As the end of the year approaches, collectively we enter into a period of time known to be stressful… The Holiday Season. For many, it’s a joyous time filled with parties, friends, family, and gift-giving, but it tends to wreak havoc on any healthy habits or routines. This predicament isn’t limited to the holidays, it’s present anytime life gets hectic, and the one thing everyone can count on in life is that change is inevitable and no one is immune to life’s occasional curveballs. Unfortunately, it’s during those curveballs that our healthy habits fall by the wayside. And ironically, it’s those healthy habits, including proper nutrition, exercise, and adequate sleep, that are vital for not only surviving but thriving through any hectic phase.
Why is it important to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
Maintaining a balanced healthy lifestyle boosts your immune system, which makes you stronger at combating illness in general, especially seasonal cases of flu. Adequate sleep restores and rebuilds the body lowering inflammatory biomarkers and boosts recovery hormones.
A rested and replenished body and mind provides a greater bandwidth of ease, elevated mood, resiliency, and clear-headed thinking for optimal problem-solving. As with any worthwhile endeavor, consistency is key. Consistency equals results, especially long-lasting results. Psychologically it builds resilience and provides stability, grounding, and a sense of control in situations that seem to have none. Even people who loathe exercise but are disciplined to do it, feel better in general.
Nutrition vs. Exercise
Is one better than the other when it comes to optimal health and wellness? As much as Joseph Pilates advocated the healing powers of Contrology, (which he believed should be done every day no matter what) he believed in an all-encompassing healthy lifestyle. It included adequate nutrition, getting out in nature, sleep, and even showering a certain way. Movement and exercise, particularly Pilates, has tremendous benefits, not only for strengthening or easing pain but for regulating the nervous system and decreasing stress.
Food plays a huge role and can either be the cause of stress or the removal of it. Poor food choices and portions can tax the liver and gallbladder increasing inflammation in the body. Inflammation in the body causes sluggishness, brain fog, and fatigue, whereas not eating or not eating enough depletes energy. The right combination of exercise and nutrition for your body (it’s not a one size fits all approach) fuels you for life’s celebrations and tribulations, especially during busy periods.
How do I stay healthy during busy times?
So how does one maintain a healthy lifestyle with social and work obligations as well as endless to-do lists?
Most people are generally overcommitted and/or can’t say no. Remembering that life is all about stages or that "you can have it all, just not at the same time" may help you decide on what’s most important during that period of your life. Once that’s decided it’s much easier to confidently say yes or no to any perceived obligations.
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Here are a few more tips to help you stay healthy:
Being hydrated (with water as opposed to coffee, tea, or juice) will prevent mindless snacking and keeps your body functioning at its best.
Know Your "Why"
Like any habit or goal, having a deep reason (feeling good, being strong and energetic for family or work, etc.) will help keep you on track.
Prioritize Systems over Willpower
The more your environment and schedule remain conducive to your goals, the easier it will be for you to follow. Examples include: scheduling non-negotiable times for exercise with an accountability partner, having healthy snacks and pre-made meals on hand, or bringing a healthier dish to share at a party.
Think Quality over Quantity
Instead of stressing over getting in an hour workout, opt for an effective 10-20 minute session during busy times. The same goes for socializing - choose a few events so you can really enjoy time with others as opposed to trying to be everywhere.
Flex those Creative Muscles
Schedule time with friends for slower periods after the holidays or instead of hosting a wine and cheese event have a gathering or potluck that involves a movement session. The possibilities are endless and creating new traditions is always an option.
Make Sleep a Priority
“Sleep is a biological necessity akin to drinking water,” J. Martin Ph.D. Quality sleep revitalizes you, which sets you up for success and gives you clarity and energy in all you do.
Can I still have fun and be healthy?
Well, that depends on your idea of fun! Some may think turning down invitations, not eating, and drinking to your heart's content may be boring. The general consensus is to do everything in moderation. If the consequence of partying hard, rushing around, or skipping your practice makes you feel awful later then it’s up to you to cut back or weigh out your options.
Cut yourself some slack!
At the end of the day you can only do your best and ideally not at the expense of your well-being. There are phases in life filled with obstacles that can rock any well-laid plan off course. Show yourself some grace, focus on what you have done/accomplished, and learn to be okay with letting some things go and not pleasing everyone. And lastly, enjoy it! If you’ve made it to the party or you’re going to have that ‘cheat’ meal or drink, enjoy every last bit of it! And then get back on your Mat as soon as you can.
In the words of Joseph Pilates, “Life should be a balance of work, rest, and play.”