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Healthy Through the Holidays (Posted On: Thursday, December 06, 2012)

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The words stress and holidays seem to go together, and yet that also seems rather ironic. 60 percent of North Americans say they stress they won't get everything done before Christmas. One of the most frequent questions I hear lately is "Are you ready for Christmas?" and "Have you finished all your shopping?". The stress doesn't just apply to our emotional states, our bodies are also stressed by the foods we eat, minimal exercise and too little sleep.

What I see in my practice is a higher level of stress and anxiety in people as well.

Is that what the holidays are supposed to be about? Of course not. It may sound cliché but we say the same things every year, and yet nothing changes unless we make a change. Doing the same things and expecting different results is…INSANITY.  So if you've been feeling the same way, I challenge you to consider the following points and make some changes in your life and within your family this holiday season:

Socialize - We all need social connections, but during the holiday season many people are over stimulated', 'overcommitted', and 'overwhelmed' with too many events. Be choosy about how you spend your social time. Be assertive and learn to say no to situations that will upset you.  Decline invitations (if you can do so without grossly offending the invitee) that create unnecessary emotional stress, or will simply burden your schedule and shortchange you of sleep.
 
Reach out - At the other end of the social spectrum is loneliness.  With changing family dynamics, different living arrangements, and simple geography for some people, many are left alone during the holidays.  If you feel lonely or isolated consider getting involved in different activities, volunteering your time at seniors homes, food banks or other organizations geared towards helping others. The rewards will be far greater than just the social stimulation.

Exercise - Quite simply, physical activity makes every system in your body work better. Instead of taking a break from your exercise routine, keep it up! or consider getting started! It doesn't have to wait until January and your resolution of getting in shape or losing weight.  The fact is, exercise is simply something most people have to build into their lives, work into their schedules. You will always find something better to do with your time. Exercise helps relieve stress and prevents weight gain.  Moving your body will always give you a boost, even just some stretching or a brisk walk will rejuvenate your body and mind.

Eat Regularly & Prepare for Outings - If you are going to a party or dinner, don't starve yourself all day in anticipation.  Doing so will slow your metabolism, leave you ravenous and more likely to overeat later in the evening. Instead, eat small meals or snacks throughout the day and you'll be less likely to overindulge when you are out. If you are planning on consuming alcohol be sure to increase your intake of water to compensate for the dehydrating effects.

Take a Breather - It IS the season for family, friends, and being on 'holiday' so don't forget to take the time to relax and indulge in activities you enjoy. Make time for yourself too, often time alone is what is easily neglected with busy social schedules or family commitments.  Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you and change your perspective if you are having a frantic day.  Do something that clears your mind, slows your breathing and restores inner calm, Journal, listen to music, take a brisk walk and look at the lights, read a book, whatever interests YOU and gets you in a quiet place for a small bit of time.
 
You CAN indulge, celebrate, and still feel good in January. Make good choices for yourself and your family and you will enjoy the holiday season and start 2013 in good health.
Dr. Melissa Longo

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