Five Ways to Find Balance During the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! With the kids jingle belling, and everyone telling you be of good cheer. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
— George Wyle and Edward Pola

Yesterday, amidst the craziness that my morning held, I asked myself, "Am I jingle belling in good cheer and truly experiencing the most wonderful time of the year?"

Between the holiday command celebrations, visitors, potlucks, the neighborhood cookie exchange, school parties, cooking our family’s favorite meals, and maybe even coping with absences through deployments, it is no wonder we can feel more bah humbug than merry. We can start to feel burned out with so much activity going on. We strive for unrealistic, glossy magazine perfection, from decorating our homes to our holiday meals and everything in between.

Do you feel stressed out? Take a gut check. Are you connecting to what is important to you at this time of the year? If not, why? You may feel so overwhelmed that you cannot relax and connect to the magic of the season.

Here are five simple ideas that can help you find balance, put a spring in your step, and see you through the holiday season so that when you're waiting for the New Year’s ball to drop, you're not also dropping from exhaustion.

1. Take a 15-Minute Walk

No matter what climate you live in, it is important to get outside and connect with nature. Nature is the place where you find both peace and gratitude. When you walk, don't think about how many steps you are getting in or mentally sort through your to-do list. Instead, mindfully engage with your surroundings. You may have walked the block hundreds of times before, but if you practice mindful walking and slow down your pace, you will see beauty all around you. Scan the sky. What color is it? Notice the trees. Are they bare and frostbitten or leafy and green? Hear the birds. Smile and say hello to passersby. Feel the winter sun on your face. Let it melt away stress and provide vitamin D, an immunity booster that will help stave off those yucky germs. Use your senses and tune into life and reduce your blood pressure.

2. Get Your Guru On

Find time in your day to meditate. I can hear you saying, "I cannot quiet my mind. It just won't stop creating stories." It is true the mind is a powerful creator. It creates stories minute by minute. For a refreshing spin on meditation, don't fight the thoughts. Practice acceptance. Wherever you are during your meditation is exactly where you should be. We are under the misconception that when we meditate, we should be in a place of nirvana. I wish! Of course, seasoned gurus, have it down pat and do find tranquility in their practice. But for the novice, the benefit of meditation is the simple act of placing your attention on your breath and reducing your cortisol levels.

Cortisol is the fight or flight stress hormone that wreaks havoc in your body when it is out of balance. During stress, cortisol levels rise. What we don't want is cortisol that does not go back down to its sweet spot. That can lead to undesirable side effects including hormone imbalance, weight gain, that tired but wired feeling, and much more.

Feeling your breath enter and leave your body is your meditation. Use the breath as your anchor. Don't try to clear the mind of every thought. Rather, accept and hear the thoughts, then mentally place them in a box and close the lid.

Meditation and the simple act of slowing down, if only for five minutes each day, will bathe your body with some much-needed TLC.

3. Go Green

With so many delicious holiday treats around, the temptation can be hard to handle. To get a grip on this situation, begin each day with a protein shake that includes a handful of green leafy vegetables. Getting adequate protein in your diet helps prevent cravings by balancing your blood sugar levels. The greens add fiber to help you feel more full, and give your body quality vitamins and minerals. When you start your day with a nutritious breakfast, you are more likely to make better food choices the rest of the day. You could also consider drinking a green smoothie before you go to that holiday social. By going with food in your stomach, you will be less likely to feel famished and can resist the need to eat every treat in sight.

Here's one more tip on holiday noshing. Scan the buffet and pick your favorite items. Balance your selections between savory and sweet choices, and be sure to add some raw veggies that are always on offer — someone has to eat them! Choose a small plate, fill it one time, and stop there. When we take a nibble here and there, we lose track of how much we are eating.

4. H.I.I.T. It

High Intensity Interval Training is your best friend at this time of the year when time is short, but workouts are essential. If you only have 15-30 minutes, take it. H.I.I.T workouts are a combination of cardiovascular and resistance training exercises. You can find classes at the installation gym, online videos, and online virtual membership subscriptions. Exercise boosts immunity, reduces stress, and can help save your sanity. If H.I.I.T is not hitting it off with you, get your groove on. Put on some music and dance. Many of my clients do this because it is fun, easy, and convenient. Caution, you may get the attention of passersby peeking in your window as you strut your stuff around your living room.

5. Check In and Check Out

What does a balanced life look like to you? It is different for us all. Check in and ask yourself what you’re going to do this week to make time to just be. "Just be what, Navenka?" I hear you ask. Over-scheduling ourselves and our families during the holidays is common and hard to avoid. It is not necessary to accept every gracious invitation. Choose one or two things that appeal to you and make peace with that. Is it more important to show up to everything and not enjoy anything or go to a couple of events and let your hair down and have fun?

Schedule time on your calendar for you and your family to slow down and spend quality time together. You may use the opportunity to chat and catch up, play a game, watch your favorite holiday movie, or indulge in a family holiday tradition. Allow yourself time to just “be.”

From our family to yours, Happy Holidays!

Are you dreaming of a post-holiday vacation? Register for the 3rd Annual Military Spouse Wellness Summit and enjoy a week of wellness from the comfort of your own home! It's time to Treat-Yo-Self! 

Meet Navenka Gabrielson

Navenka grew up in the industrial region of Lancashire, Northern England. She married a U.S. naval officer. Twenty years later, Navenka and her family have lived all over the United States, and now Southeast Asia, surviving well over a dozen moves with two kids, dogs, fish, and countless adventures. She founded Body Harmony, helping others through her skills as a nationally-certified Health and Lifestyle Coach, Personal Trainer, and Pilates instructor. She presents speaking engagements both online and locally on health, wellness, and mindful living. She also enjoys time outdoors with her family, traveling, hiking, biking, or just relaxing. She is a keen potter who enjoys the challenge of throwing ceramics on a potter's wheel.

If you would like to learn more about taking control of your military life, consider reading my book, Holding Down the Fort - The Military Spouse's Guide to Surviving and Thriving. It is packed with practical ideas that every military spouse can use. You can also visit her website or Facebook and consider registering for a complimentary health coaching session and her email newsletter.

(Purchases using the links above will help InDependent cover administrative costs for our programs at no extra cost to you!)