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Give Yourself the Gift of Health

Give Yourself the Gift of Health

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The holiday season is for giving and spreading kindness to others, but it’s also important to show yourself kindness, too. Among the hustle and bustle of the season, remember to take some time to care for yourself and be the healthiest possible you. Here are some healthy gifts you can give yourself this holiday season:

The Gift of Relaxation

We won’t sugarcoat it—2020 has been an incredibly stressful year for many. And for some, the pressure of the holidays leads to plenty of year-end stress. If you’re feeling stressed out or if you just want to keep yourself calm as the holiday season looms, consider these tips:

  • Just breathe. Deep breathing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to bust stress. Slow, deep, even breaths are a way to tell your brain to calm down and relax. As you breathe deeply, you’ll notice the negative effects of stress (increased heart rate, high blood pressure, fast breathing) decrease. Try the 4-7-8 method or diaphragmatic breathing to start.
  • Get offline; go outside. Did you know that being in nature reduces both physical and psychological stress levels? Put down your phone, turn off the TV, and explore the outdoors. Whether you choose to scale a mountain or simply eat lunch outside, you’ll find that the scenes and sounds of nature calm your nerves.
  • Meditate or practice mindfulness. With practice, meditation and mindfulness can help you release negative emotions causing your body physical stress. Also, meditation and mindfulness can improve your mood, decrease pain, and help you get a better night’s sleep. The James M Stockman Cancer Institute's Integrative Services, available to cancer patients, include guided meditation and mindfulness as well as other relaxing activities like yoga and Tai Chi.
  • See your doctor. You wouldn’t avoid your doctor if you noticed a concerning change in your physical health, so don’t avoid your doctor if you notice changes in your mental health. If your daily stress has turned to anxiety or depression, it’s essential to talk to your doctor so they can help take control of stress and improve your mental health.

The Gift of Healthy Eating

The holidays are notorious for decadent desserts and second (and third) helpings. But have you noticed how you feel sluggish after indulging in that extra piece of pumpkin pie? You don’t have to give up all your favorite holiday foods, but there are some ways to make healthier choices—with occasional treats.

  • Update recipes for a more nutritional twist. For example, instead of making sweet potato casserole, try sweet baked potatoes instead. Try these healthy food swaps that don’t sacrifice taste.
  • Rethink your drink. Soda, sweet tea, and alcoholic beverages—like your homemade eggnog—can often pack as many calories and as much sugar as that slice of holiday pie. Swapping even one sugary drink for water will help you stay hydrated and feel better throughout the day.
  • Eat in moderation. Limiting how much you eat during the holidays isn’t always easy, especially when there are so many yummy options to try. However, using balance and moderation is a great way to celebrate the holidays the healthy way while still savoring your favorite dishes. Use our partner LiveWell Frederick’s 5-2-1-0 program as guidance: strive for five fruits and veggies a day, limit your screen time to two hours or less, get active for at least one hour a day, and cut out sugary drinks.

The Gift of Fitness

Establishing an exercise routine and striving for at least an hour of physical activity each day is a great way to give yourself the gift of fitness.

  • Make it a habit. Whether you hit the gym, go for a run, or take your dog for a walk, just get moving. When you make it a point to exercise each day, it’ll become easier to make physical activity part of your daily routine.
  • Move more, sit less. Especially if your job requires you to sit at a computer all day, it’s important to take breaks to get up and move every half hour. You can stretch, take a short walk, or follow along with a short desk workout video.
  • Try yoga. When it comes to exercising and reducing stress, yoga is the best of both worlds. The gentle stretches are a great way to prep for a workout, or you can do an entire yoga workout. Start slow with these beginner yoga poses. Nearly 90 percent of Americans who regularly practice yoga say their stress levels are reduced. Additionally, you may notice benefits such as reduced pain and better sleep.

Giving yourself these gifts helps contribute to the most important gift of all: The Gift of Health. Whether mental or physical, good health is the most important gift you can give yourself at any age. When you treat your body with kindness by eating healthy, exercising, kicking bad habits like smoking and excessive drinking, and managing stress, your body will thank you.

Working toward a healthier you doesn’t have to be a solo endeavor. Whether you want to quit smoking, lose weight, or simply need a routine wellness exam, we’re here for you.