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Healthy Habits for the Holidays

The best way to handle the heavy workload and difficult encounters that accompany the holidays is to exercise and eat and sleep well before facing a stressful situation, said the physical therapist at Saint Luke Institute.

“If you know something is going to be a stressful circumstance, go exercise before that,” said Dana Dowd, MSPT. “You’ll feel a lot better going into the situation.”

Priests, religious and parish staff face regular stressors like more social engagements, visits with family members with whom they may not have a good relationship and bad weather. They also face particular challenges in offering more Masses and other services, and increases in the number of people visiting their parish or ministry.

“All of these things cut into people’s schedules and the first thing to go is their personal time,” Dowd said. “When it goes, the first thing to decline is their health.”

Those in ministry should keep a bottle of water and trail mix in their cars to avoid the temptation of a quick “pick me up” visit to a drive thru, she said.

The shorter days and colder weather often keep people indoors, which can lead to mental health and sleep problems. Those who can safely exercise outdoors should do so, Dowd said, and those who cannot should try mall walking or climbing a flight of stairs.

Those in ministry shouldn’t feel pressured to surrender a healthy diet while attending holiday parties or being gifted baked goods or alcohol at Christmas, Dowd said.

She suggested bringing a healthy contribution to a Christmas party, or passing unwanted treats or drinks on to someone else who may enjoy them.

Dowd added that people should give themselves permission to say, “‘I struggle with things that I’m eating and trying to do things differently.’ It’s your health and no one can stand up for you except yourself.”