It’s that time of year filled with holiday cookies, spiked eggnog, missed workouts and winter colds. It’s that time of year again when things tend to get busy and overbooked. And it’s that time of year again when it’s important to make sure you’re taking care of yourself over the holidays.
We have all struggled at times to make our health and fitness a priority and have made decisions in the moment that weren’t actually serving our greater goals and values. This gets especially difficult during this time of the year. During times of stress, things like training, workouts, sleep, nutrition, and taking time for yourself are usually the first things to go.
People often feel like they are constantly striving for more life balance. When this topic comes up with my clients – it usually derives from feeling like there is an area of their life that is getting more attention to the detriment of others; there’s an imbalance. We are all trying to seek out that perfect balance when it feels like there is time to do all of the things we both want and need to do.
Guess what my friends …
there is no such thing as having perfect balance.
It’s not something that you can achieve and then once you’ve achieved it, you’re good – no more struggling with balance for the rest of your life – your ducks are in a row and each duck is getting equal amounts of everything. The reality is that sometimes one area of your life needs more attention than another, BUT that doesn’t mean that you have to drop the other areas entirely – and that is often what happens. Some of us have a tendency towards all-or-nothing thinking; if I can’t do it the exact way I want to, then I’m not going to do it at all. During busy and stressful times you get to test what is really important to you. Can you make your fitness a priority when you have multiple engagements pulling at your time? Here are some tips on how to get through the holidays with your sanity and fitness intact:
1. Just Say No
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be overbooked during the holidays. It’s OK to say no. It’s OK to not try and fit in all four holiday parties you’ve been invited to that all happen to be on the same day. And it’s OK to show up late, leave early, bring something store-bought if it means you get to go to hang out with family or friends and still be able to have some down time at home or get a workout in. You don’t have to do it all. It’s also OK to say “no” to training. (“What!?) When you are overly stressed, taking off a day of training might be the best decision you can make for your training. Stress is taxing on your Central Nervous System and sometimes taking a day off to compensate for the added stress means that you have prevented yourself from taking an unplanned WEEK off because you got sick.
2. It’s Not All or Nothing
Don’t fall into the all or nothing trap. This might be a time of year when the scales tip more toward time spent on and with family. Or for some, during this time of year the scales might be tipping towards the work side. When more time and energy has to be put into those areas of your life, it means there will be less time to go to others, not no time to go to others. You may have to make adjustments during those times when one area of your life needs to take precedence over another. Maybe you have to get in two short workouts instead of one long one. Maybe you workout one less day this week. Most importantly – when you are overly busy – set a goal for your fitness during each week and be realistic with your goal. What adjustments do you need to make knowing that you only have a limited amount of energy and resources to give? It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing.
3. Give Yourself a Break
Even when you are busy, you can give yourself mini breaks to ensure that you don’t feel like you’re a hamster on a wheel. Examples:
• Take 5. Sit at your desk and take 5 deep breaths. Seriously. Wherever you are right now. Do this. Not one… FIVE. (Tip: Try and make your exhale a little longer than your inhale.) There I just did it. Wow. I actually feel pretty calm. See! If you’re not used to just sitting and breathing, it will feel like an endurance event, but it’s not… it’s just five deep breaths. You can do it.
• Get a meditation app. If you prefer a guided tour into blissfulness, try out a meditation app. I like Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer. They all provide great options for helping with sleep, reducing stress and anxiety, increasing self-esteem and gratitude; whatever you are struggling with – one of these apps will have a guided meditation for it.
• Take a power nap. Set your alarm for 15 – 20 minutes and go lay down. I know some of you out there are thinking that you don’t have this power nap skill, but even if you don’t sleep, just keep your eyes closed and rest. Power naps have tremendous health benefits and stress relieving benefits. It’s more effective at helping you boost your energy and get re-focused than a cup of coffee. (Don’t freak out – you can still have coffee.)
• Slow down. When you rush your movements, you feel rushed. Things feel more hectic and you’re possibly even eliciting your stress response. If you’re feeling rushed or overwhelmed, pay attention to how fast you’re moving and slow it down. The extra time it takes will actually only be accrued in seconds, but the amount of stress it relieves will be tremendous.
AND – try to give yourself a break.This is the greatest gift you can give to yourself during this time of year. Stop being so hard on yourself. It’s like you’re putting two wrestlers into the ring; “The Way I Want Things to Be” versus “The Way Things Are.” Stop wrestling. You’ll never win that fight. No one does – you’ll just keep going around and around in circles. Things won’t always go as planned. That’s life. You’d do better to compromise and hug it out. Appreciate and accept that this is a busy time of year and seek out balance by making adjustments while still keeping your fitness a priority.