Let’s be honest, as the holiday season ramps up on us, it’s typical for us to veer from our routine. We start to cater festive gatherings and we start to eat different foods, skip our workouts, disrupt our sleep, and of course, in comes the increase stress. All while thinking, “it’s the holidays, I deserve a break, I will get right back at it January 1st!” This is a common thought, but should your health really take a holiday? Taking a holiday on your health can have a significant impact on your overall health and well-being and set the stage for a challenging start to the new year.

One of the most common pitfalls during the holidays is neglecting regular exercise. Many individuals find it challenging to maintain their workout routines amidst the hustle and bustle of the festive season. However, research has shown that even a two-week break from regular exercise can lead to a decline in physical fitness and an increase in fatigue, impacting sleep and your overall mood, making it way more difficult to resume exercise in the new year! Even if your regular classes are on a break or if your gym is closed due to weather, you don’t have to be! Moving is free – walk, dance, shovel, clean! You can do it!

Another common “holiday” we like to take is from healthy eating. “I’ll start eating better in January,” says, EVERYONE, however, how many millions of people just can’t seem to get this started no matter how many Januarys pass by? If you are happy with your current eating and healthy intake, don’t take a holiday on it! Yes, the holiday season often involves eating foods we just don’t eat very often. The stores now carry some of the festive nostalgic treats like eggnog and Christmas cookies you only get once a year, so it makes sense that you are wanting to enjoy your treasured favorites. However, if you aren’t used to eating a lot of rich and sugary foods, it can lead to digestion issues and feelings of lethargy. Instead of denying yourself or only eating like Buddy the Elf (his diet was candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup), think about how you feel best. Balance these foods with an abundance of whole foods: vegetables, fruit, whole grains, etc. Be sure you are getting enough nutrients, especially during these times, as germs are afoot, your immune system will appreciate the healthier foods too!

Whoever said, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” probably died a lot sooner than they thought! Do not take a holiday on sleep, it’s essential always! You certainly cannot justify disrupting sleep patterns for the holidays and expect to feel great. Skimping on your sleep can be detrimental to your overall well-being, affecting your cognitive function, mood, and immune system. Be mindful about overdoing it on late-night celebrations and travel. Sometimes all it takes is one person to say, “we should all go to bed.” If you are tired and especially if you are feeling drowsy, you shouldn’t be driving. Take naps, go to bed earlier, and let some things go undone, it’ll be fine!

Lastly, stress won’t take a holiday, even if you ask it to. The impacts of stress are already damaging to our health, so stress management is vital, but stress management during the holidays is essential! Yes, even for the next few weeks, your stress and well-being matter! The combination of social obligations, financial pressures, and heightened expectations can lead to increased stress. Chronic stress affects our well-being and has physiological implications, including elevated cortisol levels and compromised immune function. No one wants that for a gift this year!

The best gift you can give yourself this holiday season is not taking a holiday on you. When you are prioritizing your greatest responsibility, YOU will have more time, more energy, feel better, and enjoy more this season and always. Neglecting your health and hoping it magically reinstates January 1st is foolish, and knowing what we now know, it’s irresponsible. What would be worth your health and well-being? What would be worth your cognitive function, impacting your immune system or taxing your nervous system? Take a holiday on things that don’t serve you, things that won’t support you feeling your best, but never take a holiday on your health!

Mary Hoadley

Director of The Wellness Center