My self care survival guide through the holidays

By: Dr. Emily Howell, BPHE(H), DC, FCCPOR(C)

Chiropractor and speaker who loves to bake, exercise, travel, tries tomeditate and is the mother of two crazy beautiful school aged kids

We all feel the stress and pressures as the holiday season approaches. After 13 years of practice I always see a rapid increase in my patients coming into my office with stress related injuries as the weather cools down and the holidays approach at the end of the year. Recently, I went out with my best friend and saw :A Bad Moms  Christmas”. It really struck a cord with us both – highlighting the crazy expectations we feel of having to create “perfect” family occasions and creating lifelong memories for our families which leads to so much pressure that we can never live up to! After being a mom myself for over 8 years as well as running my own business, I’ve been working on taking better care of myself and simplifying things. I try to only do more of the things that I enjoy (baking, decorating, seeing a festive show with my family, meet up with my friends, the Santa Claus parade, etc.), and minimize the rest (cooking, malls, buying gifts for every single person I’ve ever met, etc.)!

Here is my personal holiday survival list – I hope it helps you!

1. Exercise
I include time weekly for cardio, yoga and some full body weight training. Even a quick walk at lunch or a shorter workout is better than getting nothing in! Get it in whenever you can.
2. Sleep
This is a MUST for me and the last thing I give up. I will often “reverse sleep in” and go to bed an hour early to guarantee that extra sleep. It’s so key to help fight infections floating around, keep your sanity and wake up more refreshed to face the day. I also try to make sure my kids get lots of sleep as schedules change through the holidays.
3. Good healthy food and lots of water
Meal planning, or a home delivery meal services have saved a lot of us, as well as a slow cooker and batch cooking. Pot luck events help, so you can plan to bring something healthy that you know you and your kids will eat! Drinking lots of water daily to offset dryer indoor environments once the heat is turned on. It can help to offset dry skin, digestive problems, fatigue and dropping energy levels. Making sure you have a good base will help you to indulge occasionally without suffering too much!
4. Moderation
I know…letting loose can be fun but I often find now that my system gets really upset when I overdo it and it’s just not worth it the next day. So a little is ok, but I can’t overindulge like I used to!
5. Create a team of care providers to take care of you
We can’t pour from an empty cup! I see my ND (who prescribes the right supplements when my diet falls short), my family MD and endocrinologist (for annual check ups), my dentist, I see my RMT and Chiropractor too. This time of year can be very upsetting for people, so also make sure to find help of a counsellor or psychologist etc. if you need to work through things for your mental well being. Book your appointments now – if you do it ahead of time you are more likely to get the days/times you want.
6. Time with friends and family
Book fun ahead of time, including an activity you actually enjoy otherwise it just doesn’t happen. There are lots of great family friendly events going on around the city. We love the Santa Clause Parade, seeing a show, a cookie baking day or going downtown to see the decorated windows. This can also be with your biological family or your chosen one.
7. Dress appropriately for the weather
I see this often when the seasons change in my office. You can be stylish and warm! Our bodies need layers and comfort in these chilly Canadian seasons to avoid muscles tightening up and throwing us off.
8. Taking time off work
We are given vacation for a reason, please use it! Even for us self-employed folks. So many of us don’t, but it is essential to step back and pause. We usually come back to work more refreshed and productive.
9. Gifts
I try to buy local or online. Nothing is more stress inducing for me than malls during the holidays!. I also give my phone to my kids when we are in stores, so they can take pictures of what they want and I don’t hear constantly “I want”. I can then take my phone out for shopping and have my list in pictures. We have also stopped buying gifts for the adults in our families and opted to just buy for the kids (within a budget). We’ve also requested or try to give smaller items or experiences instead of more stuff, since city living has forced us to keep things simpler and to regularly declutter!
10. Meditation, Gratitude and simplifying
Meditation is what has gotten me through some really tough times. Practicing gratitude regularly has also been shown to make us happier. At our house we started a tradition of taking turns at dinner time to say what we are grateful for. It can be as simple as just breathing for a few minutes at bedtime, or thinking of three things you are grateful for each day. I’m also working on simplifying…our schedules, our house and my to do list. This might even allow us to actually slow down enough to enjoy the holidays. Pick your favourites, cut the unnecessary items and
say “no” sometimes. It’s hard at first, but gets easier as you do it more and may lead to you having happier holidays!

I hope these ideas help you enjoy your holidays, instead of just surviving them. Happy Holidays!

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