Maintaining a Healthy Mind and Body Through the Holidays

Woman twirling looking happy in falling leaves

You can’t reverse the calendar in maintaining healthy attitudes, but the Valley Schools Wellness team is here to remind you of some strategies for maintaining your sanity during this most pressured time of year.

Reframe Your Thinking

Recognize that the people in your life are who they are. It is not new information who will be the Scrooge, who will drink too much, who will have unrealistic expectations or who will be generous to a fault. No one is going to change just because it’s the holidays. Let go of the idea you can change anyone who bugs you. Find constructive ways to minimize their impact on your life. Put your energy and time into those who know how to love and whose presence makes you happy. 

Give yourself permission to let some things go. Take a moment each morning to gather your thoughts. Make a list of all the things you have to do and want to do. Check off the two or three items that are really important to you. Let yourself entertain the idea of letting go of many of the others — or at least reducing them in some way. Many of us make our own stress by buying into the “have to’s.” 

Take time every day to enjoy something about the season. Are you enjoying any of it? Stop. Breathe. Take a few minutes to enjoy the decorations on the lampposts or to really look at the lights. Savor one of the cookies. Inhale the warm smells coming from your oven. Wrapping a gift can be just another chore or it can be a way to quietly celebrate what the intended receiver means to you. 

Everything in moderation. Be mindful of your own tipping points when it comes to holiday indulgences. You already know your limits for alcohol and sweets. Listen to your own good sense and you’ll avoid waking up with regret, a hangover or an extra five pounds. 

Increase Your Restful Moments 

There are many positive effects to deep breathing that increase oxygen and give you a restful moment to be mindful of your body.

Deep breathing also goes by the names of diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing, and paced respiration. When you breathe deeply, the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, and the lower belly rises. 

For many of us, deep breathing seems unnatural, there are several reasons for this. For one, body image has a negative impact on respiration in our culture. A flat stomach is considered attractive, so women (and men) tend to hold in their stomach muscles. This interferes with deep breathing and gradually makes shallow “chest breathing” seem normal, which increases tension and anxiety. 

Shallow breathing limits the diaphragm’s range of motion. The lowest part of the lungs doesn’t get a full share of oxygenated air, which can make you feel short of breath and anxious. Deep breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure. 

You may want to try several different relaxation techniques to see which one works best for you. And if your favorite approach fails to engage you, or you want some variety, you’ll have alternatives. Using a guided meditation video, a deep breathing app, or your phone’s timer, you can begin getting time for deep breathing daily on your own. 

You may also find the following tips helpful in maintaining healthy actions: 

  • Choose a special place where you can sit (or lie down) comfortably and quietly. 
  • Don’t try too hard, it may just make you tense up. 
  • Don’t be too passive, either. The key to eliciting the relaxation response lies in shifting your focus from stressors to deeper, calmer rhythms — and having a focal point is essential. 
  • Try to practice once or twice a day, always at the same time, in order to enhance the sense of ritual and establish a habit. 
  • Try to practice at least 10–20 minutes each day.

Valley Schools are here to help you make improve your mental and physical health this holiday season! With our WellStyles™ program, take a step in the right direction in bettering your health and wellness to ensure you’re performing at your best. Subscribe to our Wellness Newsletter to get more information on healthy tips throughout the year! 

Contact us today to learn more about how we can support you fostering a positive lifestyle change for 2020! 

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