holiday challenge

Holiday Challenge for Mental Health

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is already next week! To help you stay sane, I have a holiday challenge for you. With the year coming to a close, there is an influx of fitness challenges and quick workouts to complete when you don’t have any time. While I definitely support these workouts and will be squeezing in my own when I can, it’s also important to keep perspective.

In the past, I’ve stressed out about what I’ll eat or when I’ll workout when traveling to see family. Each cookie I ate was thought about long after, not because of it’s taste but because of the guilt I felt for eating it. There have been years where I drive 12 hours to upstate New York to visit my family for Christmas, only to get there and immediately stress out about when and where I’ll be fitting a workout in.

My holiday challenge for you is to change the way you think of your wellness plan this season.

holiday challengeWellness isn’t just how much you eat and sweat. Yes, balancing calories in versus calories out is how you can control the number you see on the scale, but what about your mental health? Are you really enjoying the time you’re spending with your family if you’ve got a constant tally running in your head?

I hope you don’t take this as me standing on a pedestal and preaching, because it’s far from that. Keeping that tally out of my own head is a battle I fight every day. Physical activity and eating nutritious food is something that will always be important to me. But when it sabotages your mental health and you’re no longer enjoying time with family and friends, is avoiding that cookie or saying no to one more glass of wine really worth it?

I’ve developed a few tricks to help myself feel on track, while allowing myself to relax at the same time.

One of these tricks is bringing a healthy dish to share. Say you’re going to Thanksgiving dinner and don’t have control over the menu. If you have a bad relationship with food, then this might send you into a tailspin of anxiety over what you’ll put on your plate. Bringing a dish helps you feel like you are still in control, even if it’s only over one of the choices you’ll make. Maybe you could bring my roasted acorn squash with tahini drizzle to go alongside the turkey this year? Whatever you bring, find peace in the fact that one item on the table is made with ingredients of your choosing. Balance out the rest of your plate with whatever catches your eye. Accept the choices you make without any guilt afterward, and you’re on your way to successfully completing my holiday challenge.

While we’re on the topic of food, let’s talk desserts.

Do not skip them! Those famous cookies your grandma makes or the maple cookies that your grandparents send from Vermont–ENJOY THEM! A few cookies are not going to turn you into an unhealthy blob. This is the one life you get to live. Going without desserts at holiday gatherings is a sad way of living. Think about it this way. You work hard all year so you can enjoy these treats. Do not think about it in the reverse! These treats WILL NOT ruin your year of hard work. On the other hand, making yourself feel guilty for wanting to eat a cookie could lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. So let’s just not even go there, okay?

Moving onto workouts.

If you’re anything like me, taking a rest day is a struggle. I get it. That being said, rest days are necessary. So let’s look at the time spent with family as a scheduled rest day. A necessary break in order to get back into the gym and push harder than before. Give your muscles a break, binge watch Gilmore Girls with your cousins, and just let it go. The gym will be waiting for you when you return to your normal schedule. Take our your planner right now, and write “Emily’s holiday challenge” next to time you’re going to be spending with family. Use this as a reminder to relax and enjoy the rest.

holiday challenge

Overall, I want to stress that aiming for 100% perfection is a tough goal to meet. When you’re at home, in your normal routine, practice a healthy lifestyle. But when you’re with family, practice giving yourself more wiggle room. Like I said, this is really hard for me, but I’m improving. Let balance be the marker of your perfect lifestyle this holiday season.

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