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things not to stress about during the holidays: family with christmas tree

5 Things NOT To Stress About During The Holidays

As every reformed Scrooge knows, what truly matters during the holiday season is spending time with loved ones and expressing our appreciation for each other. Yet, as soon as November 1st hits, people seem to start stressing. As hard as we may try to embrace the mother of all clichés, dont sweat the small stuff,” it often goes right out the window in the ramp-up to Thanksgiving. Whether its obsessing over what gifts to get a significant other or picking out the right holiday cards, it can be easy to lose sight of whats important. 

It doesnt have to be this way, though. We tapped a slew of health experts—from nutritionists to therapists—for their thoughts on what you can give yourself permission to shrug off come tinsel time. 

1. Not Following your Regular workout routine

If your workout clothes are spending more time in your dresser than on your body this time of year, cut yourself some slack. People put a ton of pressure on themselves to keep up with their fitness routine and then feel like complete failures when they’re unable to do so, starting a downward spiral of emotions that can worsen health,” says trainer Tami Smith, C.P.T., owner of Fit Healthy Mama. If you’re stressed about getting that workout in this time of year, your workout isn’t going to be super-effective, especially if youre already feeling tired and cranky.” 

To that end, Smith advises setting the bar a little lower. For example, reduce your number of weekly gym sessions from five to three. Then, make a promise to yourself that those three gym sessions will be highly intentional, focused, and effective,” she suggests. It’s about the quality of the work when you’re in it; if you’re distracted, stressed, and overall don’t want to be there, you’re wasting your time.”

Read More: This 20-Minute At-Home Workout Will Get You Through The Holidays

And if youre worried that easing off the gas for a bit will impact your fitness long-term, dont be. It’s consistency over time that gets you the results. What you do most of the time is what’s important,” emphasizes Smith. If you’re an avid exerciser and take some time off for the holidays, youll have a quick re-entry back into your routine.” Sure, your mile time might lag a bit, but rest assured your fitness will be just fine.

2. Not moving as much throughout the day

For many people, its generally harder to squeeze in that daily walk to Starbucks, or even get out of the house. Whether you’re derailed due to having family in town, seasonal affective disorder, work deadlines, or something else, it’s easy to find yourself a little more stagnant than usual during the final quarter of the year,” says Smith. (Cold weather and darker days certainly dont help, either. Movie night, anyone?) 

If you miss your step goal here and there or feel more sedentary than usual, give yourself some grace, Smith says. However, it’s worth noting that making a more conscious effort to incorporate some sort of movement into each day will ultimately help ward off the stress that often comes with this season. 

Maybe you decide to reduce your step goal by 2,000 steps,” recommends Smith. And even if its too chilly to head out for a walk outside, break up the day with a simple stretching video on YouTube, walking on a treadmill, or even cleaning your house (which is a great form of low-key exercise). Youll find that spending more time moving helps you clear your head—and that you actually feel like you have more time to tackle your to-do list afterward, rather than less.

3. Maintaining your weight

Keeping your weight steady over the holidays can be quite the endeavor—especially considering stress increases the production of the stress hormone” cortisol, which can make you feel hungrier when elevated over time, explains Dr. Gretchen San Miguel, M.D., chief medical officer for Medi-Weightloss. High levels of cortisol can increase insulin levels, causing blood sugar to drop, which, in turn, makes you crave sugary, high-fat foods.,” she notes. Over time, this can lead to weight gain, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and more.

While doing your best to maintain a foundation of healthy eating throughout the holiday season is important, a few days of overindulging (and even a few pounds of weight gain) dont undo your commitment to living a healthy lifestyle for the long-haul. You dont need to stay away from every fun food the holiday season brings to light,” San Miguel says. 

Instead of beating yourself up, plan for the treats and feasts youll encounter throughout the season and allow yourself to enjoy them fully, she suggests. This way, you wont feel like youre restricting yourself—and can continue on with your usual eating habits after indulging.

4. Your Busy Social Calendar

Its all too easy to feel overwhelmed by holiday gatherings and other obligations as the year comes to a close, so consider this your invitation to say no.” In fact, that two-letter word is a game-changer for enjoying your holiday season and staying on track with your health and wellness, according to certified wellness coach Erin Cooper, creator of Hungry Fit Foodie.

I teach my clients to set boundaries by taking an honest look at their current commitments and deciding upfront how many activities they are willing to participate in this holiday season,” she explains. Once they have committed to one, two, three, or whatever their desired number is, then they can no longer take on any new activities or engagements.”

Read More: 6 Signs You’re Dealing With Burnout—And How To Recoup

Creating these guardrails can keep you from feeling overwhelmed by all the requests for your time. Plus, if someone asks you to participate in something but you can’t because you have already met your commitment limit, then you can use that as your excuse,” Cooper says.

5. Picking the ‘perfect’ holiday gifts

Though finding the right present for someone you love might feel important, the holidays are truly about relationships, not material things. Sometimes the best gift you can give is your time and attention,” says naturopath Dr. Tricia Pingel, N.M.D., best-selling author of Total Health Turnaround. Engaging in social support, such as quality time, has been shown to benefit not only psychological health but also physical health.”

In fact, research shows that people who provide emotional support to loved ones tend to live even longer than those they offer their support to, suggesting that reframing how we think about giving this time of year has long-standing benefits.

So, go ahead and relax about whether your gifts are show-stoppers this year. Writing a thoughtful letter to a friend or hand-painting a picture frame can tug at someone’s heartstrings more than any expensive sweater can.

Reframe the situation, practice gratitude, and remember exactly why we’re gathering together in the first place: to be together,” Pingel says. 

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