‘Tis the season for joy and a few guilty pleasures—but no need to exhaust yourself before the holidays even arrive. Making a few smart trade-offs can help you save your energy so you can enjoy what you love most about the holidays. As Lorelle Del Matto, a registered dietitian in Seattle, notes, “It’s about indulging yourself mindfully and deliberately, treating yourself without overdoing it.” Follow these simple guidelines to keep yourself energized and stress-free all the way to New Year’s Day.
Consider quality over quantity to boost energy levels and stay healthy
Skip high-calorie snacks such as chips and chocolate. For real staying power, take along snack portions of fruit yogurt, hummus and carrots, apple slices and cheese, peanut butter and whole grain crackers, and so on—foods with balanced amounts of protein, fat, and carbs.
Choose a balanced multivitamin or supplement such as vitamin C as good “health insurance.”
Replace coffee or sugary energy drinks with some kombucha or good green tea.
Guard against getting run down and enhance your immune system by taking Asian ginseng, vitamin C, and rhodiolia, all which may help the body deal with stress.
For vitality all season, your whole diet makes the difference
Plan around your parties: Rather than trying to skip the tempting treats at your business, social, and family events, make an effort to be extra mindful of eating healthfully at home in between. Eat a variety of naturally nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products daily.
Don’t skip meals! Instead, keep your energy level constant by having small, frequent meals.
Think ahead. Get out the slow cooker and/or stock pot, and make a big batch of nutritious soup; eat some and freeze some to have on hand for busy nights.
Treat yourself. Plan when you’ll splurge on that once-a-year eggnog latté or winter ale.
Don’t drink all your calories. Our bodies don’t register liquid calories the same way as solid calories. Drink herb teas and water to stay hydrated.
Be picky. At the buffet, eat only what you really like. Emphasize healthy favorites to make the calories count, and watch the portions on the not-so-healthy.
Conserve your energy: decide you don’t have to do everything
Attend just one or two holiday parties instead of five or fifteen. Know and respect your limits, and make them a priority over pleasing others.
If the prospect of your holiday traditions is overwhelming, try something new: e-mail your holiday letter instead of regular mail, try gift cards instead of gifts, or online shopping (start early) as an alternative. Host a simple gift-making party—homemade candles, tree ornaments, or other simple crafts—for close friends and family, getting both cozy quality time and some gifts crossed off the list as a result.
Streamline gift giving by drawing straws for family gifts, one gift per adult.
Bake cookies, but limit the number of varieties, or make one smashing dessert.
Set a “no outside activities” rule for you and your family to stay home one day per weekend, or a few nights per week.
Practice saying “no,” and do what makes you happiest
Gather craft supplies and set aside an evening to make gifts.
Choose experiences as gifts, instead of things (a choral concert, tea party, ski outing, museum tour).
Declare a “no TV” week or evening and play family games instead.
Read stories aloud.
Plan a family outing no one has ever done, such as a skating party, bowling party, serving meals for a homeless shelter, or helping pack care boxes at a food bank.
Attend a Sing-Along-Messiah concert or community theater or dance performance.
Judith H. Dern lives in Seattle where she writes her annual Christmas letter, but confesses to always making time to bake seven kinds of cookies, according to Scandinavian holiday rules.