By Jana Soeldner Danger
City & Shore Magazine
The holidays can bring joy, but for many people they also bring stress. Gatherings with relatives who may not be people you’d socialize with otherwise, parties with co-workers, shopping and delicious but less-than-healthy food can all take a toll.
Thank goodness it’s not necessary to start making resolutions for lifestyle changes until January.
But wait. Implementing new behaviors and responses now may not only make December more enjoyable, but also provide a head start on a healthier new year.
We asked three experts, Allan Ribbler, PhD, a psychologist with the Neurobehavioral Health Institute in Fort Lauderdale; Lillian Craggs-Dino, PhD, a registered dietician with Cleveland Clinic Florida; and Anthony Rucerito, program coordinator at Memorial Health Fitness & Rehabilitation Center, for help.
“Many of the reasons holidays can be stressful revolve around expectations,” Ribbler says. “People are thinking about what they should be doing, rather than what they want to be doing. Instead, think about what’s really important to you and your value system, and don’t feel guilty about it.”
Do gatherings with certain people inevitably end in conflict or emotional distress? “Remember that you can’t control what someone else does, but you can control your response to it,” he says. “Learn to communicate assertively. Use ‘I’ statements – I want, I prefer, I feel – without expecting others to agree with you.”
Don’t expect miracles, even in December. “If you know a certain person always acts a certain way,” he says, “plan your response to it instead of crossing your fingers and hoping it will be different this time.”
“Respect other people and make the best of every situation,” he adds. “Focus on the part you can enjoy.”
Getting Fit, Staying Fit
People may use the holidays as an excuse for neglecting their fitness routines. Better to make a resolution now to make fitness a priority all year.
“Mix it up,” Rucerito says. “If you can’t find time to work out at the gym, go for a walk in the park. Or do little things like push-ups, squats and resistance training. Even a 10- to 15-minute routine can really help.”
Rucerito recommends following a SMART program: “Be Specific about the activity you’re planning, make it Measurable, Attainable and Realistic, and set a Time to do it.”
Joining a class may be helpful. Getting a partner or hiring a trainer can also provide incentive. “It gives you a sense of responsibility if you know someone is waiting for you.”
And don’t wait to get started. “Otherwise your job in January will be that much harder.”
Losing weight is tough any time, but even harder during the holidays. Avoid discouragement in January by adopting new behaviors now.
“When people start early to make changes, a lot of times they’ll do better at keeping the momentum going,” Craggs-Dino says. “If you’re already on track, you can carry it over into the new year.”
During the holidays, “Step back and survey the buffet and decide what you really want, rather than start at the beginning and go through it,” she says. “Keep portions small.”
Never go to a party hungry. “Pace yourself by having conversations, she says. “Be mindful of the calories you take in with alcohol.”
Think about whether you are actually hungry, too. “Stress leads to overeating, so try for better time management and planning.”
Don’t waste time feeling guilty over occasional bad decisions. “Get back on track the next day, and remember that effects are cumulative. One piece of cake won’t sabotage your goals,” she says.
And start now. “There’s no reason to wait for the new year.”