A Season of Intent

12/22/21

Why the holiday season is a great time to refocus and reset for the new year.

As we move toward a brand new year, taking time to set specific intentions about how we want to approach the holidays (and the challenges they can present) is an important part of creating a lifestyle that reflects what we truly want for ourselves and our loved ones.

We live in a fast paced society and the holidays often sneak up; causing many of us to arrive at this time of year already feeling behind. We end up going through the motions of shopping, eating, staying up late, and drinking less water (and more alcohol and caffeine). We hold on for dear life and find ourselves feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and heavier than what we intended to be at the end of all the festivities.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  With a little time spent asking the right questions, we can create a plan that brings structure and safety. We can plan to enjoy this time of year without letting things get out of control.

The holiday season often carries a lot of emotion.  For some, holidays conjure fond memories of favorite foods and traditions spent with family and friends; bringing a sense of nostalgia and joy.  For others, the holidays bring up stressful memories or cause sadness. Setting intentions is a tool to help you stay in control.

We encourage P3 clients to use the 5 Pillars of Health as a framework to set intentions.

As a coach I teach people that we find lasting change by feeling good… not by beating ourselves up. Creating some positive and healthy structure around the Pillars is an act of self-love that will allow you to enjoy the holidays. Structure will also give you a greater capacity to love others genuinely during a very hectic time of year.  Remember: we aren’t expecting ourselves to navigate the holidays perfectly, but rather in a way that gives room for some splurges and doesn’t leave us exhausted, sick, or carrying added weight and inflammation.  Perfection can cause paralysis. 

Pick from the list below intentionally, and strive to practice consistently:

Nutrition

  • Commit to eating healthy food daily – even if you also enjoy a holiday treat. 
  • Make a nutrient dense smoothie loaded with healthy greens, low glycemic berries, plant-based protein and some healthy fats. You can drink this any time of day.
  • Have a salad or soup for lunch with greens, clean protein, a colorful variety of veggies and some healthy fats. 
  • Include roasted veggies or sauteed greens in your evening meal.
  • Time your smoothie or small, healthy, meal before going to a party that will offer the rich food you don’t normally eat.  This will help you eat less, while allowing you to be picky and conscientious about what you want to splurge on.
  • If you go to a gathering, consider bringing some of your own food with you to share.
  • Explore some of the many online resources for dairy and gluten free holiday recipes and meal ideas. We love Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain.
  • Limit alcohol and stay hydrated.  Before you go to a gathering, decide ahead of time if you are going to drink alcohol and then how many drinks you will have. Agree with yourself to drink a full glass of water in between alcoholic drinks. 
  • Try to limit or avoid the sugary drinks.
  • Limit or avoid processed foods and high carb foods.

Sleep

This is a pillar that can really take a hit as we try to cram in extra activities.  Again, try to set boundaries on how many nights you will stay out late.  Try to organize a list of activities, parties, shopping for presents, etc. and then schedule time to do them, leaving time for you to get to bed at a reasonable hour. 

Try to maintain healthy sleep hygiene:
1. Keep your bedroom cool and dark.
2. Don’t watch TV or spend time on electronics in your bedroom.
3. Charge your phone in a different room from your bedroom.
4. A hot shower or Epsom salt soak in the evening helps you relax after a stressful day and promotes a deeper sleep.
5. Practice deep breathing, such as the 4/7/8 method as you lay down.
6. Practice gratitude before sleep. Say 3 to 5 things that you are thankful for.
7. Gentle stretching can release physical tension from the day’s activities.

Movement

Many times exercise gets put on the back burner when the holidays and cold weather arrive.  Scaling back on the expectation of what you think you should be doing, and giving yourself permission to do less while still moving your body regularly, is a great way to avoid losing momentum.  Movement supports stress response, regular bowel movements and a fired-up metabolism.

  • Commit to taking short walks throughout the day.
  • Park at the back of the lot or take the stairs.
  • Take a walk after a big meal.
  • Try doing a shorter high intensity interval workout a few times a week.  It’s okay to do shorter ones in order to get them in. The 7 Minute Workout is a great app to incorporate this kind of workout.  You can also search YouTube for a 8-10 minute Tabata or HIIT workout.  If you’re a beginner make sure to look for something beginner specific – because short and intense definitely doesn’t mean easy.
  • Try something new! Go snow shoeing, ice skating, snow skiing, take a hike in the woods. Enjoy the fresh air, winter weather, and natural beauty the season brings.

Stress

Whether you enjoy this time of year or dread it, we can all agree that the holidays bring added stress. However, we have the ability to teach our body how to interpret stress.  We can teach the body to send the stress message to the parasympathetic side of the central nervous system, where it is managed like data and allows the body to continue resting, digesting and repairing.  If we don’t manage stress well, the body will interpret it as an emergency and tell the body to go into “fight, flight, or freeze” which triggers the inflammatory process. 

  • Practice box breathing before you eat your meals: inhale through your nose for a count of 4, hold breath to a count of 4, exhale through your nose or mouth to a count of 4.  Make sure as you inhale you fill your belly like a balloon with air and that you don’t lift your shoulders.
  • Practice gratitude.  Write, think or say 3-5 things you are thankful for.  They don’t have to be big things.  They can be small and simple.  We always can find something to be thankful for. 
  • Practice prayer or meditation – this may look different depending on your belief system but it allows you to be still and quiet and brings a sense of peace. 
  • Read something positive to adjust your thinking from negative and overwhelmed to hopeful and peaceful.
  • Do some gentle yoga, chi gong, or other gentle exercise to relieve stress.
  • Walk in nature and enjoy all the sights and sounds.  Be intentional as you walk.
  • Listen to some music you love.

Detox

Our bodies need to be supported so that they can effectively release toxins. 

  • Stay well hydrated with half your body weight in ounces of water each day. 
  • Reduce the amount of diuretic drinks you consume: coffee, caffeinated tea, energy drinks, soda, and alcohol.
  • Take a hot Epsom salt bath or foot soak. Your biggest detox organ is your skin and Epsom salts help to pull toxins out of the skin as they relax you.
  • Sweating is a fantastic way to detox. Always aim to exercise to the point of sweating.
  • Use a sauna if you have access.
  • Eat or drink greens every day.
  • Ensure you are having regular bowel movements.  You should feel like you are fully eliminating.  This is another key way our bodies remove toxins.  Taking some extra magnesium and making sure you are eating plenty of fiber can help if you tend to be constipated.  Don’t forget to drink plenty of water too.
  • Writing in a journal is a great way to purge unhealthy emotions and thoughts.  Seek counseling if you feel it would benefit you.  Don’t stuff anger, hurt, resentment and bitterness – they grow and the plant isn’t pretty.
  • If you suffer from PTSD, know that there is help for you. Please reach out to your P3 clinician and we can help you find the supportive care you need. 

It’s okay to pick only one thing from this list, or more, depending on where you’re at.  The idea is to take a step toward bringing more mindfulness to your life during this time of year.  The more you practice, the better you will become at setting intentions.

There is power in numbers! Don’t be afraid to reach out and grab a partner to work on this with you.  So many people want to have a different experience during the holidays. Take a chance and create an opportunity for others to join you in creating change.

I hope these ideas will be helpful to you and allow you to experience the holidays with more peace and control this year.

Wishing you and your families a Happy Holiday Season as we set intentions to navigate the days ahead with mindfulness and grace.

by Gwen Krieger, P3 Health Coach

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