By Ashley Reichel
Now that the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is behind us many of us are looking for ways to decompress, to mitigate the effects of holiday-induced stress, and to find ways to adopt healthier habits in the New Year. Although one could argue that the holidays are a time when we could use more nurturing, when we should be placing thoughtful intention on our health, and ideally when we should be pulling out all our stress-busting tools, it is a time of year when we tend to lose ourselves in the hype of holidays. Don’t get me wrong, the holidays in some ways are my favorite time of year, as in traditions, and family, Christmas trees, and holiday movie nights, but it also has become a season of survival. By January 1st I am for sure ready to place my priorities beyond shopping gift lists, get-togethers, parties, obligations, and the “don’t stop ‘til you drop” mentality. In fact, my mind and body are craving normalcy, calm, and a fresh start.
While this is common for so many of us this time of year and we even document our good intentions via New Year’s resolutions, I often think we set ourselves up for disappointment when set the bar too high. In my opinion results are best seen when we are kind to ourselves and strive to reclaim balance vs jumping headfirst into dramatic new routines. This may be an unpopular opinion and you may be thinking why squash people’s drive in the New Year, but as a health coach working in an integrative health practice, I am in it for the long haul. I see far too often the unrealistic expectation, (and the disappointment) that can come from wanting it all and wanting it all right now! It rarely works that way when it comes to health and healing. It requires patience, time, and an openness to accept change. So, my invitation and challenge to myself and to others this New Year is to meet ourselves where we currently are (post-holiday season). We may find ourselves a little worn out and empty, but we can also find new ways to rebalance what feels off and fill ourselves up again.
How do we do this then? I think the answer will be different for everyone, but it lies in our approach.
To start, we focus on purpose overindulgence. The holidays can be emotional and crazy and we tend to live in a space of indulgence (food, alcohol, spending, lack of boundaries). Not that we don’t all deserve some indulgence but if we look at ourselves from a point of purpose, we will often find answers to what we really need. If we respect ourselves and our bodies, they can do more for us and in turn for others that may depend on us. We can also lean into practices and points of view that boost our energy, mindsets and morale.
If you are still unsure what your approach might look like here are some simple suggestions for starting the New Year with a little more purpose:
1. Make time for movement that feels good - this doesn’t require purchasing a gym membership or spending hours adopting a painful new routine. When we find something that feels good, we don’t mind doing it (actually we look forward to it). Find something you enjoy and spend even just 15 minutes engaging in it daily. This might include, walking, yoga, stretching, weightlifting, hiking, cardio…. whatever feels good to YOU.
2. Find a healthy balance with food - the holidays are definitely a time to eat our favorite foods, healthy and otherwise, but in an effort to find purpose overindulgence, post-holiday is a perfect time to try “crowding out”. This means intentionally adding more fruits, vegetables, and whole foods into our diets as a way of crowding out less nutrient dense foods. This does not mean restricting ourselves nor does it mean eliminating whole food groups or even labeling foods “good” or “bad”. All foods can have a place in our diet but if we truly look at what foods best fuel our bodies and make us feel our best, we are more apt to choose them on a more regular basis and listen to our natural body cues around food.
Practice mindfulness - This can span across so many topics but truly tuning into ourselves and making decisions out of a place of purpose and calm can make such a difference vs. when we are operating from a place of stress, urgency, and chaos. Some simple mindfulness practices to get you started could include journaling, meditation/prayer, spending time in nature, practicing gratitude, or anything that allows you the time and space you need to achieve a sense of clarity, calm, and appreciation.