Pella Chronicle

December 6, 2012

Top Ten Tips for a Healthy and Happy Holiday Season

Nancy Hamilton
Hearthstone, a Ministry of WesleyLife

Pella — It’s possible to enjoy both a happy and healthy holiday season this year. Just consider the following practical tips to minimize the stress that often accompanies the holidays and to promote healthy ways to celebrate with family and friends.

-Make time for regular exercise. The holiday season is the worst time to disrupt your exercise routine because exercise helps to relieve stress, which tends to increase as we squeeze shopping, gift wrapping, baking and entertaining into our already-busy schedules. Aerobic exercise and mind-body work, such as yoga and Pilates, are among the best exercises for relieving stress and promoting relaxation.

-Check your plate and avoid holiday weight gain. As much as possible, stick to fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, whole-grain foods and lean meats. If you are a guest at a holiday gathering, offer to bring a favorite healthy dish. At such gatherings, use a small plate, choose healthy portions and don’t go back for seconds. Eat slowly and savor each bite. Drink plenty of water and avoid soda, eggnog and other high-calorie beverages. When planning the menu, be sure to include some items that are easily digestible and low in salt. Check to see whether any guests have food allergies so you can avoid serving anything that might cause an allergic reaction.

-Take a breather now and then. Spending just 15 minutes focusing on deep breathing can help you relax and refresh you enough to tackle everything on your list. . We tend to take short, shallow breaths when we’re under pressure. Deep breathing slows your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure and eases anxiety. All you have to do is breathe in and out slowly, letting your stomach expand as you inhale and deflate as you exhale.

 -Develop a budget and stick to it. Decide how much you can afford to spend before going shopping for food and gifts. Consider making homemade gifts or organizing a family gift exchange to save money. Compile your shopping list based on your budget and adhere to that list when you get to the store or website brimming with hard-to-resist “deals.” Remember that you can’t buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

-Learn to delegate. Trying to handle everything yourself can easily make you feel resentful and overwhelmed. To avoid this, ask family members and friends to help prepare meals, clean, decorate, etc. All you have to say is “I’d like to know if you’d be willing to help me by doing this.”

-Keep expectations realistic. Don’t expect the holidays to be perfect or even the same as they were last year. As families change and grow, treasured traditions may need to change, too. Talk with loved ones about which traditions to keep and be open to creating new ones. If, for example, some relatives can’t come to your home, find new ways to celebrate with them across the miles, such as sharing photos and videos or communicating via Skype.

-Eliminate potential hazards for guests. In addition to child-proofing your home for young visitors s, check the house for throw rugs and small items on the floor that could cause older guests to trip and  fall. Remove any items likely to cause problems. Make sure there are comfortable chairs for these guests that are strategically arranged  so the guests can hear what everyone is saying.  It is helpful for these chairs have arms to offer stability and support with sitting down and getting up. When planning the menu, be sure to include some items that are easily digestible and low in salt. Check to see whether any guests have food allergies so you can avoid serving anything that might cause an allergic reaction.

-Welcome older adult guests. Make sure they  feel included in celebrations with family and friends. To help make your special guests feel welcome, meet them at the door with a big smile and cheer their presence. Place photos of them over the years in prominent places around the house. Review photo albums with them to refresh memories and spark conversation. Let them know that the holiday would not be complete without their presence and participation.

-Plan activities involving multiple generations. Creating holiday gifts and decorations is a great way to engage everyone from young children to great grandparents in a fun activity, while making great family memories. Crafts well-suited for multiple generations include making paper chains and stringing garlands made of cranberries, popcorn and O-shaped cereals such as Fruit Loops and Cheerios. Garlands made of edible items can be placed outside to attract birds and provide bird-watching opportunities for all ages.

-Pay special attention to the health, well-being and independence of older relatives. It’s often difficult to gauge an older adult’s well-being from across the miles. Holiday gatherings provide a good opportunity to conduct an informal, first-hand assessment. Changes in the following areas may indicate a need to take action to ensure your loved one’s safety and good health: weight loss, difficulty with walking and balance, changes in emotional well-being, personal hygiene and general housekeeping. If you notice any of these, find an appropriate time to talk to your loved one about your concern and develop a plan to address the issue together. There are plenty of great resources and people right here in the Pella community who are dedicated to the health and safety of older adults. Don’t be afraid to seek out additional information and assistance.

Nancy Hamilton is Executive Director of Hearthstone, a Ministry of WesleyLife.