We are living in weird times. This time of year is usually the time where we forget some of the things that go on in the world and just be present with the people we love. But this year, everything going on in the world has shoved itself right into our homes. So this holiday season, we are forced to forgo the things that bring us joy and try our best to compromise.
What I’ve been hearing from a lot of people this year, is the idea that because we aren’t going out much, that it will be easier to have a healthy holiday season. But when Halloween rolled around, we saw the exact opposite. Anxiety, depression and loneliness led to binge drinking alcohol, eating candy and in general overdosing on guilty pleasures. I saw more autoimmune flares this Halloween than I have ever seen in years past. And I’m not surprised by this.
When we are scared, angry, anxious, lonely or depressed, we look for things to help soothe our nerves. When the coping mechanisms that we used before: spending time with others, going to the gym, eating out, going to a play or movie; are gone, we turn to things that are relatively easy to get. And this is usually sweets and alcohol.
So those who say this holiday season is easier than most to stay healthy are right. We don’t have pressures from family, or friends. We have more control over our diets. But in many ways they are wrong. Because this year, unlike any other, we need a release. So in order to help you stay on track this year and avoid flares in your autoimmune disease or just to help you feel healthy, here are some tips to help you prepare.
Drink in Moderation
When you don’t have to drive anywhere, or go do anything, it’s MUCH easier to just have 1 more drink. Alcohol is a powerful analgesic. It can help us take the edge off, dull our pain, inhibit our racing minds and calm our nerves. It can also flare autoimmune diseases, aggravate GI symptoms, and interrupt our sleep.
So this holiday season, when you are tempted to just have one more drink, consider ways to find some moderation:
- Give yourself a hard and fast limit
You can limit what you are drinking by setting some restrictions ahead of time. Cut yourself off at 2 glasses of wine, or 2 cocktails. You can divide up portions ahead of time and put the remaining levels away and out of reach so it’s harder to get to.
2. Set a timer
Generally the more people drink, the faster they drink. You can set yourself a timer so that you are only having 1 drink every hour. That way you don’t find that you are refilling your glass immediately after you empty it. This can significantly reduce the amount you drink in a given day.
3. Drink more water
Technically you should be matching your alcohol ounce for ounce with water. So if you drink a 12 ounce beer you should drink at least 12 ounces of water with it. Cutting the alcohol with water will help keep you hydrated and reduce side effects.
Regulate Your Sugar Intake
If you aren’t having your normal 20 people over for Thanksgiving this year, it will be really tempting to eat that entire pumpkin pie by yourself. Sugar binging is one of the top ways to cope with stress. And it doesn’t always have to be sweets. It can be in the form of starchy foods like bread, potatoes, rice, pasta and sweetened beverages like juice.
So before you get the urge to add 2 scoops of ice cream to that apple pie, here are some tips to help you set yourself up for success.
- Set aside portions ahead of time.
If looking at that whole pie just sitting by it’s lonesome on the counter makes you want to eat second slice, pack it up. You can cut smaller portions and then store them in the freezer or fridge. It will last longer and you won’t have a sugar hangover the next day.
2. Sub in low carb options.
Most holiday traditionals can be made low-carb. Stuffing can be made grain free. Rolls can be made with almond flour. Pumpkin pie can be made low-carb. If you love eating it, chances are good the internet has an equally viable alternative. All you have to do is plan it out ahead of time.
3. Use sugar substitutes.
If you just love your holiday desserts, then consider using sugar alternatives. Xylitol, stevia, coconut sugar, bananas or honey are all good substitutes for standard cane sugar or brown sugar. Sugar substitutes can reduce glycemic index and help improve blood sugar levels.
Incorporate Stress Relieving Activities
Stress this year is high. There is no doubt about that. It is natural to need something to relieve it. So if you find that you go to alcohol and sugar to help quell your anxiety, then use time now to plan out other activities that can help your stress. Doing so can help you stay on track when temptation strikes.
If you feel like you have no options for stress relieving activities, here are a few options that you may have not considered.
- Create a home workout
If you feel like you have no options because your gym closed or your usual options are limited, consider building an at-home gym. You can order some free weights for your home, or use soup cans. Start small – only 10 min a day is better than nothing.
2. Challenge yourself
Nothing helps with accountability like a good challenge. If you used to go to yoga but are having a hard time getting into online classes because they just aren’t the same, do a 30 day challenge! It will keep you on track and give you something you feel like you’ve accomplished.
3. Do something just for you
Self-care was hard before 2020. Adding in a challenging year doesn’t make it any easier. But in times like these, self-care is even more important than before. Do something you’ve wanted to do but haven’t. Spend 15 min a day just to yourself. In peace and quiet. Take a bath. Give yourself a facial. Dye your hair that crazy color you’ve always dreamed of. Do it. Because why not!?
So this year, instead of letting your stress and anxiety make decisions for you, make your own decisions. Healthy ones. Set yourself up for success. And instead of hoping for 2021 to be better, it will be. Because you helped make it that way.
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