9 tips to help you have a mentally healthy holiday season

December has always been a stressful month for me. And not because of busy parking lots, crowded malls and draining bank accounts (well, that’s always stressful no matter the time of year) — but because of all the family get-togethers where delicious seasonal food would be served, all the Christmas activities that filled my calendar that would take away from gym or run time, and all the tempting treats that were brought into the office at work.

Yes, all of those wonderful seasonal things that most people love about this time of year would stress me out. And I feel sad that it has been like that for so long for me — how many Christmas activities and family events I was never fully present for or experiencing because I was so worried about how many miles I needed to run to burn off X amount of calories to “be healthy”. Ugh.

After realizing my so-called “healthy habits” were anything but and I finally regained normal cycles again, my eyes are open to the proliferation of diet culture, which is exceptionally awful at this time of year. I don’t know how many newspaper articles, Instagram posts, Facebook ads and magazine covers I’ve seen already touting “healthy” swaps for holiday favourites, holiday hustle workout plans, and jump-start-your-January workout programs and diets. I admit, I’m guilty of all of it — including bringing “healthy” versions for cookies to parties and feeling good knowing there was something “Bri-friendly” I could eat.

But not this year. This year, I’m fully embracing everything the season has to offer. If I’m being honest, it’s still a struggle for me to just let go and not listen to the old me in the back of my mind telling me to restrict. I had to go shopping for clothing this past weekend because nothing fits right now and cried a little when a pair of size 6 jeans were snug (I used to be a size 2-4) I know that’s not a big deal and I’m healthier now than I have ever been, but it’s hard to just quiet that voice completely. I’m hoping to get to a place soon where trying on clothes does not completely depress me and I can appreciate my body for what it is. I think once I can exercise a bit more regularly again I will feel better.

With that all said, I went looking through some old blog posts to see what kind of diet culture crap I was saying about this time of year in the past and was surprised to find this post, which is great advice that I didn’t follow for myself, haha. I thought I would update it here for you all to read 🙂

9 tips to help you have a mentally healthy holiday

  1. Do you absolutely have to go into Wal-Mart to get gifts? If not, just don’t. Support a local store instead. Many are open late right now for holiday shopping, so you can avoid the weekend busyness. Will your 10-year-old curse Santa if he doesn’t get that Lego set? Then put some tunes in while shopping and standing in line. Dancing is encouraged.
  2. Are delayed packages stressing you out? It doesn’t matter if it’s late. The receiver will appreciate it no matter what. Just remember that.
  3. Are you stressing about getting your baking done in time? If it’s not going to being something that is enjoyable for you, don’t do it. Though your family might look forward to your Christmas shortbread, it doesn’t mean you can’t make it in January.
  4. Speaking of baking, don’t be tempted to make a “healthier” version of your famous shortbread cookies. Short cauliflower-and-chickpea-gluten-free bread cookies are not cookies and never will be.
  5. Just because you’re invited to seven holiday parties does not mean you have to go to all seven. Just pick a few you want to attend and politely decline the others. Make plans with those whose parties you decline for a coffee date in the new year. Just because it’s November/December doesn’t mean you have to see EVERYONE you know over the next 35 days.
  6. If you don’t have time to make an appetizer to bring to a party but you’re expected to bring something, just got pick something up from the store. Who cares if it’s not as “meaningful” — if you don’t have time and the thought of making something stresses you out, then don’t do it. Your company should be enough.
  7. Overindulged at that Christmas party? Good. Awesome. You must have had a good time. Savour that and don’t stress about gaining weight or any of that nonsense. A few days of eating all the delicious food out of a whole year is not going to make a difference to your waistline, and if it does, who cares. Numbers don’t define you nor have any measure on how wonderful you are.
  8. No time for the gym? No problem. Do whatever makes you happy. If you want to do something physically active instead of the gym, go shopping, go for a walk with family and friends, decorate the house, go ice skating or do some baking.
  9. Just enjoy yourself. Let go of things that aren’t serving you, and make time for what does. The stress and pressure you feel is most likely something you put on yourself, so try and think about everything you do during this time of year that causes stress and simply stop doing it. You don’t owe anyone anything — your health, happiness and time spend with loved ones is enough. You are enough.