Wellness

Why the Holidays Hurt Our Health

Can you believe it’s October? I feel like this happens every year, the spring and summer are a blur, then it comes time for the holiday season, and now I just so desperately want time to slow down.

I want more time to enjoy the dramatic shift in seasons, to savor all the delicious food that is only made this time of year and to relish in time with family.

But just like the rest of the year, the holidays fly by and before you know it we’re packing away the festive decor and ringing in a new year.

Let the cycle repeat.

Call it a “pre-New-Years-resolution” of sorts, but this holiday season (and the last quarter of the year) I’m aiming to slow down with the hope that I cultivate an appreciation and the art of a slower pace that will carry in to the next year.

You may have heard this goal referred to as “living with intention,” which is essentially the same thing, but I’m going to just call this a “learning-to-slow-down” phase.

Overly ambitious given our go-go-go society? Maybe. Beneficial? Absolutely.

Here are the main areas I’ll be mindfully slowing down, how I’ll do it and the health benefits I hope to gain. I hope you’ll join me!

Eating

Coming from a very Italian family, I not only have a close and intimate relationship with food, but I’ve learned that if you don’t eat quickly, you don’t eat. So when the holidays roll around, it’s a wonderful food fest that you have to scarf through if you want to experience it all.

Here’s the problem with that mentality:

I don’t need to experience it all. It’s okay if I don’t experience the turkey and stuffed shells at Thanksgiving (yes, we have stuffed shells at Thanksgiving). The reason we all experience holiday weight gain is because we eat like we’re literally preparing to go in to hibernation.

This year I plan to come armed to the Thanksgiving buffet with my plate and a to-go Tupperware, I’ll fill my plate with some turkey and my to-go container with a couple stuffed shells for the next day because like I stated before, we’re not going in to hibernation, and I’ll need to eat tomorrow.

Secondly, scarfing through my mountain of food always leaves me feeling like I have a food baby (or three) afterwards. I know it feels terrible, so why do I do it year after year?

This year I will fill my plate with the favorites I love, but I will keep portion sizes in control, and I will eat my food in a slow and civilized manner.

 

The Health Benefits: Slowing down prevents overeating and limiting portion sizes will keep holiday weight gain from creeping up.

Side Benefits: No food guilt, establishing and maintaining healthy habits that don’t get thrown out at the first sign of the holidays.

 

Working

Most people get some much-needed time off around the holidays, but usually those extra days  amount to extra hours working on the surrounding days of the week.  Or it involves still doing a little work on the holidays including sneaky email-checking and answering, etc.

Rather than rushing to get my work projects to-do list done the week of the holidays, thus making the whole process more stressful, I’m going to work ahead now that way my days off can truly be off.

This will result in reduced rushing the week of the holiday as well as not falling victim to lack of motivation because of being so overwhelmed. Starting work even 10-15 minutes earlier the couple of weeks ahead can help achieve this.

Furthermore, say the holiday rolls around and there are things I could work on (because isn’t there always something to work on), learning how to say “no” to some things will help in many other areas of life outside of the holiday season. Not to mention, the world will not stop turning if we stop working for a day, by sneaking in email checks and other work related tasks on days off we’re feeding in to the hurried beast of our society.

 

 Health Benefits: reduced stress, healthier work/life balance, building better time-management skills

 

Preparing

Yep, I want to slow down my seasonal preparations. Let me expand: Anyone out there feel like there’s a mad dash to get all of your holiday gifts and groceries for those big meals at the very last second?

That’s because we are so busy doing other things revolving around the holidays, that we put off our big to-do list items and inevitably end up rushing around like a chicken with their head cut off and muttering things like, “I hate the holidays” as we’re flying through the parking lot of our local mall on December 24th.

Don’t worry, I’m judging myself right now, too.

The reality is, if I take the time to slow-down and plan out my gift purchases and holiday grocery lists in advance I could actually be enjoying the whole process and would be much less stressed.

This year I will be spreading out my purchasing of non-perishable holiday meal items over the course of other weekly grocery shopping trips and picking up a gift or two per week over the course of October/November so I’ll be cool as a cucumber come Christmas.

 

The Health Benefits: Reduced stress and blood pressure, positive outlook rather than negativity and anger, and more time to spend bonding and relationship building with family.

Side Benefits: Allows time to pick up a couple extra items with each shopping trip to contribute to holiday clothing/food/toy drives.

 

The bottom line is that we live in a society that thrives on hurriedness, and it’s not doing anything beneficial for our health or state-of-mind.

I’m a firm believer that taking the time to slow-down and do things with intention is not only personally beneficial, but is also beneficial for our spouses, children, coworkers and even strangers we encounter on a daily basis.

It’s time to slow down, and this is the perfect point to start.

What are some things you hope to enjoy more of during these last few months of the year? Please share some of the ways you like to live with intention, we would love to hear them!

 

 

 

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Elle Michels

Elle Michels

Based in Washington, D.C., Elle Michels is a contributing writer to Womenshealth.com.

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