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Self-care during the holidays: 5 tips to keep your health on track, mama

"Festive stress" is a real thing—but it doesn't have to take a toll on your health.

Self-care during the holidays: 5 tips to keep your health on track, mama

The holidays are so fun, aren't they? *insert very deep sigh*

In theory, everything about the holidays is so much fun, but when you add them all up together in a rather short window of time, it's a lot to handle at once. Here's what's currently running through my brain as the countdown to Christmas is on:

Order that gift while there's still free shipping. Shoot, did I miss it?

Address the Christmas cards. Did I even order the Christmas cards?

Buy and wrap the present for the gift exchange.

RSVP to three, no four, holiday parties.

Send out invitations for our Christmas Eve open house and then figure out the food situation.

Buy teacher gifts. When is the last day of school again?

Donate food to the food pantry.

Try to have fun while doing all of the above.

And this is probably the short list of to-do's.

'Festive Stress' is a real thing this time of year. It can be so intense, in fact, that it robs you of enjoying the beautiful moments of the holidays. In the midst of taking care of all these tasks and ensuring everyone else is happy, we often fail to take care of ourselves.

Truly, it's the little, daily things, particularly in our eating, that get thrown out of the routine first during the holidays that can actually make or break your overall well-being.

How about we do things differently this year? I think we should take the "put your own oxygen mask on first" approach, because if mama's happy, everyone else probably is too.

To help you out, here are five doable eating tips for dealing with Festive Stress to help you and your family have a healthier holiday season.

1. Always have a protein-rich food in your bag for a snack with staying power.

Getting things done during the holidays can mean you're often squeezing in "just one more stop" to check something off your list. In the midst of these attempts at efficiency, eating is often ignored or put off until you get so hangry, you emotionally explode or devour the next food you encounter. This can be avoided by simply throwing a protein-rich snack into your purse or bag in the morning "just in case" plans go awry.

Snacks with protein have staying power to help sustain your energy and mood till the next meal. A great snack choice for moms can be as simple as a portable LUNA Bar which not only has protein but also fiber to fill you up, all while being gluten-free and low glycemic. With delicious flavors like Sea Salt Caramel and Creamy Dreamy Peanut Butter, it's a perfect easy to-go snack! Single serving portions of nuts, jerky or roasted edamame also provide a good dose of protein.

For the kids (because they get hangry too), CLIF Kid Zbar is a great on-the-go organic snack with a mix of protein, carbohydrates, fiber and fat to sustain their energy and attitudes. Plus, they taste great and can hold a candle to that cookie your kids are asking for (new flavors include Caramel Chocolate and Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter! YUM!)

2. Stay hydrated.

You probably know that drinking water is important, but it's easy to forget about staying well hydrated during the holiday hustle and bustle. Not only can thirst disguise itself as hunger, but even being slightly dehydrated can negatively impact your mood and emotional state. Who has time for that?

Combat bad vibes by always having a water bottle with you this holiday season. Before reaching for any other beverage (wine, peppermint mocha, eggnog, you get the idea), drink a small cup of water to properly hydrate your body. If you just aren't a water drinker, it's still worth making the effort. Start with 8 oz. bottles, which are visually less intimidating, or flavor your water to make it a more enjoyable experience.

3. Keep healthy eating simple by aiming for a fruit or vegetable at every meal.

January is usually the time when healthy eating motivation is high, but why not get a head start and eat well now?

Oh right, you're super busy; so who has the energy for that?

Think again.

No matter what is going on in your life, you can do something to maintain a healthy way of eating. This is not the time to attack your whole style of eating with an overhaul. Instead, keep it very doable by simply aiming to eat a fruit or vegetable at every meal.

I call this an "anchor habit"—a behavior you are very committed to keeping regardless of circumstances. No matter how crazy day your day is or what type of event you find yourself at, a fruit or vegetable can be found somewhere.

  • Before hitting the buffet at a party, peruse the spread and find the one fruit or vegetable you take and eat first.
  • Keep your freezer stocked with frozen veggie mixes that simply have to be microwaved so it's always easy to add veggies to dinner.
  • Buy mandarin oranges for an easy fruit addition to breakfast or on the go snack.
  • Allow yourself to pay just a little more for the pre-cut veggies, because you'll actually eat them.
  • Order extra veggies in a restaurant dish or order a side of vegetables first, as an appetizer.

4. Plan your treat and maybe eat it early.

On days where you know you will encounter a lot of holiday treats (say back to back parties or a day of baking cookies), try to make a plan for roughly when and where you might choose a favorite treat to enjoy. If it's a situation where you know the treats aren't that special, but still tempting, try choosing to eat a treat at home before you even head out the door. By eating something sweet earlier in the day, you take away the mystery and satisfy cravings before they ever escalate "out of control."

5. Have a 'this before that' plan.

On busy (and let's just face it, festive stressful) days, I can be easily convinced that I need that holiday treat, an extra glass of wine, or a whole bunch of chips and salsa mid-afternoon to help me cope. Anyone else?

While all of these foods are fine to enjoy, what our bodies really need is some kind of recovery and release from the constant busyness. So before you choose "this" (insert cookie, frappe, wine, chips, etc... ), first do "that," which is something that truly helps your body relax and unwind.

It could be as simple as a few deep breaths, closing yourself in your bedroom for a couple of minutes of undisturbed quiet, or taking the dog for an extra walk. Once the "that" is done, you are much better able to assess if your craving is true hunger or if you were just emotionally charged and in need of recovery.

Hopefully, there's at least one tip here that you can start implementing immediately to help save your sanity and energy this holiday season. I encourage you to take out your planner right now and write down the one thing you are going to try today or tomorrow. See if you can truly enjoy some of the festivities this year by taking a moment to care for yourself.

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