A Serene Holiday Season, Seriously!

Whether you look forward to them or simply dread them, it's official, the holidays have arrived. Unfortunately, what often follows this arrival, are colds and flus, weight gain and even depression. How is it that this time of cheer causes so many problems? First, the holidays are often accompanied by stress and with it the immune suppressive power of the stress hormone, cortisol, leaving us sick come January. Then when we add excessive alcohol, sugar, and lack of sleep the matters just gets worse. Wouldn't be great to actually enjoy the holidays and feel good? Fear not! We have created healthy strategies for all your holiday situations.

Shop Before you Drop
For some of us, holiday shopping can be very stressful and fear provoking activity as the pressure builds to find that perfect gift and not to mention the havoc it can reek on our finances. If you want to find the perfect gift, probably the easiest way is to simply ask people what they want rather than trying to guess and then be let down when the person is not as ecstatic as we would like them to be. One type of gift that actually might go the furthest is experiences such as vacations, visits to the spa, or tickets to a show. This is because spending money on experiences rather than material gifts provides more enduring happiness as many studies have concluded.

If overspending is more of your issue, make sure to create a reasonable budget and actually stick to it. Also it is better to pay for things outright rather than using credit cards. Another idea for the budget conscious is homemade gifts. Making your own presents actually has the added benefit of reducing stress, increasing happiness and protecting the brain from damage caused by aging. The reason being that crafting activities actually increase dopamine levels, which is our natural anti-depressant. If you need some inspiration click here for some healthy homemade gift ideas for everyone on your list.

Party Smarter not Harder
At first it might seem exciting having all your nights packed with party after party in December only to find yourself drained, sleep deprived, and sick. First don't let FOMO prevent you from letting yourself say no. Pick the parties you really want to attend and perhaps set a limit to one to two per week. This can really make a big difference. Now if overeating at parties is a problem, make sure to have a snack or a light dinner before hand so you are not ravenous when you arrive. I often have a handful of nuts, grass fed jerky or a hard boiled egg before I arrive at a gathering. Also just because the host offers a large spread, doesn't mean you have to try everything. You can just sample a few things you really enjoy. For those who are gluten or dairy free, holiday eating might seem extra complicated and there might be the tendency to cheat. This doesn't have to be the case. Click here for some gluten and dairy-free holiday eating strategies.

Another party hazard is excessive drinking, which can drive overeating, suppress the immune system, impair deep sleep, aggravate acid reflux and accentuate seasonal depression. As a rule of thumb, limit yourself to two drinks max and no more than one per hour. It is also recommended to have at least a glass of water with every alcoholic drink or if you do find yourself going to an event every night sticking with light non-alcoholic beverages like club soda with a splash of cranberry juice for at least a few of occasions.

Avoid the Family Feud
Perhaps spending holidays with the fam is less "It's a Wonderful Life" and more like "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff." Well, it maybe not be that bad. But let's face it, sometimes spending 24 plus hours with your nearest and dearest can present its challenges. If you know that you have relatives who are particularly difficult such as your Cousin Frank who has opposite political leanings or Aunt Betty who constantly prods you about your relationship status or lack of one, it is a good idea to be prepared. Remember that they are not going to change so it is easier just to accept them as they are for a few hours even if you don't agree with them. Also, it is probably best to avoid certain subjects that might fuel a heated debate. In addition, don't forget to give yourself a time out. Whether its catching up on a good book, taking a walk or run outside, or journaling can bring you some sanity even if it is just 15 minutes. Finally, remember even with family you have a right to say "no" and perhaps you might need to take a break from the family functions this year. Or if that doesn't feel like an option you can also set a time limit to your stay by planning an activity for afterwards so you can leave early. If you have a mindfulness practice this could be an excellent way to challenge yourself and do some loving kindness meditation or black and white breathing