Happy children having fun

We all know the feeling come January. It’s been a long couple of months full of heavy foods, days on the couch and plenty of desserts. Rather than trying to jump-start a healthy new year, head into the holiday season with a plan to feel good and still get the most out of the holidays.

1. Get plenty of sleep. When you aren’t putting gifts under the tree in the middle of the night or thawing the turkey at 4 a.m., make sure you’re resting plenty. And no, that doesn’t mean extra naps. Make sure to get 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night in a dark, quiet room without electronics. Low-quality sleep has an effect on every part of your day. You’re more likely to overeat at meals, consume more sugar and fat to try to stay awake, have mood swings and be at risk for illness. Too many daytime naps can also have those effects, and you’re more inclined to be lethargic during the remaining waking hours.

2. Stay hydrated. As delicious as eggnog is, it just isn’t the same as a glass of water. An 8- to 12-ounce glass of water before eating may make you feel full and prevent overeating grandma’s mashed potatoes. Consistent water consumption is a great thing in general for flushing out toxins, waking up in the morning, avoiding dehydration and not letting mulled wine get the better of you the next day.

3. Take care of your teeth. Candy canes may make your mouth minty fresh, but all the sugar served at meals and parties can wreak havoc on your pearly whites. Brushing and flossing daily is important, and you can also fight tooth trouble while eating. Include raw veggies on your plate, as they can assist in cleaning your teeth. Drinking water can also help rinse residual sugars from your gums and teeth. If you drink red wine, eat some cheese with it to help combat staining.

4. Go outside. Unless you live in Antarctica, going outside in the fall and winter months won’t do irreparable damage. Spend a few minutes outside every day to avoid vitamin D deficiency. Without Vitamin D, you’re more likely to have intense feelings of melancholy and develop Seasonal Affective Disorder. A 20-minute walk is a great way to get active and boost your mood. Other good activities include raking leaves or shoveling snow, playing with the kids and/or pets in the yard and winter sports (if you’re into that sort of thing). Be sure to dress warmly and check the forecast.

5. Warm up your muscles. Even the Abominable Snowman avoids too much time on the couch. Too much sitting increases your risk for injury, particularly in cold temperatures. While you probably aren’t out terrorizing Rudolph and company, stay active to reduce the risk of muscle strains, soreness and overall wear and tear on your joints. You don’t need to do 30 minutes of cardio to warm up; it can be as simple as visiting a sauna or hot tub, drinking a warm beverage or doing light stretching to stay fit and relaxed.

6. Take time for yourself. The holidays can be stressful, between family meals, shopping and the kids being home from school. Don’t be afraid to take a few hours to do something you enjoy. Family time is important, but making sure everyone is enjoying it shouldn’t come at the expense of your mental health. Plan a night in with a book, ask your partner to take the kids outside for an hour or hire a babysitter for a date night. You do a great job making the holidays fun for your family. Don’t forget about yourself.

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Dr. Carrie Hoarty wrote this guest blog for momaha.com. To read more about Carrie, click here.

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