a little thinking time away from everyone. With advance planning, I have a plan for workouts in each city I visit and a backup plan if the weather is bad. I’ll get to see most of my friends and family in one day, and I’ll indulge on the things that matter to me — I like to choose quality, homemade and fresh. Whether you’re hosting guests, traveling, finishing shopping or dashing through this week, any part of the holidays have the potential to be overwhelming. I’ve tapped a few friends and personal inspirations to share how they handle surviving the holidays. The one common theme: they are all most certinaly living kindly.
Sean Linehan, Instructor at Soul Cycle (NYC)
“I try to always – holidays or not – keep a balanced and relaxed approach to life. For me, this means focusing my attention on the things I can control, and letting go of the things I can’t. So really, when it comes down to it, what can I control? I can control how I treat myself and I can control how I spend my time. I firmly believe that balance in these two areas are key – throughout the year – for stress-free living. As for the things we can’t control, the list goes on and on: flight delays, holiday traffic, your relatives whom you disagree with politically / religiously / socially, crowded shopping experiences, etc. When you can control something, put as much effort into it as you can. But when you can’t, let it go. Worrying doesn’t change anything, and most often the situation is going to work itself out exactly as it would have whether you spent time stressing it or not. In the end, life is short.”
“Learn how to say no. I know this sounds a bit Scrooge-esque, but I think there’s a tremendous amount of responsibility around the holidays, to always say yes to everything that comes up. In order to maintain my sanity, I try to really think about how I’ll be feeling about a certain event that day: will I be dreading it or will it be something I look forward to? There’s nothing wrong with politely declining something to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself so that you’ll enjoy the season even more.”
“Do what you can when you can. It’s hard to stick to your usual workout routine or running schedule with all of the demands this time of year. I may not have time for a 5-mile run or that vinyasa flow class at a specific time, but just getting out for a 20-min. run or doing 15-20 min. of yoga in the living room before bed makes me feel better. Something is always better than nothing.”
“For me, the most important thing I can do for myself is take time in the morning. The first thing I do when I wake up is plug into my Headspace app and meditate for 20 minutes. Well, meditate as best I can — I’m still learning, but the process is incredible, you get better every time. I find that if I start my morning off with intention and ‘me-time’ I set myself up for success for the rest of the day. I used to wake up frazzled and scurry around rushing to get ready. Since I’ve made this change I’ve noticed a world of difference. Headspace is an amazing app and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in learning meditation or even just quiet time for oneself.”
“Drink a vegetable juice or green smoothie everyday, love your food and enjoy yourself! We all know the holidays are not the best time to obsess over your food choices, so make the most of it and go with the flow. A green juice or green smoothie everyday will be a fresh, healthy balance to any indulgences you might partake in. Pro tip? Eat at least a small salad with your meals throughout the holidays to help with digestion.”
“I’m a big believer in being a complete and utter glutton during the holidays, but two daily musts of mine are 1.) starting the day with 15 minutes of stretching and 2.) walking at least five miles a day. Since I exercise minimally during the winter months, these two rules are vital. Stretching helps me start the day off right, and walking, with the assistance of my beloved Fitbit, makes me feel more active.”
Andrea Hinsdale, RDN, LD, Snap Kitchen Dietitian
“Treats and indulgences are part of the holiday season. To help yourself stay on track, remember two simple rules.
- Aim for one treat a day
- Make it count
Setting simple guidelines will help keep all of those holiday “extras” in check. Make sure your treat is something unique to the season or worthy of the splurge. This is the perfect time of year to avoid mindless nibbling or snacking.”
“A turning point for me occurred when I gave myself permission to have space during the holidays. It is now a requirement for my sanity and to maximize my enjoyment of the special time and the people. I give myself space to do, think, and feel whatever I need to feel for at least 30 minutes every day. This is often just a “settling” time, where i allow the distractions of plans, excitement, and expectations (including those from the go-getter part of me) to melt away so I can hear what I really need. My decisions then seem easier, my focus stronger, and my love and presence more fervent. Just by having some space to be with me.”
“As you set your health and fitness goals for the new year, remember to do what you love. Don’t like running? Don’t run. Not into yoga? Don’t put in on your to do list. Cycling, pilates, ballet, swimming, crossfit, barre, basketball, boxing, tap dance, walking, rollerskating. I could go on and on. Life’s too short to do something you hate, so move in the way that makes YOU happy.”
“I have a strict 20 minute rule when it comes to fitness: move for 20 minutes everyday. Chances are once you get past the initial 20 minutes, you’ll continue your workout. Also — SMILE A LOT. The holidays are challenging for all. Make eye contact with people and smile. You never know how they are feeling — smiles are contagious — you just may change someone’s day or even their entire holiday season.”