Most people enjoy the holidays, because it’s generally a festive and fun time of the year! It’s also one of the busiest! There are lots of parties to attend, social events to plan, family get-togethers, shopping to be done, and cookies to be baked. Add seasonal weather to the mix, finances, cold and flu season and a super long “to-do” list and this time of year can also take a big toll on our health. With all the fun and celebrating it’s easy to forget ourselves sometimes, but it’s so important to remember to take good care of yourself and remain heart healthy during these stressful and busy weeks!
Here are easy tips to lessen the stress, strengthen your heart and be heart healthy this holiday season.
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff (or the big stuff)
No doubt, all of us have long to-do lists this time of year. Sometimes you can plan way ahead and still not have things work out like you planned. It’s ok! Learn to be gentle on yourself, and when things get overwhelming, force yourself to simplify. Scale back your to-do list. Delegate some errands to your partner, children or friends. Space out your shopping and baking, and don’t overbook your schedule with events and social gatherings. Take deliberate time out of your day to relax and regroup. Force yourself to take a nap! What’s important is that you aren’t stressing yourself out needlessly. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that less is more!
2. Sneak in some exercise
Just because you’re “busy” doesn’t mean you’re staying active. Sometimes the cold weather keeps us from our regular exercise routines, and the stress of the holidays can also cause us to overeat and hibernate on the couch a little too long! Park a little farther when you’re out shopping to add some steps to your day. Walk around the mall a little longer than you have to. Dance in the kitchen to Christmas songs on the radio while doing the dishes. Stressful day? Pull out the yoga mat and do some deep breathing and stretching in the evening. Just be sure that you are mindful about moving your body through the Winter months. Your heart will thank you!
3. Be wise about portion control
We are literally surrounded this time of year by rich food and alcohol. Sometimes it’s easy to justify a little gluttony when you’re “celebrating”, but when you’ve been celebrating for 2 months, you can come out the other side 15 pounds heavier and with a higher cholesterol count if you’re not careful! Treating yourself is ok, but always make sure the bulk of your calories are coming from real, unprocessed foods. Fill up on the healthy stuff first, and you’ll feel less inclined to eat a sample of every dessert.
4. Make sure you’re getting enough rest
Insomnia and sleepless nights can take their toll on our bodies when we constantly have lists of things we need to do going through our brains. Sometimes it feels impossible to shut it off. One good tip is writing down everything you need to do the next day. If you have it on paper, sometimes it’s easier for the brain to let it go. Take time to relax each evening with a good book, a warm bath or a warm drink. Try to stay away from electronics in the late evening, and make sure you’re room isn’t too warm. These are helpful for a good night’s sleep. No matter how busy you are, always aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. A well rested body is a healthy body and helps keep the heart healthy!
In 2022, the American Heart Association added sleep duration to its cardiovascular health checklist, now called “Life’s Essential 8.” These science-based guidelines were created to help all Americans improve their heart health.
5. A joyful heart is a happy heart
There’s a lot to be said about having a positive outlook and being of good cheer. Not only can a good attitude benefit those around us, but it can keep our blood pressure from rising and keep stress away too! There’s a direct correlation between mental and physical health, so keep your mind positive. Look for ways to serve others, and look for the good in every situation and your whole body will thank you!
Stay heart healthy and ‘heart happy’ during the holidays!