6 Tips for a Healthy-ish Holiday Season
The holidays are a busy time of year, and the natural multi-taskers that we are, we take on even more. Nothing kills the holiday joy and triggers hot flashes, mood swings, and unintended weight gain like stress, inadequate sleep, and too much alcohol, sugar, and rich foods.
Don’t let menopause or other women’s health woes steal your holiday joy. Here are five tips for better well-being this season:
1 – Sleep more
This is certainly easier said than done, but the effects of sleep deprivation are serious enough to fight for your beauty rest. Whatever you can do to create a more sleep-friendly space for yourself is a good idea. Try putting breathable cotton sheets on your bed, wearing comfortable and light pajamas, and making sure your bedroom is dark and cool. Avoid naps during the day, as this can keep you awake once nighttime rolls around. If your mind tends to race at night, try putting on calming music or practicing deep breathing to reduce stress.
2 – Watch the alcohol and caffeine
If you typically indulge in alcoholic or caffeinated beverages during holiday get-togethers, be aware of the potential side effects. Both of these can actually worsen menopause symptoms. How? Caffeine can increase cortisol levels. Why does this matter? Cortisol is the “stress hormone,” which can induce hot flashes. Try limiting your caffeine consumption to the morning or switching to decaf. Or, put a 23andMe DNA test on your wish list and find out if you are a fast or slow metabolizer of caffeine.
As for alcohol, it can interfere with normal sleep patterns, prevents REM sleep (the most restorative sleep), and can increase snoring and other breathing problems. If you want to celebrate the season with alcohol, consider selecting a lower-carbohydrate and lower-sugar beverage. Wine and distilled liquors such as vodka, gin, and rum are better choices. Watch out for sugar in your mixer of choice. For every ounce of soda, tonic water, or juice, there are approximately four tablespoons of sugar. Check out this guide to the healthiest alcohol choices or learn more about how wine impacts your menopause symptoms.
3 – Choose healthy-ish foods
No, this doesn’t mean that you have to eat dry carrot sticks while everyone else enjoys triple cream brie or holiday cookies. It just means that it’s important to remain conscious of your diet despite the season, making healthier choices as much as possible. Studies have shown that high sugar intake can worsen menopause symptoms, like hot flashes and night sweats, by causing estrogen to spike. Some research has even linked sugar consumption with an increase in depression, anxiety, and stress, despite its ability to make us feel good in the moment. You can offset your holiday treats by eating more vegetables and lean protein. Fermented foods can also lower inflammation and may offset some of the unhealthy parts of holiday eating. When not eating out at parties and dinners, stick to simple healthy favorites. Try these five fast and easy plant-based recipes to get you through the holidays, and consider starting a plant-based diet in the new year.
4 – Don’t forget to hydrate
In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water. Staying hydrated gives you more energy and helps to control hunger and excess calorie consumption. It’s easier to front-load hydration in the early part of the day to avoid having to get up during the night to use the bathroom. When you wake up, start with a large glass of water before your morning coffee or tea. Fill a large water bottle and set it next to you while you work, and take it with you on errands. If sipping plain water is not your cup of tea, try rotating in naturally flavored, zero-calorie still water. There are plenty of choices available in the supermarkets, or make your own by adding a squeeze of lemon or lime, cucumbers, berries, and other fruits.
5 – Stay physically active
Most of us aren’t lucky enough to live somewhere warm year-round, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep your body moving during the cold months. Exercise makes your body release endorphins, which make you feel happier and reduces your perception of pain and stress. Not to mention, staying active can help prevent unwanted pounds from sneaking up on you. Bundle up and take the dog for a brisk walk around the neighborhood after dinner, try one of our favorite YouTube exercise videos, or set up a punching bag in the basement (a double whammy for exercise and aggression!). If you are pressed for time, 30-minutes of exercise a day is better than no exercise at all. Ramp things up after New Year’s with high intensity interval training.
6 – Socialize
It’s true when they say that laughter is sometimes the best medicine. Laughter is good for mental health, immunity, and reminding you that you’re not alone in menopause or life. Make a point to spend uninterrupted time with loved ones this season over video or phone, catching up on life, or just being goofy. You deserve to loosen the reins and relax, forget about those extra pounds nobody notices but you, and reap the benefits of holiday joy.
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