Staying Motivated During The Holiday Season

The seasons are changing again. The leaves are turning, there’s a chill in the air (if you live in the Northern Hemisphere) and out come our boots, sweaters, coats, hats, gloves and scarves.  Everywhere, there are signs of holiday traditions, twinkling lights, visiting family and friends, celebrations, and merry making.  Somehow, our busy lives become busier.  Kids are out of school, many of us will find ourselves traveling or hosting guests, schedules get packed and jumbled and often we begin to feel as if we’re standing on our head (or lounging in an ottoman, exhausted, staring blankly at the TV).

The holiday season is full of opportunities to find excuses to put workouts on hold, get less sleep, have an extra helping of stuffing, binge on sweets, and neglect self-care. It’s not new. And try as we might, we’ll never run out of excuses…if you look for them, you will find them! It happens every year…and yet…most of us year after year fall prey to the pitfalls of neglecting our fitness, lifestyle goals, wellness and nutrition.  Day by day we hear ourselves say, “It’s ok, I’ll start again in January.”

When we stop our momentum, it’s hard to start back up again. The longer we let something go, the harder it becomes to go back to where we were. We remember how strong we were, and it seems more and more impossible to get that back. Maybe we start to over-think it, and then we become riddled with self-doubt or frustration. Add to this the winter doldrums and a compromised immune system (probably made worse by sleeping too little, not consuming a balanced diet, and neglecting physical activity), and we literally become sick and tired. The holiday season can also be an emotionally painful or financially stressful time of year depending on your personal situation, so be sure to keep this in mind and don’t be overly hard on yourself. Perhaps the best thing you can do right now is take care of you…then you can be the best you for your loved ones.

This year, challenge yourself to re-commit to your goals, while the festivities are still on! After all, goals aren’t seasonal. Even if you have taken a break, decide to prioritize your health and wellness before the New Year is upon you. During this challenging time of year, see it as an opportunity for you to fully integrate fitness, wellness, and nutrition without pause. Then, when January comes around you can charge forward, focusing on taking yourself to the next level. Won’t that feel better than doing the walk of shame into January, trying to re-build from the rubble?

Here are some tips to help you stay on the healthy lifestyle horse during this most festive time of year:

1)   Plan ahead.

Plan out your meals and pre-cook, have healthy snacks ready so you don’t arrive at dinners or parties overly hungry. Be sure to get your workouts in pre-and post-holiday, or before and after guests or travel. Schedule in workouts early in the morning so they don’t conflict with family time, meal-prep or self-care. If your favorite dance, yoga or fitness class is cancelled for the holidays, continue a personal practice at home during the same time to keep your routine going.

2)   Organize active family time.

Bundle up and go for a hike to enjoy the seasons changing outdoors, go ice skating, teach some yoga to your niece and nephew, take all the dogs and kids for a walk, invite mom and dad to your weekly Pilates class, challenge everyone in the house to 25 pushups per day in the morning. Be creative, share your enthusiasm…it just might be contagious.

3)   Start a new tradition of reviewing goals in November or December instead of putting it off till January. 

Re-evaluate now, look at where you can make improvements in your practice, kitchen, and schedule. Start to plan and implement strategies to keep your momentum up this holiday season and all seasons to come. Instead of looking for excuses, start creating habits that stay consistent every day of the year.

4)   Make healthy substitutions. 

Whether it’s making healthier holiday treats, sipping seasonal teas instead of booze, or substituting lounging in your onesie reindeer pajamas watching cartoons on the couch for an invigorating 5k morning run, you can start tweaking your traditions so that you don’t just survive the holidays but thrive during them.

5)   Rest.

All of the extra stress and activities during this season can wear a person down. Take time to wind down before bed, and be sure to log in 8-10 hours of Z’s. If it’s wintertime where you are, your body may be requesting the extra rest as we move into darker, colder days and longer nights.

6)   Schedule in EXTRA self-care time.

That’s right.  Extra.  I know many of us feel overly busy this time of year, but the sacrifice of carving out extra ME time will be absolutely worth it. If you need to, choose self-care over the surfing internet, scrolling through social media, watching TV or playing video games. Remember, it doesn’t need to be a ton of time to be effective. Try some of these minimal time commitment strategies:

·      Wake up to 10 minutes of meditation per day in the mornings

·      Take a 20-minute bath at night before bed

·      Get in 30 minutes of cardio exercise at least three times per week

·      Commit to 15 minutes of journaling daily, in the morning over coffee/tea, before bed or during work breaks

·      Treat yourself to a massage in the month of December

7)   Celebrate!

Be sure to enjoy yourself, so you don’t begin to cultivate feelings of deprivation. Take time off. Try not to over-work. Enjoy socializing with friends and family. Make wholesome meals with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Find something to volunteer for to lift your spirits while helping others. Splurge (it doesn’t have to cost money) on something you’ll look forward to during your holiday break—go see a show or a game, do something creative like painting or making music, book a getaway to a cabin in the woods, curl up with a favorite book or just plan something extra relaxing like a saltwater float or a spa day. 

Celebration doesn’t have to hurt your body, bank account or progress. Be creative, be willing to be just a little unconventional if necessary. Making small changes now creates momentum for greater change in the future. Re-set your expectations for this time of year so that it’s not a time of stepping backwards and sacrificing your momentum but rather a time to enjoy the holidays and celebrate the changing seasons without guilt or regret. Set yourself up so that you can fully enjoy the festive time, and then be ready to take on the New Year and all of its challenges as a happier, healthier, stronger, more motivated and more focused you.