Christmas is just around the corner, and it’s up to you you whether they’ll be a holiday of thrill and peace, or a moment of stress that will wreck the goals you’d been working on for the rest of the year. This Christmas, get the gifts of physical, mental and spiritual health by following these tips.
We’ll start with a general tip that will determine the next ones: PREPARE YOURSELF DURING ADVENT. Indeed, with all the boom of Christmas themes, the lights, the ornaments, etc., we tend to forget that in fact we have a time (this year it starts on the 2nd December) of preparation before Christmas: Advent. Take advantage of it to prepare not only your home and your presents, but also yourself in body, mind and soul. The key to live a healthy Christmas is to grow in health during Advent.
Next, let’s see the specific tips for each part of your being. I don’t like to separate them because in fact each sphere influences the others. The classification points out which one of them starts the action, but everything you do for one of them will have a positive impact on all of them.
(Liturgic) New Year resolutions
Do you have goals regarding your health and/or your physique? Don’t wait until New Year resolutions. The 2nd December will already be New Year, at least liturgically speaking. So sign up to the gym now, start your new nutritional plan, or paying attention to the labels of what you buy, or whatever fits your goals: now.
Moreover, taking up new habits since now will help you to have enough time of adaptation to have assimilated them when the Christmas holidays arrive, so you’ll be able to keep on implementing them in a natural way without feeling frustrated or restricted… and then you won’t feel like you have to “clean up a mess”. You’ll know that, whether you’ve decided to keep following those guidelines to the letter or you’ve decided to take a break from them, just by going back to normal you’ll be in a good and safe way.
Learn good recipes
I’ll repeat it as many times as needed: there are no forbidden foods. It’s ok to eat the typical Christmas sweets. It’s always better to buy them as less processed as possible or even bake them yourself if you fancy. But many times that’s not possible, we go to other people’s homes and we just want to enjoy. And it’s not only about the sweets, but about all the other meals they make and of which we can’t control the ingredients.
But the exceptional can become the norm: eat sweets the whole month instead of occasionally, being so busy with the thousand things to do this month that you end up eating whatever, etc. How to avoid that? Having healthy and yummy food at hand. And if any day the celebration is at your home or you bring some food each, dare to cook a delicious recipe that they’ll all love and that will teach them to take care of their health without sacrificing taste. You can check my recipes for lunch, dinner and sweets to get inspiration. Or all the ones I upload to instagram! Moreover, if there are leftovers, you’ll have more for other days, instead of extending the time of eating less healthy things.
Again, the more healthy habits we create in our everyday life, the less it will matter to skip them once in a while, and in addition, we’ll do that less and less because we won’t want to: we’ll love our lifestyle! And if we can also be an example so others adopt it when they see us and we show them it’s not boring, even better.
Increase your NEAT
NEAT means non-exercise activity thermogenesis and makes reference to how much we move and the physical activity we do when we’re not really looking to exercise. Perhaps you follow the same workout routine in winter than you do in summer and therefore you think you’re doing the same, but in fact you’re doing a lot less because your NEAT plummets. Cold and rain make it more comfortable to take the bus or the car to go to places rather than walk and more appealing to make plans like going to the cinema or a café than hanging around.
This can be harmful not only for reaching your physical goals if you need to lose weight, due to the reduction of energy expenditure (in addition to the fact that winter foods are usually higher in calories than summer foods), but in general regarding to cardiovascular health.
Consider being consciously more active, wrap yourself up and go outside. You can use as motivation the typical Christmas plans: going on a walk to see the city lights or the handmade ornaments markets, putting up the Christmas tree, playing with the little ones in your family, etc. Or even make a deep cleaning of your house.
Block time for yourself
Advent can be a very stressful time. I know many of you, my readers, are studying, and it’s the season of handing in essays, studying for exams, etc. In addition to all the preparations for the celebrations, organizing trips, buying gifts… Christmas itself isn’t free of stress, either. Many times, students have to balance all the plans that arise with studying for exams in January. And, for some people, the social anxiety, going from one meeting to another, being all the time surrounded by people and having to listen and talk about certain topics, can be too much.
Because of all this, it’s fundamental that you allow yourself to have enough moments to be on your own and do whatever you need to be well: sleeping a good amount of hours, working out, having your prayer time, creative activities such as writing, and even just relaxing. You should never be too busy to give up these things, but they must be a priority. Don’t feel bad for devoting time to them instead of doing “more productive” things. Take care.
Prepare for the scenarios
Prepare yourself mentally for the scenarios that can happen in family or friends’ meetings. The uncomfortable questions they may ask, the comments about food or about other triggering topics for you that may affect you. Think how you could lead the conversation towards other topics in these cases, think about answers you can give or even just say to yourself in secret for reaffirmation. For example, if someone makes a triggering comments about your appearance, remind yourself that you’re working to be the best version of yourself, the healthiest, more beautiful and stronger in body and soul.
Sometimes it will be worth it to intervene to educate people, others it won’t. Likewise, sometimes it will be worth it to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone, others it won’t. Calculate your strength and be honest with yourself. The important thing is that you have the best time possible and stay calm.
Think also of a person that can be your confident, to whom you can make a motion (if they’re present) or contact (if they aren’t) in case you’re feeling bad and overwhelmed.
Take advantage of Advent time to fill your heart with positive reminders: read again your favorite quotes, blog posts, words of encouragement and informative articles so you can go to the meetings with a good head on your shoulders.
Be a child
Have fun and enjoy the small nuances of Christmas. You can never be too old to play, sing and laugh. Get excited again with lifelong traditions. Rekindle your imagination. It’s a time of thrill, and if you can’t find it in the specific things that are done at your home (maybe partly because of the stress we’ve talked about), I bet you can when you think of the meaning of what we’re celebrating. How can one then not want to be like a little child? And, with that attitude, you’ll be able to receive all the “gifts” that are going to come to your life with gratitude, and look towards the future with more curiosity than fear.
Follow an Advent calendar
The only way to find time for something is to make time for it, set that time aside no matter what to do that activity. And that’s easier when you have something clear to do each day. Look for an Advent calendar, and I’m not taking about the ones with chocolate (those are optional!), but about one that each day gives you a resolution, a prayer, a quote, a reflection… That helps you to live intentionally each day, because if we arrive to Christmas without having prepared during Advent, we aren’t going to bear much fruit. It’s a very beautiful time to walk the way to Bethlehem together with the Holy Family.
You can find several activities on the Internet. For example, this year I’ve signed up to the A Beauty Full Advent program by Jill Simons, where we’ll explore the beauty of the world, people, oneself and God. I’m looking forward to it because Jill is an exceptional woman, and her brand Pink Salt Riot is awesome. I encourage you to take part as well!
Another very nice idea is the Jesse Tree, following Christ’s genealogy to discover how God’s plan of salvation and love is revealed through the Old Testament. I have created my own version of the Jesse Tree, using the Bible stories to talk about your health and how to take care of it with the same love that God takes care of you. It’s called the JESSE TREE OF HEALTH ADVENT CHALLENGE. Sign up here or in the forms you can find above or below the post to receive the daily prayers and reflections!
Another great resource is the Bearing Light Advent Devotional from Blessed is She, with which you’ll be living Advent next to Mary. Look for it. You can also create your own personalized calendar.
Set up an Advent Wreath
It’s one of the most beautiful and at the same time simple traditions you can incorporate in your home. You just need 4 candles and something to put around them, that’s usually a circle of branches from an evergreen tree or something that resembles it (like dark green tinsel). Each night, if possible in family, turn off the lights, lit the corresponding candles and get together around the wreath to sing, pray, give thanks… in short, to have a time of spiritual retreat, the opportunity to live out the spirit of Advent at least 5 minutes a day.
Each Sunday, when you increase the numbers of lit candles, you can add something more special or solemn, so as to emphasize the following of a journey throughout the weeks of Advent and the meaning of preparation towards the great event that we re going to live in Christmas.
Go to Confession
If you really want to wipe the slate clean for the New Year and begin again with double eagerness, you can’t enter it gravely injured and dragging your chains. Receive the grace of forgiveness to be able to receive the Child Jesus in a cozy heart and then start the year with a clean and free soul. It’s the only detox diet that works!
Here you have a good guide to make an examination of conscience and prepare your Confession.
Live a healthy and holy Advent to have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
PS. If you’re in recovery from an eating disorder, be on the lookout for Friday’s post, where I’ll talk specifically about how to face Christmas in this circumstance.