8 tips for holiday happiness, health and self-care

Excerpt: The holiday season is meant to be joyful, but it can be stressful too. Self-care is especially important for older adults to help manage disruptions in eating, exercise and sleeping schedules, and pressure to overdo social activities. By keeping physically active, practicing relaxation techniques, eating rich foods in moderation, and getting enough sleep, you can reduce stress, recharge, and stay healthy to fully enjoy your time with family and friends.

While the holiday season is meant to be a joyful time to connect with family and friends, it can also be a source of stress. There may be disruptions in eating, exercise and sleeping schedules, too much rich food, pressures to overdo social activities, and you might not always recognize your limits or be aware of how these stressors could affect your health.

Making self-care a priority is the best way to ensure that you can stay healthy, recharge, and reduce stress, so you can fully enjoy the precious time you spend with family and friends, and the activities you choose to engage in throughout the holiday season.

Here are some tips for holiday self-care and health for seniors to remember:

  1. Keep physically active daily. Regular physical exercise releases more endorphins in the brain and helps relieve tension in the body, and it’s known to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, lower stress, and lift mood*. This will help to counter typical holiday stressors, advises the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).
  2. Pace yourself and set boundaries. It’s okay to say “no” to social events* that are less important to you, says HealthLink BC. That will give you more time to say “yes” and enjoy social events you do want to attend, and to spend more time with family and friends who mean the most to you.
  3. Be selective about indulging in holiday treats. Eat healthy, balanced meals and be selective about indulging in your favorite, rich holiday foods, says CMHA. You can then savour the taste of these special treats without ill effects from overindulging.
  4. Practice yoga or tai chi to ease stress. Harvard Medical School recommends practicing relaxation techniques* – such as yoga, tai chi, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or slow, deep breathing – as a healthy and effective way of managing and reducing holiday stress.
  5. Get enough restorative sleep. Stick to a regular sleep schedule, avoid heavy or large meals or alcohol within a couple of hours of bedtime, limit daytime naps, and exercise during the day for better sleep*, advises Mayo Clinic.
  6. Stay hydrated. Drinking water regularly prevents dehydration, aids digestion and kidney function*, says Mayo Clinic, and can help prevent headaches and overeating amid busy holiday festivities.
  7. Focus on gratitude. Every year has its ups and downs, but the holidays are an opportunity to feel and express gratitude to the people who are important in our lives and for being together with them. Research shows that grateful people remember the past more positively*, are kinder, and generally give and receive more social support, according to Psychology Today.
  8. Reach out to help. Volunteering your time or dropping of a meal or dessert to a friend or neighbour is a simple, but wonderful way to lift your own spirits and those of others* during the holiday season, suggests Mayo Clinic.

*The following sources provide references for this blog, in order of appearance:

  1. Canadian Mental Health Association. "Self-Care During The Holidays: Keep The ‘Me’ In Merry", Online: https://cmha-yr.tfdev.ca/self-care-during-the-holidays-keep-the-me-in-merry/
  2. HealthLink BC. "Quick Tips: Reducing Holiday Stress", Online: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/quick-tips-reducing-holiday-stress#:~:text=During%20the%20holidays%201%20Take%20breaks%20from%20group,need%20it.%20Holidays%20can%20sometimes%20trigger%20depression.%20
  3. Harvard Health Publishing."Six relaxation techniques to reduce stress"(2022), Online: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/six-relaxation-techniques-to-reduce-stress#:~:text=Following%20are%20six%20relaxation%20techniques%20that%20can%20help,Body%20scan.%203.%20Guided%20imagery.%204.%20Mindfulness%20meditation.
  4. Mayo Clinic. "Sleep tips: 6 steps to better sleep", Online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep/art-20048379
  5. Mayo Clinic. "Tips for drinking more water", Online: https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/tips-for-drinking-more-water
  6. Psychology Today. "The Power of Gratitude During the Holidays"(2020), Online: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/supersurvivors/202012/the-power-gratitude-during-the-holidays
  7. Mayo Clinic. "Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping", Online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544