The hustle and bustle of the holidays is here. Each year brings a lesson in patience and planning for a successful holiday season. What does a successful holiday season mean? In my world, it is one where I maintain my physical and mental well-being. The irony of the holidays is we are often so busy shopping and socializing for others, that we forget the simplest and biggest gift to oneself... self-care.
Sleep, nutrition, hydration, and exercise can easily become derailed. We tell ourselves, oh next week or tomorrow I will be better, but then another curveball comes our way and tomorrow turns slowly into days and weeks.
The first step is recognizing your curveballs, and the next step is to plan for them.
In other words, my kids are my biggest curveballs. Difficult day at school, extra homework, birthday parties, nightmares, you name it, can easily sidetrack my best intentions. It has taken me awhile to accept that I cannot avoid them, but I can strategize better to take them in stride. Below I share with you some of my strategies.
Let yourself be okay with a grueling day filled with unexpected to-dos. Note: this is not saying excuse yourself, but give yourself permission to have that comfort food, skip a workout, or binge watch a few shows. Let go of any judgement. However, you still need to plan how to regroup.
PLAN YOUR WEEK
I will never forget when sitting in my neuroanatomy class and my professor being very irritated at our class, saying we all had inferior performance. She heard the excuses that other classes were also giving us assignments and testing, and she looked at us and said you all represent the 7 P's: Poor Prior Planning Promotes Pi** Poor Performance. If we choose not to plan our studying and manage our time, we will not survive PT school. The motto struck home for me, and I have applied this to my life. Look at your month and week ahead, and plan. Yes, plan workouts, meals, down time, socializing and reconnecting time with family and friends, and sleep. It does not have to be super detailed, instead gain a general overview. For instance, some mornings there are school meetings, and workouts might need to be shorter or broken into two. Some evenings, there may be parties or longer work hours, so meal prepping or having an already prepared meal from the store can help keep you on track.
Have an endurance, strength, and restorative routine to match your time demands. For example, a quick cardio workout I use is what I call the power of 5:
5 minutes of warm up
5 rounds of 20 seconds of cardio + 40 seconds of rest
5 rounds of 30 seconds of cardio + 30 seconds of rest
5 rounds of 40 seconds of cardio + 20 seconds of rest
5 minutes of cool down for total time 25 minutes
You can skip 1-2 intervals if you need less time, or repeat some intervals if you have more time. Strength and balance routine can be a simple stepping forward and backward, side to side and progress this to a lunge, hop, to even standing on one leg reaching with the other leg forward/backward, side to side. A restorative routine can be a set number of stretching exercises, or focusing on one stretch and incorporating it into your day. Hold the stretch for 3-5 slow long breaths. If you can repeat 3-5 times, great, otherwise get at least one rep in 1-5 times a day. Remember to breathe slowly and calmly allow the breath to move into the sides and back of the ribcage.
Meal prep is key. First prep is producing a list of a few meal ideas from pantry or freezer items. If you have time, prep your meals for the week. Next, can you prep any of the food ahead of time? If so, whenever you have a few extra minutes, harness that time and prep away. I am often made fun of in my house for prepping at random points in the day. I have been known to cook a dinner in the morning, so reheating in the evening is easy. Even my lunches or shakes are prepped in advance when I'm able. The easiness of making a shake is great, but sometimes, my time is too limited in the morning to get the shake made. So, I now have back up premade shakes from the store, and I'm trying to get in the habit of making a shake the night before and freezing it. Those extra minutes in the morning might then go to a workout, meal prep for dinner, or sleep.
Plan for sleep? YES! This does not mean plan to make up missed sleep, rather, plan to get a good night's sleep as consistently as possible. Studies show that eight hours is needed for the body to rejuvenate, for blood sugars to normalize, for good antibody production, and for oneself to be less emotionally volatile/reactive. Create a sleep routine that will help train your body and brain to get to sleep faster. Recognize triggers that awaken you. Are you drinking too much before bed and having to urinate during the night? Are you too hot or cold? Are you stressing over something? Personally, I drink a nighttime tea early on, and prior to bed I read a book. The side-to-side movement of the eyes calms the nervous system, and the book allows my brain to be occupied with something other than stressful thoughts. I try to prep my mornings, like I mentioned above with my shakes, to give myself a little extra time to sleep in on nights I get to bed later, or I do not feel well. Just note: you cannot make up lost sleep
. I know we like to think we can, but we cannot. A great read, or listen, is Matthew Walker's Why Sleep Matters.
Sometimes the irony of the holidays is that we can be busy socializing at events, but we fail to really connect with our friends. The holidays can be a lonely time of year despite being surrounded by people. To offset this, counseling and making dates with friend/family are key. Dates can be a meal and drinks, wrapping presents or writing Christmas cards together, working out, etc. And if a physical connection is not available, then be available to call a friend/family. My commute times are often used to reach out to family and friends.
To prevent being overwhelmed, gradually incorporate the tips. Some may be easier for you than others. Let go of perfection. Trying to be perfect and incorporating everything can sometimes set you up for failure. Be good and kind to yourself this holiday season and remember to practice the gift of grace.