misfit wellness henry

The holidays can be a little tricky. Sure, it’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of year, but along with the Christmas carols, menorahs and good cheer, comes a wide range of additional stressors that can take a toll on our mental and physical health. For every treasured tradition, there’s a dreaded obligation. For every fun holiday gathering, there’s an annual party that makes you panic a little inside. For every beautiful family meal, there’s a gut bomb fruit cake sent 5,000 miles from Ireland. At the economy rate.

There seems to be a thin line between loving and hating the holidays for most people, but a few years ago, I thankfully learned a few tricks for staying (mostly) on the love side. Amidst all the fanfare, it can be difficult to find time and energy to care for yourself, but I learned I’m much much more likely to be present, enjoy the season (and handle cranky relatives with grace), if I’m a little more proactive about putting my mental and physical health first. Here’s how I make that happen between gingerbread men and rolling my eyes at my cousins:

  1. HAVE NON-NEGOTIABLES: I make a few “feel good” rituals non negotiable between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. I know that regular movement, sufficient sleep, meditation, and green vegetables keep my brain and body healthy year-round, so I commit to including them in some form no matter where I am or what I’m doing. These rituals might look a little different when traveling or busy, (walks with the family instead of Soul Cycle, frozen peas instead of kale, an afternoon rest when I fall short on sleep), but I know they help me feel happy, healthy and ready to embrace whatever fun (or disaster) comes my way.

  2. BALANCE NOURISHMENT WITH INDULGENCES: Historically, my pendulum swung HARD in either the direction of abstinence or hog-wild with both alcohol and food. That typically meant that the holidays were a time to eat ALL the cookies and drink ALL the cocktails before doing a cleanse in January and returning to my strict diet. Unfortunately, I learned the “f-it” mentality inspires unhealthy cycles as much as deprivation does for me. So, I’ve been working on the ever elusive concept of balance during the holidays for about the past 5 years and I have to say the middle way is a lot easier on the brain and body. I give myself space to indulge mindfully and reasonably a few times a week but I stick with daily staples like leafy greens and loads of veggies to keep my digestion, energy and moods on track. The result? I don’t feel deprived OR weighed down with food and drink my body doesn’t process well.

  3. ONE-LINERS: Since I make a lot of diet and lifestyle choices that go against the grain (I barely drink, I go to bed early, I eat bizarre foods), I find it very helpful to enter into the season with a one-liner that helps me set boundaries and stop potentially frustrating conversations before they even start. I know that I can’t expect all of my extended family and old friends to understand or agree with my ever-evolving diet and lifestyle choices, but I can set the tone for what I am willing to dissect with them. A simple, unapologetic, kind but firm phrase can be a game-changer with family members that tend to criticize or question your choices. “I appreciate your feedback/concern Grandma, but I’d much rather hear about your tennis tournament than discuss what’s on my plate. Love you!” 

  4. DON’T SKIMP ON CALORIES: I used to fast or restrict leading up to indulgent holiday dinners or Christmas parties I knew would be laden with hard to turn down food and drink. That almost always led to overdoing it during and after these events. For weeks on end. Now I make sure I eat normally before, during and after holiday gatherings to avoid getting into that awful cycle of compensatory behavior that’s so hard to break.

  5. ADD DIGESTIVE & LIVER SUPPORT: My digestive system and detoxification pathways always appreciate a little extra support, but they yearn for it this time of year. Adding digestive enzymes before rich meals helps me break down foods I’m not otherwise well equipped to break down. I alternate between nettle, dandelion and turmeric ginger tea daily too, to boost liver function and aid digestion and detoxification. The turmeric is a nice bonus to help with inflammation that can come from the food, drink and stress right now!

  6. SWEAT IT OUT: I discovered infrared sauna a few years ago and after my first session, I walked out thinking “this is too good to be true”. Thanks to deep penetrating infrared heat, 40 minutes sweating my bum off quiets inflammation, amps up detoxification, opens my sinuses, soothes muscle and back pain and so much more. I always feel unbelievably energized and light on my toes after infrared. PS. It’s an incredible hangover remedy.

    It’s funny how we tend to abandon grounding, healthy rituals when we need them the most, but when you don’t abandon them, you’ll likely discover it transforms how you experience the holidays. What ways can you take better care of yourself this time of year? And when you do, how do you see it impact your daily experience?