And now for something completely different…

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(While waiting for me to have time to upload/transcribe/comment upon each improv poem I wrote last week, feel free to read this advice column I wrote for a “Wellness Newsletter” at my work. Winter is upon us!)

Holiday Health How-Tos

by Susan Sylvester

The holidays are just around the corner, so now is the time to start planning your strategy to stay well amidst the onslaught of tempting sweets, hectic schedules, lack of sleep, financial issues, and family stress. To aid you in this noble goal, here are a few tips from your friendly wellness team.

First, define what “healthy eating” means for you. Everyone is different, and you need to decide BEFORE you get to the table whether you will want to pass on seconds, stay away from sugar, focus on portion sizes, skip the adult beverages, or bring a picnic basket full of apples and carrots and just hide in a guest bedroom while the chowing down happens. Having an idea of how you want to eat during the holiday season will help you follow through with your goals simply by keeping them in mind. You’ll also avoid potential failures due to lack of planning. If you want a satisfying but sugarless dessert, it won’t just magically appear at the table—but you can make it happen if you work it out now.

Second, carve out some time for activity. How? Well, if your family has a habit of snoozing together after Turkey Time, maybe you can suggest a friendly game of football, or a walk down the road to enjoy some fall foliage. Maybe you should go dancing on New Year’s Eve and keep your alcoholic-calories-ingested numbers low. You could sign up for a holiday-themed run or go ice skating with loved ones. And during the whole holiday season, you may be tempted to skip workouts so you can shop for gifts, attend holiday parties, etc., but try to remember how you’ll feel if you don’t get that endorphin rush. Reschedule if you must, but remember that even ten to fifteen minutes of activity TODAY will make you feel better.

Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep. Holidays can mean late-night chat-fests, or incredibly early mornings assembling feasts, or Christmas Eve vigils that go on right on into morning. My advice to you here is: Just Say Nap! It might not be realistic to go to bed early every night, but if you’re off work for a holiday, grab some shut-eye while you’re at it! And if you can’t do that, you CAN go to bed earlier. Remember, even 10 minutes earlier every night equals more than an hour of extra sleep over the course of a week.

And most importantly: take a deep breath. In to a count of 7, hold to a count of 4, out to a count of 8. Do it again. Breathe deeply. Try to do this often throughout your day. Build time into your day to relax. This isn’t hard when you consider that all you have to do is BREATHE! That only takes a few seconds. Give it a try.

And don’t forget to take care of your mental health. The holidays can be a stressful time for a lot of different reasons. Only you know what causes you to make less-healthy choices…which means that only you can make healthier choices for yourself. If your family is insane, make sure you give yourself an out when they get to be too much. If you get lonely, make sure to schedule time with people who love you. If you get worried about the burden of last-minute tasks, start now so you have fewer things to do then. And so on.

Remember, also, that every separate choice you make is one single simple choice, and that choices add up. So maybe today you decide you really need those 2, or 10, extra Snickers bars from your kid’s Halloween haul. But tomorrow, maybe you decide to take a walk on your lunch break, or go to bed earlier, or call a friend with a sympathetic ear. And the next day, or the next week, or the next month, there will be choices you make that are more healthy and choices that are less healthy, but each one stands on its own, so as long as you keep moving towards your goals and trying to choose healthy as often as possible, you are doing a body good—yours!

And let’s be honest, all of ours as well. When you feel well, everyone feels good.

Happy Holidays!

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