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Healthy Habits for the Holidays

The holidays are likely to be stressful, but we can prepare ourselves for the onslaught with some simple healthy habits.

Ministry leaders face the typical holiday stressors like more social engagements, interacting with estranged family members, winter weather, and feelings of grief associated with the season. They also face particular challenges in offering more Masses, attending more ministry events, or increased expectations from those to whom they minister.

“All of these things cut into people’s schedules, and the first thing to go is their personal time,” Dowd said. The decrease in personal time often results in a decline in personal health.  The shorter days and colder weather often keep people indoors, which can lead to mental health and sleep problems.

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

She offers a few practical ways to stay healthy and reduce stress during this busy time.

  • Keep a bottle of water and trail mix in your car to avoid the temptation of a quick “pick me up” visit to a drive thru.
  • If you can safely exercise outdoors, continue to stick to a regular exercise routine. Otherwise, try mall walking or climbing flights of stairs.
  • Don’t feel pressured to surrender a healthy diet while attending holiday parties or receiving gifted baked goods or alcohol at Christmas. Instead, bring a healthy contribution to a Christmas party, or pass unwanted treats or drinks on to someone else who may enjoy them.
  • Schedule time for rest and prayer breaks during a particularly busy day. If you know the day will be full, think ahead and plan for respite times.

In general, we should give ourselves permission to let others know that we are trying to make healthier decisions about eating and stress management, even during the rush and crush of the holiday season.