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Saint Peter’s Better Health

Sponsored by Saint Peter’s Healthcare System

Christmas is supposed to be a merry time. Instead, it’s often an occasion for overspending, overdoing, and overeating—and that can leave you feeling stressed, tired, and down on yourself. But it’s not too late to reclaim your holiday spirit. These tips can help you recapture the joy of the season and take better care of your health.

Reset Your Expectations

The number one priority: Don’t aim for the perfect Christmas. It doesn’t exist, and striving for it only leads to frustration and disappointment. Instead, focus on having a relaxing, meaningful holiday that honors your personal, cultural, and religious traditions.

Maintain Healthy Habits

Follow your usual schedule for meals, exercise, and sleep as much as possible. You might even work in a little extra physical activity. If you have kids in the house, bundle them up, and go for a walk around the park. Invite guests to join you for a game of basketball at the community center. Or just take an extra lap around the mall after you finish shopping.

Anticipate the stress that may occur if you pile too many extra activities on top of your already-busy schedule. When things start feeling hectic rather than fun, give yourself permission to put up fewer decorations or turn down some invitations.

Create New Traditions

Holiday traditions that are repeated year after year help strengthen your family bonds. Start a fun, new tradition this year. Maybe everyone could gather to decorate a wreath, play a board game, watch a favorite movie, or sing Christmas carols.

Some of the most memorable traditions are cooked up in the kitchen. If your cherished family recipes are laden with fat and sugar, look for subtle ways to make them healthier. For example, replace the butter in a baking recipe with an equal amount of no-sugar-added applesauce. Or replace chocolate chips in cookies with dried cherries.

Prep Your Party Strategy

Have a plan for enjoying yourself at parties without wrecking your good eating habits. Grab a healthy snack beforehand, so you won’t arrive ravenous. Once you’re at the party, scope out the food table and decide what you’ll eat before you start filling your plate.

Think before you drink, too. For a nonalcoholic, reduced-calorie beverage that’s still festive, dilute eggnog with low-fat or skim milk, and skip the alcohol. Or mix sparkling water with fruit juice (such as cranberry or pomegranate juice) to create a virgin cocktail.

Don’t Overspend on Gifts

Spending beyond your means leads to stress—and money worries can dog you well into the new year. Scale back your gift list, and stick with a shopping budget. Or give homemade items, which will often be treasured long after store-bought presents have been forgotten.

In addition, consider sharing your time by volunteering. For example, you might serve dinner at a homeless shelter or volunteer for a faith-based or community program that assists those in need. Helping others feels good, and it puts your own life challenges in perspective. It’s a great way to tap into the true spirit of holiday giving.

© 2000-2018 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.