Welcome to the winter months with cold weather and lots of holidays to celebrate!
If you find this time of year to be a little stressful, you’re not alone. A 2003 study found that many people find the winter months stressful as they try to find time to travel, shop for gifts and host parties.
I’m Heather Alioto, a Registered Dietitian with ISS-Guckenheimer and today, we’re going to talk about a few simple tips and tricks to make time for your wellbeing during the holidays.
When you’re tight on time, consider just a few minutes of meditation. It doesn’t have to be long, but finding a quiet place to breath in and out and calm the body and mind can improve focus and reduce stress, ensuring you can complete everything on your daily to do list. You can use one of the many apps out there or you can just set a timer, close your eyes and breathe deeply.
Sleep can often get thrown-off by changes in schedules. Remember that sleep is important for a healthy immune system and not only benefits your ability to perform at your best, but it also reduces stress hormones that can make your busy days more difficult. There are steps that you can take to ensure healthy sleep habits which include: limiting screen time before bed, avoiding caffeine if you’re sensitive to it, and enjoying alcohol in moderation since it can affect sleep quality. It’s also beneficial to keep a consistent sleep schedule, even on the weekends.
The question often comes-up: If I have to choose between exercise or sleep, which should I do? This is a difficult thing to study and there needs to be more research to determine if there is a definitive answer, but it looks like it depends on the individual. Certain people may find that relieving stress through exercise means a more restful sleep that evening, others might find that catching a few extra zzzz’s is more restorative.
Speaking of exercise, you can take simple steps to increase your activity this time of year like choosing a parking spot that is far away from building entrances, opting for the stairs instead of an elevator, taking an extra walk around the mall, or signing-up for a holiday activity like a 5k. No matter what you do, know that it all counts! Just making a conscious effort is the important first step.
And now onto everyone’s favorite topic: food!If you tend to crave more calories, carbohydrates and “comfort food” during the winter months, you’re not alone. A 2013 study found that people consume approximately 80 more calories and slightly higher amounts of fat and saturated fat during the winter months. Why is that? There are a few theories. It may be due to our primitive instincts to eat more to stay warm during winter. The lack of daylight could result in less time outside including less time exercising or it could simply be that we have so many more celebrations with delicious and tempting holiday favorites to choose from.
Specifically craving carbs? If it’s carbohydrates you’re craving, it could be because of low serotonin levels in the body. Sunlight triggers the production of this good mood hormone but in the winter months, with fewer sunlight hours, carbohydrates can help increase levels. While things like pies and cookies can be tempting, try to curb that craving with whole foods and complex carbs like whole grains and sweet potatoes.
Whatever the craving and whatever the reason, it’s important to focus on seasonal superfoods to ensure peak performance, starting with hydration. When it’s cold outside, a tall frosty glass of water might not sound very appealing but there are plenty of warm ways to stay hydrated including herbal teas or even just hot water with lemon. Low sodium, clear broth soups are also a great option. Moving on to specific foods, in-season broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts are delicious when roasted and serve as great sources of fiber and nutrients. Lastly, salmon and fortified dairy products carry the important nutrient vitamin D which is absorbed by the sun’s rays in the summer months but need to come from food sources during winter.
While keeping all these things in mind, remember that it is the holidays and enjoying some of your favorite holiday goodies in moderation is part of the fun. Look for creative ways to find time for self-care and have a happy and safe holiday season.
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