The holiday season is nearly here! I love the smell of hot apple cider simmering on the stove top with hints of nutmeg and cinnamon filling the house like some magical potpourri. Just the memory takes me back to my childhood. Connecting with family I haven’t seen in months or even years and learning what new adventures they’ve had is my form of entertainment – way better than watching TV! Then, of course, the food. So many new treats to try and so many comfort food favorites all to be washed down with warm apple cider, eggnog or my favorite wine.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the holidays were always like that? The holidays can feel like a bit of a minefield whether you’re experiencing autoimmune health setbacks or diligently working on healing your body.
Maybe you’re diabetic and so hot apple cider would spike your glucose levels and you’re just a bit jealous of those that can drink it without taking insulin. Maybe some of your family members like to talk about all the wonderful things they’ve accomplished this year and you dread being asked about yours because you feel like you didn’t accomplish much because of your autoimmune condition. Perhaps you’re on an AIP diet and so all the usual tempting foods are off limits and you’re feeling frustrated that you body is out of balance at the moment.
You can change this story. Here are my top tips to help you survive and thrive during the holidays.
- Cultivate Gratitude – Cultivating gratitude is an ongoing practice that’s especially important during the holidays. You may be feeling a bit frustrated at the moment with your body’s imbalances. You may even feel frustrated that you didn’t accomplish all you wanted to in your career or life due to health challenges. Taking a few minutes each day to write down things that you’re grateful for will start to shift your emotional state from frustration and anger to appreciation and joy. Your list can include small things like appreciating the color of fall leaves to bigger things like appreciating your arms that can hug and hold your loved ones. T
he feeling of gratitude will start to crowd out negative emotions leaving you feeling more grounded and happy.
- Morning Routine – Set yourself up for success any day of the week but particularly on a busy holiday. Wake up early enough to have some time for yourself before anyone in your household wakes up. In the The 5 AM Club, Robin Sharma suggests waking up by 5am to take 1 full hour for yourself. This is what I do but you don’t need to start there! Decide what feels good for you, is it 20 minutes? 30 minutes? Great! Divide this time into three areas including movement, reflection and inspiration. Movement can include some gentle yoga, stretching or a run if you’re feeling energetic. Reflection might include journaling or meditation. Inspiration can be anything that you feel you don’t have time for during the week, but really enjoy, like reading a few chapters in a book, listening to a favorite podcast or watching a youtube video to learn something new. When you take time for yourself in the morning, you’ll feel more grounded energetically and you’ll manage any stressors that come up during the day with grace and ease.
- Planning – If you’re on a specific nutrition plan, it’s because you love your body and want it to heal. Planning for holiday meals is the key to help you stay true to your nutrition plan but still have fun. If you’re visiting family, please be sure to let them know your dietary constraints so they can tell you, when you arrive, what things you can eat. You should also offer to bring a dish (or several) that you can eat as well. Make sure it’s something you really enjoy and that will help fill you up in case there aren’t too many other options for you. If you’re hosting this year and want to have your guests contribute, try sending them simple recipes that would complement the food you’re preparing so there are no surprises. Don’t forget the treats! Having something sweet tasting so you don’t feel like you’re missing out will keep you from digging into something you shouldn’t. With some preparation, you won’t be obsessing about what you’re going to eat and instead can enjoy the company.
- Saying No – Let’s face it, the holidays can be filled with a huge number of parties thrown by companies, friends and family and it can be overwhelming. Want to go to all of them because they light up your life and make you feel vibrant, wonderful! If not, then say no to the ones that don’t light you up. More importantly, don’t feel guilty for not going! Taking care of your emotional and physical health is so much more important than going to an event. Also, when you say no to the things in your life that drain you, you leave room for saying yes to the things that fill you up.
Now let’s look at the holidays through a different lens. You’ve practiced gratitude, created important time for yourself each morning, you’ve done some planning and said no to events that don’t fill you with joy.
The hot apple cider smells are wafting through the air and you feel gratitude that you know your body better this year than you did last year. You feel joy when you hear of other people’s adventures and accomplishments and you don’t compare because you know that you’ve given your body much needed attention and rest. Sharing a meal with family and friends is special and because you did a little planning you arrive at the table knowing there’s plenty for you to eat so you can focus on the fun of the conversations.
What are your top tips to surviving the holidays?