For many of us, the holidays are a blur of shopping, cooking, snacking, parties and more than a little stress. Is it any wonder that many of us neglect our health during this time? Let’s dig into the main drivers of bad health habits, along with some suggestions to prioritize self care for the holidays instead.

Common causes of holiday health derailment

Some of the most common triggers for poor health choices over the holiday season include:

  • Stress. When your stress levels rise, your mind and body react. Some people respond by overeating, while others forget to eat much at all. You’re also more likely to crave unhealthy foods loaded with fat and sugar. Plus, hiding under a blanket probably sounds a lot better than working out.
  • Time crunch. A constant whirl of activity doesn’t leave much time to prioritize health. You may be wolfing down snacks on the go, skipping the gym in favor of happy hour, and dedicating your usual meditation hour to online shopping.
  • Treats. The holidays just wouldn’t be the same without the traditional foods, including more than a few carb-laden side dishes and calorie-packing desserts. And it would be rude to turn down an offer, right? Even if it means eating cookies at your kid’s holiday play followed by cake at your friend’s open house, and then knocking back a few drinks with your bestie after the mall closes for the night.
  • Weather. Some people are born to hit the slopes or go for a hike in the snow. Others want to simply hibernate until spring. If you’re not a fan of winter weather, it can quickly become an excuse to derail your fitness routine.

Holiday self care tips

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that the holidays can be a great time to make a renewed commitment to your health. Here are a few tips:

  • Make new traditions. Revisit some of the recipes you loved as a child and look for ways to update them with fresher, healthier ingredients. Carve out an hour every Saturday afternoon for family fun time, and focus on physical activities such as dance parties rather than watching TV.
  • Get back to basics. Don’t eliminate your favorite treats or special holiday activities altogether. Just keep the basic components of good health in mind: get 150 minutes of some kind of exercise each week, and get most of your calories from well-balanced, nutritious meals.
  • Put self-care on your calendar. You can’t give to others if you don’t have anything left yourself. Schedule 30 minutes to an hour for self-care at least three days per week. Take a bubble bath, play a video game, watch your favorite show or do whatever brings you joy.
  • Make a family health history. If you’re getting together with relatives for the holidays, take advantage of the togetherness by creating a family health history. You can use the Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait website or make your own. Either way, it just might get everyone thinking about how to improve their health.

It’s easy to neglect your health during the holidays. But now is a great time to build new traditions and healthy habits that can serve you for a lifetime.