In 2020, many organisations, friends and families are canceling holiday parties – or at least going virtual – as the world continues to battle COVID-19. While many of us are coping with feelings of isolation or sadness over broken holiday traditions, we have a unique opportunity this year to rethink our routines and set new (and healthier) traditions. Learn how to make the most of this socially-distanced holiday season with these useful tips.
Perhaps the most urgent and important holiday tip for 2020 is to stay connected and take care of one another. The events of 2020 have certainly impacted our physical health, but perhaps less obvious is the toll these unprecedented events have taken on our mental health. This year more than ever, people are dealing with depression and loneliness as a result of physical isolation, financial insecurity or unemployment, loss of a loved one or personal health issues. Loneliness is a global epidemic that was hurting our physical and mental health even before the arrival of COVID-19. More than 53% of American adults have reported worsening mental health this year. Make it a priority to reach out to friends and family this year. Most people are uncomfortable talking about mental health, so it’s hard to know who might be struggling. Your outreach could make all the difference.
Learn more about the toll loneliness takes on our mental health and how to combat mental ill health through lifestyle medicine.
Maintain your daily routine
Behind the laughter and good cheer of a normal holiday season is a calendar full of social gatherings with an abundance of indulgent food and drinks, upending our usual daily routines and influencing us to engage in less-than-healthy habits. This year, we’re dealing with a larger issue presented by COVID-19 as we continue to struggle with finding our daily rhythm. A survey found that 85% of people have changed their eating habits this year, and not necessarily for the better—only 22% of those surveyed have adopted a healthier diet during the pandemic. Though it’s still unclear how much weight individuals have gained during the pandemic, leaving more people at a greater risk with COVID-19.
There’s no better – or more crucial – time than now to infuse healthy habits into our routine. By adding some structure and adopting a balanced lifestyle, it becomes easier to manage stress, stay on task at work and maintain physical health, now and as we prepare to head into the new year.
Stay physically active
With the rapid shift in our day-to-day living earlier this year and the stress we’re experiencing, our routines have drastically changed. Many of us are working from home, and those who are on the frontlines are feeling burnt out and depressed by the end of the workweek. We’re also facing the additional challenge of gyms being closed, forcing experienced exercisers to find new ways to workout at home and leaving beginners at a loss for where to start without equipment, space or direction.
The importance of physical activity is two-fold: regular movement supports our immediate overall sense of wellbeing while also reducing our risk of chronic disease like diabetes, cancer, heart disease and obesity. A recent study found that a higher daily step count was correlated with a reduced risk of mortality, with those taking 8,000 steps per day at a 51% lower risk and those taking 12,000 steps per day at a 65% lower risk than adults who took an average of 4,000 steps daily. This data comes at a critical time, highlighting the need for individuals to maintain or improve upon their pre-pandemic physical activity levels to protect themselves from the risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes.
As many of us face shorter days, colder temperatures and stay-at-home recommendations, we should keep in mind that steps don’t have to come from walking. Things like cleaning, dancing, DIY projects and playing with pets can help you rack up some additional steps each day. And if you prefer structured exercise, there are plenty of digital resources to help you build an at-home exercise routine, no matter where you are on your fitness journey.
Take 15-30 minutes each day to get moving this holiday season with help from our virtual exercise dice.
Make room for holiday favorites
Despite the lack of dinner parties, many of us may attempt to maintain a sense of normalcy this holiday season by enjoying beloved seasonal treats and traditional dishes at home, and that’s okay! We can – and should – still give ourselves permission to indulge a little. It’s all about finding the right balance.
Remind yourself to eat slowly and savor each bite, especially when it comes to calorie-dense foods. Try to incorporate as many vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains into each day as possible to help you tame your appetite and avoid overeating when it comes time for your holiday feast. Instead of reaching for something sweet in the morning, sneak some vegetables into your eggs, roasted breakfast potatoes, smoothie or avocado toast. Have a larger, healthy lunch, like a hearty salad topped with grilled chicken, beans or tofu or a stir fry with colorful vegetables and brown rice. You may also be able to swap in some healthy ingredients to create a more nutritious dish. For example, replacing half of your normal mashed potato recipe with mashed cauliflower can boost the nutritional benefits without sacrificing flavor or texture.
Access healthy recipes and nutrition resources to help you stay on track in our Holiday Nutrition Toolkit.
Be mindful of holiday stress
As if the usual anxiety we feel during the holidays wasn’t enough, many of us are living with chronic stress this year due to the pandemic, civil unrest, financial worries and a slew of natural disasters. These feelings impact our ability to focus on work, engage in healthy behaviors and sustain social connections. Learning how to cope with feelings of stress and anxiety as they arise is critical to maintaining mental health as well as physical health.
Get your 7-9 hours
Sleep is vital to our overall sense of wellbeing. Staying out late might not be the cause of sleepless nights this year as we navigate a holiday season with COVID-19, but stress can impact the quality and quantity of our sleep. It’s important to take proactive steps to help you get the recommended amount of shuteye, such as managing stress, establishing a nighttime routine and creating an environment that promotes good sleep hygiene.
You don’t have to ditch your healthy routine to enjoy the holidays. In fact, putting your health and wellbeing first can increase feelings of joy while helping you find balance and build resilience—and we could all use a little of that this year.