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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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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Life

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Tenth & Pine: Gender-neutral and butter-soft basics for littles + bigs

In 2016, after a stage four endometriosis diagnosis and a 10 year battle with infertility, Tenth & Pine founder Kerynn got her miracle baby, Ezra Jade. As a SAHM with a Masters in Business, she wanted to create a brand that focused on premium quality, function, comfort, and simplicity.

She sought out premium, all natural fabrics and factories that shared her core values, practicing environmentally friendly manufacturing methods with fair and safe working conditions for employees. As a result, her made in the USA, gender-neutral designs check all the boxes. The sustainable, organic basics are perfect for everyday wear, family photos and any adventure in between.

Lucy Lue Organics: Sustainably and ethically-produced modern baby clothes

This family-owned and operated business was started by a mama who wanted out of corporate America after the birth of her son. Thoughtfully designed to mix-and-match, Lucy Lue's sustainably and ethically produced collection of modern organic baby clothes only uses fabrics that are "environmentally friendly from seed to seam." Their gorgeous, earthy tones and comfy, minimalist styles make the perfect addition to first wardrobes from birth through the first years.

Sontakey: Simple bracelets that speak your mind

Sontakey has been such a hit in the Motherly Shop that we knew it was time to expand the line. And since these beautiful mantra bands look so stunning stacked, more options = more fun.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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