During the holiday season it is all too easy to get caught up in the chaos that makes up this time of year. As we move through this season of excess, it may seem inevitable that we will gain our holiday weight, suffer from exhaustion, run on empty, and end up an overly-stressed mess by the end of the year. Whether your holiday habits include excess in eating, drinking, spending, traveling, working, or anything in between, making a few intentions before we get overwhelmed and overtaken by the season can make a huge impact on your health and happiness, now and for many months to come.
With so many temptations all around us, it may require a bit more effort, awareness, and willpower than usual, but none of these common holiday issues have to come into fruition. We are in total control of our choices and by taking some time to create intention around our wellbeing, we can ease into the holidays smoothly and keep our health, energy, and vitality vibrant throughout.
Like any well-rounded Ayurvedic health plan, we must look at many aspects including our diet and lifestyle habits. Herbal additions offer us a little boost of healing potency and will complement our healthy holiday plan quite well. Making as many of these recommendations a part of your holiday routine as possible will ensure success in your efforts and keep you healthy – body, mind, and spirit.
11 Essential Healthy Holiday Tips
1. Keep To A Healthy Daily Routine
A healthy and consistent daily routine is essential for any healthcare regimen, but becomes even more vital during times of chaos (aka Vata, Vata, Vata). Having a set routine filled with healthy meal times, proper sleep times, and nourishing self-care practices will keep your body clock running strong, your mind grounded, and your overall energy and health optimal. Whether you are traveling or just extra busy at home and work, making a strong intention to keep as much of a routine as possible when other aspects of your daily life may be a bit more irregular, will be essential for your holiday healthcare!
2. Keep To A Healthy Sleep Schedule
Healthy sleep patterns are needed for optimal energy, immunity, emotional health, and mental functioning. The holiday season is often accompanied by extra travel, extra work, tons of shopping, potlucks, parties, and frequent social gatherings – activities which all require a lot of energy. If we are not replenishing our systems with proper sleep during this time of go, go, go, we will become more prone to sickness, stress, hormonal imbalance, digestive disturbances, poor eating habits (e.g. snacking, grazing, poor food choices, overeating, etc), and weight gain. And let’s just face it, we can simply handle what life throws at us better when sleep is good. Here is a healthy sleep schedule to adopt as part of your daily routine this season (and anytime!).
- In bed: 930 to 945pm
- Asleep: 10pm
- Awake: 5 to 6am
3. Keep The Digestion Strong
The first step to health is a strong and robust digestive fire (Agni). With an abundance of cookies, candy, pastries, larger meals, eating out, heavy foods, and alcohol this time of year, it will be more important than ever to remember the essential food rules of healthy Ayurvedic eating, while still playing around a bit in an intentional and intelligent manner (e.g. allowing yourself one cookie after your meal rather than a plate full of desserts).
Adding in these easy additions to your daily routine will help to boost your digestion, flush away toxins, and keep you healthy all season long:
- Start your day with 16 ounces of hot lemon water (use lime for Pitta)
- Sip on ginger tea between meals (get our extra potent recipe here!)
- Take a strong dose of Digestive Tonic Tincture before larger meals and eating out
- Take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of Triphala Churna in warm water before bed every night
- Avoid snacking, grazing, and overeating
NOTE: If you are already experiencing symptoms of toxins and digestive distress, in addition to these recommendations it is suggested to take the Daily Detox Formula, Agni Elixir, or Digestive Tonic Tincture before every meal.
4. Avoid Excessive Snacking And Grazing
If there is one habit that leads to a weak digestion, slow metabolism, weight gain, and toxic accumulation, this is likely to be it. Since many times our snacking includes improper food combinations (see #5); processed foods; high sugar, carb or calorie foods; eating while working, driving, on the phone, or on our electronics; and eating without true hunger; these undesirable habits will undoubtably lead to a sluggish digestion, weight gain, low energy, mental fog, and ill health.
Snacking and grazing overtaxes our Agni (digestive fire) and pancreas, since they are continuously at work, with no break in between meals. During this time of constant temptation, it will be essential for you to set your intention now to “just say no!”. If you give in to the cookies that your co-worker brought in today, this will likely spark a stronger desire for more sweets for days to come.
If you feel that you simply cannot go 4 to 6 hours without eating due to a busy work day or a highly active lifestyle, there are ways to snack healthy. The first step will be to plan out your snacks and stock up with heathy options. This will be essential to avoid caving in to seasonal treats and everyday junk food which is often easier to access.
5. Avoid Improper Food Combinations
One of the biggest culprits of poor digestion, toxins, and overall ill health is the habit of poor food combining. Throughout this season of constant munching, eating out, potlucks, and large meals, this issue often becomes even more exacerbated.
Making sure to avoid these unwanted combinations will be a great way for you to indulge a little without as many detrimental effects. By discovering these improper food combinations and then using mindfulness to avoid them, you will be able to keep your digestion robust and your system running strong.
There are many food combinations to avoid, but if you feel overwhelmed at trying to remember all of them, here are three very important food combining rules to be diligent with this season:
- Always eat fruit by itself – either 1 hour before a meal, or 3 hours post meal.
- Do not eat more than one animal protein in one sitting (this includes dairy and eggs).
- Limit starchy carbohydrates when eating heavy, high protein foods (i.e. meat); so instead of the mashed potatoes with your turkey meal, stock up on the veggies!
6. Don’t Go Into Festive Meals, Potlucks, Or Eating Out Hungry
Since eating and celebrating often go hand and hand, the holidays often brings an abundance of larger meals, friendly potlucks, and numerous dinner dates with loved ones. With these ongoing temptation traps, it will be a good idea to avoid going into any of these situations “starving”. As you likely have experienced, our extreme hunger can often lead to poor food choices, grazing, and overeating.
If you want to go into a larger meal with more willpower and control over your dining experience, having a small, simple, and healthy snack before your meal is a great way to begin. This can help you avoid unnecessary, unhealthy appetizers; the ever-so-tempting fresh bread on the table; or simply putting more food on your plate than you actually need.
If you are wondering what types of food to munch on to ease into your meal, some great options will be a cup of broth, a small bowl of broth based soup, steamed veggies, sautéd veggies, a small cup of kitchari, or a small cup of lassi, kefir, or yogurt (plain with a pinch of cumin and ginger is best!).
7. Keep The Immune System Strong
With the extra stress, travel, social activities, and work that the holidays bring, along with the cold weather, coughing, and germs that come with the season, we become more susceptible than ever to sickness. By taking the proper precaution however, we can prevent bouts of the cold, fever, or flu during the holidays and throughout the winter season. Here are a few tips to follow for stronger immunity:
- Take an herbal immune booster such as Immaculate Immunity Tincture or Mahasudarshana Churna at the first sign of illness (e.g. a scratchy throat), or if you have been surrounded by sickness at work, home, or with friends.
- Take an easy-to-take herbal immune booster such as Immaculate Immunity Tincture during travel, especially on the days of traveling.
- Take Triphala Churna each night for your daily vitamin C dosage and gentle detoxification.
- Sip on hot lemon water between meals (Pitta types use lime).
- Drink 2 to 3 cups of Tulsi Synergy Spice Tea daily at the first sign of sickness or as a daily preventative.
- Rest and relax as much as possible.
- Keep a healthy sleep schedule.
8. Make Time For Rest, Relaxation, And Self-Care
With the chaos that comes with this season of giving, we can often forget to give a bit to ourselves by taking time to rest, relax, and restore. Besides keeping a healthy sleep schedule, making small breaks in your day (everyday!) to take a walk, attend a Yoga class, perform a short mediation, cook yourself a fresh meal, or allow yourself a few moments to lay on the couch and read, can make a big difference in our mental and physical wellness.
Along with taking mini breaks throughout your hectic days, I also recommend to make time for some essential self-care practices each morning and night to help you destress and reset. This should be whatever practices make you feel more calm, centered, and at peace. A few examples would be meditation, Yoga, gentle to mild exercise, walking in the fresh air, self-oil massage (abhyanga), hot baths, or reading. Choose what works for you and make it an essential part of your holiday routine (even when traveling)!
9. Keep To A Healthy Exercise Routine
Exercise is a necessary part of our wellbeing, no matter what time of year. Ideally we should be getting 30 minutes of intentional movement in each day, and although our schedules may be a bit hectic during the holidays, making time for even a brisk walk after work each day (or before work, or mid-day…) can make a huge impact on our mental and physical health. So don’t wait until the new year to set your exercise intentions. Now is the time and you will have more energy, more vigor, and less stress for it!
NOTE: If 30 minutes daily just won’t work for you at this time, begin with a 3 day-a-week, 30 minutes per session, workout plan. Keep it simple, enjoyable, and accessible and once the chaos quiets, begin to add in days steadily.
10. Keep Your Holiday Plans Simple
It is all too easy to overbook ourselves during the holidays, whether with work, travel, family, friends, hosting parties, cooking, baking, and of course shopping. If you are not careful you may find yourself overcommitted to a long list of extra activities in your already super busy life. Before you get caught up in the whirlwind, I suggest making some boundaries this year around the areas you normally get overwhelmed in. For example, if you feel the need to visit your out-of-state family and your partners out-of-state family each Christmas, this is simply too much. Instead compromise by seeing one this year and switching off for next year. If you always host a holiday party and do the majority of the cooking, this year make your gathering a potluck and only cook your favorite dish or two. If your work gets extra busy each holiday season and you find yourself working 60 hours a week, establish now that you will stick to a 40 to 45 hour week by prioritizing the essentials and putting aside the work that is not 100% necessary.
We often feel the need to do everything, be everywhere, and be on point for it all, but with the stress and exhaustion that gets created, we may end up forgetting the meaning for the season (which is love, laughter, gratitude, family, friends, etc).
11. Keep Your Holiday Purchases Simple
Just as we often overbook ourselves in our holiday ventures, we are equally as likely to feel the need to give, and give, and give some more. We have immediate families, we have extended families, we have best friends, we have good friends, we have co-workers, we have the postman, we have neighbors, we have teachers, we have hair stylists, we have charities, and the list goes on… Have you ever found yourself saying, “well I gave a gift to her, now I really need to get him something too!”. We are all so generous, loving, and compassionate, it can really become nauseating (sorry to put it crudely). By the end of the season we often end up giving just to give and the gifts may become resentful, obligated, and (at times) meaningless (once again, sorry to put it crudely).
Just as we must establish our boundaries with holiday travels, festivities, and work, we must create limits with our gift giving as well. This may be by setting an amount for your kids’ presents, setting an amount between you and your partner, or simply setting the intention to only buy your best friend and immediate family gifts this year (along with one specific charity and a Christmas tip for your very friendly, hard-working postman). If you are fed up with the overall commercialism of the holidays, make this giving season more personal and affordable by baking cookies, making cards, or making a craft for your family and friends, are also great ideas.
I think we can all agree that the holiday season is a very exciting, yet exhausting time of year. If you are sick of cycling through the same pattern of going, eating, spending, and going some more, set your healthy holiday intentions right now – and stick to it! By making some simple changes and using our innate awareness as we move through this festive time of year, we can enjoy each day more and bring back some of the true meaning of the season… and best of all, we can do so while staying happy, healthy, and full of energy! Happy Holidays my friends!!!