Start Some Healthful Holiday Traditions

The month of December can produce extra stress, a breakdown in healthy eating habits, even depression. But you and your family can adopt some new traditions that may help relieve the season's stress and make your holidays healthy and happy.

"Each December, millions of Americans find themselves spending more money than they can afford, taking on more responsibilities than they can handle and having less relaxed time with their families than they have at any other time of the year," explains Jo Robinson, co-author of Unplug the Christmas Machine. "Too many people attempt to celebrate someone else's holidays. They're taking their cues on what the holidays should be from television shows, ads, store displays, or their own parents, rather than doing what would be most meaningful to them."

Your physical health

When the holidays become more than you bargained for, your physical health can be compromised because you may put aside healthy habits. And stress can put additional demands on your body. Here are some tips on maintaining your health during the holiday season:

  • Don't do too much. Give yourself some time to relax.

  • Share the workload. Let everyone play an active role; make the holidays a family affair so you're not burdened with all the work.

  • Establish priorities. You can't do everything; say no to some demands on your time.

  • Simplify your life. Be less elaborate this year. Relax your housekeeping and holiday preparations.

  • Continue to exercise. Don't let your regular regimen lapse.

  • Eat healthy foods and limit your consumption of high-fat holiday treats. Serve healthy fare at your family's holiday party.

Your emotional health

It's easy to become overwrought this time of year, especially if you believe something is lacking in your holiday celebration. Here are some ways to create new holiday traditions that will help level your emotions:

  • Ask yourself if you really enjoy all the rituals or whether they have merely become habits. Try adopting less elaborate traditions of holidays past.

  • Don't be afraid to scale down gift giving. You'll probably receive a lot of support.

  • If your annual party is too much to handle, postpone it until after the holidays when you have more time to prepare. This also will help alleviate post-holiday letdown by giving you something fun to anticipate.

  • If you are unable to be with your family, get out around people. Plan to be with friends or volunteer to help others who also may be separated from their families.

Happy and healthy kids

Children are especially vulnerable to commercial stimuli during the holiday season. But basically, all kids really need are realistic expectations about gifts, an even-paced holiday season and strong, loving family traditions. Here are some ways to make the holidays special for your children:

  • Spend more time with your kids. Entertain less and attend fewer parties that exclude children.

  • Watch less television and do more activities as a family.

  • Include your kids in all preparations. Let your children help you decorate and bake, even if it means your creations aren't perfect.

  • Teach children the meaning of giving. Adopt a needy family and have your youngsters help you prepare a meal for them. Suggest that your children buy a gift for an underprivileged child with their own money. Or ask them to donate one of their own gifts to a less fortunate child.

  • Teach your children that gifts don't have to be tangible. Trade intangible gifts with each other, such as helping with homework, washing the dishes and polishing shoes. Let your children come up with their own ideas of what they can offer.

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