Jenna Dyckman

Jenna Dyckman

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Giving is a common theme around the holidays. We give thanks, we show our gratitude to others, we give gifts to our loved ones, friends and neighbors.

But for many reasons, the holidays may also be a stressful time. Now in 2020 we’ve added a global pandemic, which for many of us has raised our baseline stress level.

As we plan and prepare for the holidays, it is easy to get caught up in the busyness of the holidays and serving others. We may adapt poor habits, including staying up too late, skipping meals, eating poorly and not being physically active.

If we aren’t careful, the combination of increased stress and poor self-care habits can put us at risk from suffering from “holiday burnout.” We may feel physically, emotionally, and even mentally exhausted. To combat this, we must take time to practice self-care during the holidays.

Here are a few ideas on how to practice self-care this holiday season and throughout the new year.

Maintain a healthy eating pattern

While a healthy eating pattern can help with stress management, some common food-related responses to stress include overeating, skipping meals and eating high-calorie foods. It is important to be aware of these responses during the holidays.

During the holidays, we often make a variety of special treats that are only made this time of year. With the increased availability of these treats comes an increased consumption of these foods.

That being said, this doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge in the special holiday treats! Just make sure to practice balance in your meals throughout the day.

Don’t skip meals, even if you felt that you overate earlier in the day or the day before. Skipping meals robs your body of the nutrients you need. Skipping meals or going too long without food increases your hunger, causing you to crave high-calorie foods.

Instead of skipping meals, a better practice would be to choose nutrient-dense foods at mealtime. Nutrient-dense foods are lower in calories and higher in nutrients. They provide your body with the nutrients it needs and fuels your body for holiday fun!

Nutrient-dense foods to include in your meals are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lean meats and low-fat dairy.

Maintain a regular bedtime.

Late nights are common during the holidays. You may stay up late wrapping presents, making holiday treats or enjoying time with family. An irregular sleep schedule can affect stress level, mood and energy level.

During the holidays, try to maintain a regular bedtime. It may be a later bedtime than normal, but even going to bed an hour earlier will help with managing stress throughout the day.

Make exercise essential.

Studies show that exercise is a great tool for stress management and benefits both physical and mental health. Find an activity that you enjoy doing and set a goal to be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day. Tell your friends and family about the goal. They can help you reach your goal and even be active with you!

Meditate.

The purpose of meditation practice is to tune out the busyness of life and take time to be actively present in the moment in full awareness. As you meditate you focus only on your breath and let go of any thoughts or feelings you may have. Meditation and the practice of deep breathing can help with stress management.

Schedule regular time for self-care activities.

Set a reminder or an alarm for the same time each day to take a break and practice a self-care activity. These activities could be 30 minutes of your favorite hobby, reading a book, watching a show, playing an instrument, or talking to a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while. This daily practice will give your mind and body a break from the stressors of the day.

I hope you all take time to practice self-care this holiday season and see the benefits of how it can help with stress management.

If you find it difficult to maintain healthy habits or would like to learn more about the benefits of maintaining healthy habits, starting in January, weekly wellness classes will be offered through USU Extension in Cache County. These classes will be offered in person as well as online. For more information you can look on the USU Extension Calendar for the class details or email me at jenna.dyckman@usu.edu.

I hope you all have a happy holiday season and a wonderful new year!

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