I love this time of the year but I also feel a lot of pressure during the holidays. Pressure to eat junk food (because hello it is in EVERY store), pressure to shop till I drop, pressure to send out a lot of Christmas cards, to get along with family, to buy the perfect presents and to decorate my house perfectly. It is seriously overwhelming because I want the holidays to be so perfect. Mentally and physically it can take a toll. And even though I love the holidays, I don't seem to do very well at keeping mentally sane during them.
This year, after struggling with the panic attacks and anxiety, after a really bad holiday season the last couple of years (last year was one of the worst), I decided to do the holidays differently. I didn't want to gain 20 pounds back like I did last year or frantically be making presents at the last minute because I had procrastinated or miss out on seeing the people I care about just because of being broke or feeling guilty for not having a present yet. I wanted these holidays to be fun.
Last year with a 20 pound gain, I learned a few things about not stopping the exercise and overdoing the sweets during the holidays. During the holidays last year I spent a lot of time baking a lot of sweets, eating those sweets, not walking or working out at all and basically just throwing everything health wise out the window till February. It was horrible. I gained a lot of weight back and felt my joints creaking in protest. Last year was a tough lesson but I am determined to not repeat the mistake again this year. Every night, even if I have knitting, even if I need to do some shopping, or wrap some more presents, I still leash up my dogs, put on a really warm coat and take a walk. On the weekends I squeeze in a long walk or run/walk. During commercial breaks I do sit ups and squats. I even do them at my desk during breaks. I walk to the light rail and to work from the light rail each day now that I have given the hubs the car to drive. And I work really hard on not over doing the sweets. Especially since it appears sugar aggravates my anxiety. I can actually feel when my body/PCOS is saying enough is enough and I start cutting back or walking more.
Here are a few of my tricks...
- I have replaced sugar items with non sugar items, for example, hot chocolate, you can buy sugar free so you can still enjoy a warm glass of it next to the twinkling Christmas tree lights.
- Dark chocolate rocks as a desert and isn't as bad as milk chocolate. Especially those dark chocolate oranges that you crack. They are fun and super tasty.
- Park as far away as you can and walk. Everyone is fighting for those front parking spots anyways, so walk it.
- Park in a central middle point and walk from store to store. It does the body good. I promise.
Now mental stress is harder. For me mental stress means emotional eating. Which was part of the problem last year. I felt guilty because I couldn't buy anyone presents (due to just graduating from college and starting a brand new job that only paid once a month) and I wasn't able to travel anywhere to visit loved one's. I basically spent most of the month working and going home to a house I hated. Not a great year for me. Lot's of emotions running around. I was struggling with severe PCOS symptoms and anemia.
Now I don't think the holidays are just about gifts and everyone loved my homemade gifts but there is something magical to me about walking into a store to find the perfect gift for someone. It seriously makes me really happy. I love seeing people's faces light up when you hand them a gift they weren't expecting. It makes my Christmas that much BRIGHTER.
This year I have been knitting since October. Learning new techniques and buying mass yarn each paycheck. I have a huge jump on my homemade gifts already. I have also been picking up stocking stuff and presents since October. Walking into little stores to buy things I thought were cute and when I do my weekly shopping for household items I have been picking up stuff I thought people would like. When I wrapped the presents to be placed under the tree this last weekend, I was totally shocked to discover I was almost done. I only need a few more presents and of course to shop for my husband. Wow. Usually the day before Christmas I am frantically running to Wal-Mart because I forgot presents. But not this year! I also sent out a huge bunch of my Christmas cards this week. I still have another bunch that needs to go out but I at least got one bunch out. I find something really comforting about sitting down with hot chocolate and a stack of Christmas cards. Writing personal notes and sticking a stamp on them. Makes me feel really good.
But one of the best things I am doing for myself mentally is taking things slow and doing what I love doing. You have to find what is important to you, what traditions you love doing and do them. That is what Christmas is about. Find the time to make those presents or take that walk or bake those cookies or to just walk around to see all the lights. I can't tell you how much I enjoy my evenings spent in fuzzy socks knitting by the light of the tree. Especially since the cold finally crept in this week.
I am sticking to my bed time. Taking a walk every evening. Eating healthy. And working on not having any drama with anyone during this time of the year. The holidays should be fun. But they don't mean I have to drop every healthy habit I have gained, nope I can have a happy healthy jolly holiday. So far I haven't gained back any weight and there haven't been any sobbing melt downs. But I will let you know in January how I really did!
How do you keep the stress down during the holidays?