By Loretta McNary
We are finally in my most beloved holiday season of the year! I have a long list of things to do and people to see. I hope all my family and friends have been less naughty and even nicer.
Regardless of your family size, or whether you have 3 friends or 50 friends, navigating the holiday hustle and bustle while promising to stay in shape and in touch might seem like a daunting undertaking, yet it can be done. The art of balancing it all with grace and joy can be achieved with good intention, good information and lots of practice.
So, I curated a list of my favorite ideas to help keep us and our family’s health and happiness front and center:
Connection over Perfection:
Let’s all agree that a perfect holiday is unrealistic. Even the pursuit of perfection can lead to increased stress and frustration. However, it is very important to set reasonable expectations for the holidays. I would like to reveal my tried-and-true formula to assist us in choosing connection over perfection: First and foremost, emphasize the importance of togetherness and creating a wonderful experience versus capturing the perfect holiday selfie. Secondly, focus on initiating meaningful traditions rather than a picture-perfect stress inducing holiday setting. Lastly, choosing to share quality time with our loved ones is the end goal and it is priceless.
Quick and Easy Exercise Plan:
Start incorporating intentional exercise moves into your holiday activities. Here are my favorite exercise hacks: take an after-dinner family walk that can keep everyone active without feeling like a chore. Next try a quick dance-off while cooking or a brisk walk inside the house to help energize us and burn calories. These three activities aren’t just good for the body, they also create laughter filled moments for everyone. This is a win for the entire family.
Healthy Eating During the Holidays:
Disclaimer: Treats are a big part of my holiday enjoyment! With that being announced, I have learned to develop more balance. Additionally, I now refer to calories as currency. So, I must make a wise decision each time, to spend my food currency wisely. Another simple holiday eating hack is, I enjoy my favorite holiday treats in moderation. I also listen to my body’s hunger cues, and I do not deprive myself from my favorite foods, because this could lead to overeating later.
Creating the Best Lighting for Peace and Sleep:
Natural light positively impacts our circadian rhythms. The use of bright lights during the day for energy and dim warm lights in the evening can signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. Dimming the lights in your room an hour or so before bedtime can improve sleep quality.
Cost-Effective Ways to Have Quality Time with your Children:
News flash, children do not need fancy or expensive toys to have fun. Engage your children in creative ways to play and have fun around the house. Here are a few suggestions: Build a fort with items found around the house, crafting and storytelling activities enrich and engage their imagination and can be done without spending any money. So, this holiday season, instead of defaulting to more screen time, let’s stimulate their minds with creativity and increase family bonding time.
Peace and Joy During the Holidays:
For a lot of us, the holiday season brings happiness and fun times, but it can also be a time of stress, sadness and chaos for others. When your peace feels distant, take slow deep breaths, slow down your pace, and then take a moment to think of all the things you are grateful for and say a little prayer. These easy tips can serve as a mental reset and keep you grounded so you can truly enjoy time spent with family and friends.
Communication and Boundaries:
Open communications about holiday plans can prevent stress and conflict. Setting boundaries is key to happy times for all. Discuss expectations and assignments and be willing to compromise. Remember saying no is very useful to preserve your family’s and your own piece of mind not just during the holiday season but in everyday life.
Healthy Holiday Traditions:
If you cannot replace the desire for a sugar rush, simply invite a rush of endorphins by spending quality time with family and friends doing fun activities. Start new traditions that encourage health and wellbeing, such as preparing a fun healthy dish together or starting a family 5K walk or run. These can create lasting memories and promote a healthy lifestyle. Make your holiday season tantamount to wellness and fun family times.
Leveraging Technology to Manage Stress:
I highly recommend setting time limits for every task performed online. Technology can be impactful when using organization apps; saves us time by shopping online and provides virtual opportunities to connect with family and friends, especially when being there in person is not an option. However, setting tech boundaries can ensure technology supports our goals rather than add additional holiday stress.
Smart Shopping Strategies:
Before going shopping at your preferred retail stores, create a list, including a budget and off-peak shopping times. Do your research online before going shopping. Stick to your budget. This strategic list can help you manage the financial and emotional costs of holiday shopping, prevent impulse buying and you can avoid crowds. Shopping success happens when we are intentional and responsible with our resources.
Quality Sleep Routines:
What I am learning about sleep in this season is that sleep is an unsung superhero power; especially when you have a lot of things to accomplish in a given time frame. Keep your bedtime and nap time sacred. Employ a standard sleep schedule as much as possible. Limit heavy meals and alcohol close to your regular bedtime. Create a calming routine to signal your body and mind that it is time to sleep. And of course, turn off your digital screens at least an hour before your normal bedtime when possible. Embracing these suggestions can help ensure deep, restorative sleep for the entire family.
Joy-filled Holiday Travel:
AAA projects that 49.1 million Americans will get behind the wheel to travel this Thanksgiving season. With that in mind, I developed a few travel hacks: Create a plan but stay flexible! Pack early to prevent overpacking. Expect the unexpected to happen. Keep a positive mindset to help manage the inevitable hiccups that may happen during holiday travel. This one is my preferred hack; incorporate leisure time into your travel plans. Visiting the iconic museums and seeing historical landmarks and eating at world famous restaurants is truly amazing! But so is just relaxing and being spontaneous. This is a great way to reduce stress and increase enjoyment. Based on some of my personal experiences, those infamous hiccups can lead to the most cherished memories.
For anyone who is missing loved ones, mourning, or just feeling lonely, please know that you are always in my prayers. I pray you receive extra comfort, grace, strength, and peace in this holiday season and beyond.
Loretta McNary is the Lifestyles contributor to the desotocountynews.com website and social media channels. You will be seeing her columns on a weekly basis here on the website and be sure to catch “The Loretta McNary Show” on her channels, including YouTube, Facebook, her website, and others.