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Maintaining Your Health During the Holidays

by Patti Geil, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., and Laura Hieronymus, M.S.Ed., A.P.R.N., B.C.-A.D.M., C.D.E.

On, Prancer and Dancer!

Staying physically active during the holiday season can relieve your stress, improve your mood, lower your blood glucose levels, and help with weight control. While your busy holiday schedule may not allow you to participate in as much daily physical activity as you might like, there are ways to stay active, and these tips can help:

  • Encourage active holiday events. Plan parties around caroling, house decorating, holiday card making, snowman building, or walks to see neighborhood decorations.
  • Your gift shopping trips can help burn calories and lower blood glucose. Park farther away from the mall entrance. Use the store’s stairs, not the escalator. Arrive at the mall a bit early and speed walk around the mall until the stores open.
  • If it’s impossible for you to find a block of 30 minutes each day for physical activity, split your activity into two or three intervals of 10–15 minutes each.
  • Find something to laugh about. Laughing is a great tension reliever. It burns calories, reduces stress, and usually means that you’re enjoying yourself. Research from Japan shows that laughter actually lowers blood glucose after meals. The study suggests that the positive effects of laughter may be due to increased calorie consumption or changes in the neuroendocrine system. Other studies have noted that laughter can help lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, and release endorphins.

Keeping spirits bright

Overscheduling, overdoing, overspending…holiday preparations often lead to stress rather than serenity and satisfaction. Stress can affect blood glucose levels in several ways. The stress of overdoing and overscheduling may lead you to neglect your usual self-care plan. The body also reacts to stress by producing hormones that cause the liver to release a surge of glucose, leading to high blood glucose levels. On the other hand, if you are too busy to eat properly, your blood glucose can drop too low.

What tips should you have in your holiday stress survival kit to avoid fluctuations in blood glucose? Here are a few of them:

  • Schedule time for self-care. Regular exercise and time for stress management are a must. Use a pedometer to track your steps, keep an honest food diary for a few days, be sure to continue to check and record your blood glucose results. Find the tools and techniques that work best for you and put them to work.
  • Taking a few deep, slow breaths goes a long way toward helping your body unwind and clearing your mind. Set a timer or post sticky notes in your kitchen or on your computer monitor as a reminder to breathe deeply at least three times a day. Transcend tension in traffic or on your way to a holiday party by taking a few deep breaths, making sure to exhale completely.
  • Put yourself in “time out” for a few moments each day. Just 5–15 minutes of sitting quietly or stretching out on your bed will do wonders for your mood.
  • Knowing your spending limits will also relieve holiday stress. Gifts are meant to be symbols of affection; they don’t necessarily have to be expensive or the latest “must have” gadget. If the “perfect” gift is one you’re going to be paying for for the rest of the year, it may be time to rethink your plan and find a gift that is meaningful and personal but doesn’t break your budget. For some health-related gift ideas, check out “Give the Gift of Good Health.”
  • Keep your expectations realistic. Don’t be disappointed if your celebration doesn’t reflect the fantasy found in holiday carols and television specials. Expect some irritations and imperfections, then relax and have a good time in spite of them.
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Also in this article:
Bah Humbug to the Flu Bug!
Give the Gift of Good Health
Lightening Up Your Holiday Favorites



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