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Stress-Free Holidays

As the days grow colder and the nights grow longer, sometimes it seems like December’s holiday celebrations provide the only light on winter’s horizon. Office parties, family celebrations, nights out with friends – it’s fun, but all that excitement can take a toll. Here’s a guide to making it through the hectic holidays without too much stress.

Indulge wisely

Holidays are a time for treats; sometimes it seems there’s a different temptation around every corner. Rather than deny yourself the enjoyment that comes with seasonal treats, allow yourself to indulge – in moderation. Can’t miss out on Aunt Judy’s delicious lobster dip? That’s fine; just make sure you add some fresh veggies to your plate of appetizers, too.

When it comes to navigating holiday dinner parties, it’s all about making smart choices. If you can, look at the menu ahead of time so you can figure out what your indulgence will be. If you’re going to go all-out at dessert, choose a salad or a broth-based soup as your appetizer and grilled fish or chicken as your main. If you’d rather enjoy the prime rib, choose a fruit-based dessert rather than the more luscious offerings.

And of course, what’s December without a special drink or two? Drink a glass of water between alcoholic drinks to keep your alcohol – and calorie – consumption down. There are lots of delicious options for low-calorie cocktails. For hot drinks – tree-lighting ceremonies and toboggan parties practically demand hot chocolate – use skim milk and hold back on the whipped cream. The same goes for eggnog. You’ll still get that delicious flavour, but with fewer calories and less fat.

Schedule exercise

When your calendar is in overdrive, it’s important to make a point of scheduling time to exercise. Studies have shown that scheduling your physical activity helps ensure you fit in fitness – there’s something about writing it down that makes you more likely to keep to your routine. As an added incentive, being physically active helps you manage stress – getting moving (especially outside) is a great way to gain some perspective on everything from Christmas shopping to the latest family fracas.

If hitting the gym as usual isn’t an option, try incorporating a physical activity into your holiday plans – you could go for walk around the neighbourhood to look at the Christmas lights, sign up for a festive fun run or suit up for a New Year’s Day polar bear dip! There are lots of family-friendly ways to involve physical activity in your holiday plans, and who knows – you might even start a new tradition.

Be mindful

The holiday season is a hectic one. Between running errands, shopping, attending special events and preparing family feasts, it’s important to take a bit of time for yourself to relax and recharge. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, mindfulness might be the answer – try taking five minutes to do a quick guided meditation. (There are apps for that!) It can make a big difference to your peace of mind.

The gift of good health

Remember that 80 per cent of chronic health diseases, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and 40 per cent of cancers can be prevented. By being sensible about your holiday indulgences, making time for exercise and taking time for yourself, you’re on your way to enjoying a stress-free holiday and you’re giving yourself a gift that can’t be bought at the mall – the gift of long-lasting good health.

Your turn: What’s your secret for a stress-free holiday season? Share your ideas in the comment section below.

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