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Small L.E.A.P.S. Healthy Holiday Guide

Does the holiday season stress you out or increase your anxiety? Are you worried that you will over indulge, feel sick or be out of structure/routine? With the holidays just around the corner, we wanted to share our guide for a healthy holiday season.

1. Set a budget – Over spending and then playing catch up in the new year, feelings of frustrations or worried about paying hydro bills or groceries after the holidays...does this sound like you? Increasing your financial awareness especially during the holidays can help reduce financial stress/anxiety.

A way to help reduce this financial stress is to set a budget AND stick with the budget. Keep receipts, use cash and keep track of your spending. It has become so easy to just tap your card and get caught up with all the sales and hype of the holiday season. Another great strategy to stick with a budget is to have an open and honest conversation with your family/friends and ask for quality time in leu of gifts or set price limits for any gift exchanges.

Self-Reflection Question: What is one tip you use to stay on budget or to talk with family/friends about your budget at the holidays?

2. Set healthy boundaries – Establishing boundaries is vital to your mental health during the holidays. Setting boundaries is NOT selfish and they can help with reducing anxieties and respecting your self-worth. Examples could be limiting in-person visits this year, expressing your dietary needs, declining alcohol without having to give an explanation as to why, avoiding toxic people that negatively impact your mental health, setting up parameters around emergency orders and your comfort level/following by-laws etc.

Self-Reflection Question: What is one healthy boundary you feel comfortable establishing for your holiday season? Is there an area you struggle with setting boundaries for the holidays?

3. Honour your yes and your no – There are a lot of expectations surrounding the holidays. When you say yes to one thing you are ultimately saying no to another and in vice versa. Sometimes it’s especially hard to say no (for family events, foods, drinks, time away from home etc.). This is a great opportunity to take a step back and observe what your words and actions are saying, how are you honouring your yes and your no? For example, you have 5 different family/friend gatherings and are uncomfortable due to COVID-19 restrictions or feel exhausted already at the thought of so many gatherings, choose the gatherings that you are comfortable attending, will give you energy and kindly decline other invites. You are allowed to take time for yourself and to have your level of comfort respected. A way to honour your no in this situation and to still stay connected might be to offer an alternative, maybe do a video chat or reschedule visits for when time is less hectic/stressful.

Self-Reflection Question: What is one thing in your calendar you can honour your no by delaying or removing? What is another way to honour your yes and no this week?

4. Feel all the Feels – The holidays can be a very challenging time for some and its okay to NOT be in the holiday cheer. Surrounding yourself with people who validate your feelings and allow you to feel emotions during the holidays is important. For some this may be a difficult time due to loss of job and unable to have the holidays they usually do, for others they are struggling with their mental health or addictions and are challenged with gatherings or they may have a loss of a loved one and the holidays remind them of lost time with that person. On the flip side it is also okay to feel happy and enjoy this time of year. Whatever your feelings are over the holidays they are valid. Reach out to those friends/family that are struggling and if you are one of those people know you are loved.

With that said, another tip is to Ask for help/support when needed - please ask for help/support. This could be asking a family member to help with meals, cleaning, calling a crisis line, asking for medical support or even asking a loved one to have a phone call because you are feeling lonely. Asking for help/support is a sign of self-awareness, self-worth and strength. Please do not suffer in silence. Call Here24seven in Waterloo region or your local crisis line if you are expressing emotional distress and unable to manage alone.

Self-Reflection Question: Who is one person in your support system and how do you ask them to support you best?

5. Express gratitude daily – The holidays can be a time where there are high (and at times unrealistic) expectations. There can be a lot of comparison to others, especially with the consent flow of highlights on social media. Taking even just a minute a day to express gratitude for things and people in our lives can help with reducing anxiety, moving away from anger and shifting your mindset to what you do have vs focusing on what you don’t have. Expression of gratitude could be for the food on the table or telling someone why they make your life better, being able to see the beauty of snow glistening on the trees or having heat in your home on a cold evening. There are so many wonderful things in each and every one of our lives to be grateful for, sometimes it just takes a moment to step back and intentionally observe the great things and moments in our lives.

Self-Reflection Question: What is one thing/person you are grateful for today and why?

6. Practice Patience and Kindness – This year especially, emotions are running high with the pandemic. Spending so much time indoors, unable to visit loved ones, long lines and wait times is enough to make anyone irritable. Taking a step back and taking a few deep cleansing breaths can assist with reducing irritability. Acknowledge a lot of people are struggling in many ways (you may be included as well) and move towards patience and kindness. Thank your local grocer, give someone a compliment, take deep breathes when in a line. When you act in kindness not only do you have a surge of energy but those directly impacted by your kindness do as well.

Self-Reflection Question: What is one act of kindness or a moment you practiced patience this week?

7. Honour your hunger and Fullness – Tap into your body’s intuition, listen to what your body is telling you. Listen to your intuition around your hunger and fullness. Eat before you hit the “hanger” point and finish your meal before you are in discomfort and bloated. A way to feel confident with your food choices and letting go of guilt and shame around meal time is to strive for 80/20 nutrition. Prepare nourishing high energy food 80% of the time and enjoy the lower energy foods 20% without guilt or shame knowing that the majority of the time you are nourishing and providing your body with energy.

Self-Reflection Question: What is one low energy food you are going to allow yourself to eat without guilt or judgement this holiday season and one food you know increases your energy when you eat it? What are your signs that you are getting hungry/are already hungry and signs that you are getting full?

8. Keep to your routine– The holidays can have you all over the place with sleep, nutrition, exercise, and self-care activities. As much as possible attempt to keep with your routines and when you are unable to, modify so you can still incorporate those activities into your days. Some examples could be eat high energy foods as much as possible, if your normal exercise routine is 45 mins attempt for 30 mins, if you meditate for 15 minutes try for at least 5, if you are out late and are unable to do full bedtime routine do what you can and the next day get right back on track with your regular routine. This will help reduce anxiety, keep structure and purpose in your day and allow time to enjoy those holiday commitments without guilt. Be kind to yourself, its OKAY to be flexible at times, to enjoy those holiday moments AND also choose what is a priority for you in each moment.

Self-Reflection Question: What is one part of your regular routine you modified so you were consistent AND flexible with this week?

9. Stay connected – The holidays can be a lonely time for some, especially if you live far away, live alone or are living in an area where close contact is reduced by your local public health and government authorities. Some ways to stay connected could look like sending cards, doing a social distance walk outside, partaking in a videocall, having a telephone conversation, texting loved ones and expressing gratitude for the people in your life. If this all sounds overwhelming just try one meaningful conversation a day or a week, whatever level you’re at, this can help with combating loneliness. Are you often a person who waits for friends and family to reach out to you? Challenge yourself and commit to making 1 phone call or meaningful interaction this week even if it’s only for 5 minutes.

Self-Reflection Question: What is your favourite way to stay connected this holiday season to loved ones?

10. Make self-care a priority – Many people believe self-care is just taking a bath and meditation, this is true, it can be, but it may not be for others. Self-care is individual, is purposeful and is a deliberate act to help yourself take care of your emotional, mental and physical health wellbeing. Self-care activities help to reduce stress levels, anxiety levels, improve mood and function more optimally day to day. Self-care helps to nourish ourselves. Self-care can be a daily routine; it’s a commitment you make for yourself and is something you enjoy doing. Self-care is NOT selfish and I would actually argue that it helps you show up in your life better to be more present for yourself and your loved ones (win win). Self-care looks different for everyone, it could be getting enough sleep, meditating, spending time with loved one, taking care of your medical needs, choosing high-energy foods for your body, cancelling plans so you can rest etc.

Self-Reflection Question: What is something this week you did, or are planning to do, for your own self-nourishment?

Wishing you all a safe and healthy holiday season!

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