Take Some of the Stress Out of the Holidays

The holidays are a time to celebrate, relax, and enjoy the company of your loved ones. But the cooking, shopping, and party planning that comes with the holiday season can also bring a lot of extra stress into our lives.

Extra stress can cause moodiness, anxiety, lack of sleep, elevated blood pressure and many other unpleasant symptoms. If you have diabetes, it can also affect your blood glucose levels in a few different ways:

  1. People under stress may be distracted from taking care of themselves. They may drink more alcohol or exercise less. They may forget or not have time to check their glucose levels and plan healthy meals.
  2. When stress occurs, levels of many hormones shoot up, causing a release of stored energy (in the form of glucose). Insulin is not always available to let the extra glucose into the cells, so it piles up in the blood.

This year, we want to help you enjoy the holidays to the fullest. Check out the tips below for fending off holiday stress and staying healthy this season.

1. Make a Plan for the Month of December

Start the month by making a plan. First, make a list all your holiday-related errands, events, and duties. Then, write out a calendar for the month and use it to designate time for the things on your list.

When will you bake Christmas cookies? Which days do you have holiday parties to attend? When is there time to shop for gifts? Write it all down. You can even use your calendar to mark down when you plan to exercise. Having a plan will help you stay organized and get a head start on your to-do list.

2. Simplify this Season

Taking on extra responsibilities during the holidays can also add stress. Be realistic when you decide to take on something new. Before you decide to host a party or elaborately decorate the house, look at your plan to make sure you really have the time (and money) for it. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and remember that there is always next year.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help with some of the holiday duties. You don’t have to do all the shopping, decorating, and cooking by yourself. Perhaps your spouse or kids can help wrap gifts, cook dinner, or even grocery shop during this busy time. A little help can go a long way and will help relieve some of the stress!

3. Keep Exercising

Physical activity is a natural stress reliever. It also helps control blood glucose levels, lower blood pressure, and provides many other health benefits. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holidays disrupt your exercise routine. Include time for physical activity on your calendar when you are planning ahead. We recommend doing at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 days per week.

Finding it hard to get motivated this winter? Having a goal to work toward and exercising with others can help. Try creating an exercise challenge with your family or set an activity goal for yourself. If you’re at a loss for what to do during the colder months, check out our list of winter activity options below:

  • If you’ve got snow, make a snow fort or take the family sledding. Walking up and down a hill is a great work out, and it’s a good way to get the kids active too! 
  • Go ice skating with a friend to catch up and get some fresh air.
  • Sign up for indoor fitness classes. There are a lot of class options out there now. Try zumba, kickboxing, jazzercise, yoga, and more.  
  • See if any local restaurants host a salsa dancing night. Learn to salsa and get your muscles moving!
  • Buy an exercise video or look for a free workout video online that you can do in the comfort of your own home.
  • Hosting a holiday party? Giving the house a deep clean also counts as activity!
  • Bundle up and go for a brisk walk or jog around the neighborhood.
  • If you’ve got a gym membership, take advantage of the indoor equipment this winter!
  • Sign up and train for a race or walk with a family member or friend. Having a race to train for in early spring can help keep you motivated.

4. Stock your house with healthy, simple meals.

When things get busy around the holidays, it’s easy to just order take out and call it a day. But cooking at home is usually the better choice. Make an effort to keep your kitchen stocked with healthy foods and snacks that are also convenient. Precut fresh or frozen vegetables, fruit, unsalted nuts, non-fat dairy, whole grain cereal, whole-wheat pasta, quick-cooking brown rice, and precooked frozen chicken are just a few items to start with.

Another great way to save time is to use the crock pot or slow-cooker. Just throw in the ingredients needed to make your dish, let them slowly cook together over several hours, and you’ll have dinner ready to go at the end of the day. Look for healthy crock pot recipes like our Crockpot Lasagna or Cranberry Pork Roast Over Noodles. You can also pre-make some meals like healthy casseroles, chili, or soup. These will freeze well and can be easily heated up on a night when you don’t have time to cook. 

5. Be Smart at Holiday Parties

Holiday parties and dinners can cause extra stress when you have diabetes or are trying to watch your weight. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track and still enjoy yourself at these gatherings:

  • Focus on spending time with people and less on the holiday hype around gifts and food. Remember that spending time with loved ones and being thankful is what the holidays are all about!
  • If you need to bring something, contribute a diabetes-friendly dish that you and others can enjoy. Browse for recipes right here on Recipes for Healthy Living. 
  • If you save all of your calories for party time, you are bound to over eat while you’re there. Stick to your regular meal plan as much as possible and use the Plate Method when filling your plate. 
  • If you eat more carbs or food than you planned for, don’t think you have failed. Stop eating for the night and focus on spending the rest of your time with the people around you. Include extra exercise, monitor your blood glucose levels, and get back on track with your usual eating habits the next day.

6. Easy on the Alcohol

A lot of us like to enjoy a celebratory drink or two this time of year. But many people ignore the extra calories that come with alcohol. If you have too much, those calories can add up quickly, and will contribute to holiday weight gain.

If you choose to drink alcohol, we recommend moderate consumption, which is no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate consumption of alcohol is not associated with weight gain, so following these guidelines may help you avoid packing on extra holiday pounds.

If you have diabetes, we also suggest always consuming food with alcohol to avoid a hypoglycemic reaction. Choose your drinks carefully. A lot of holiday cocktails like eggnog or a margarita can have over 400 calories in a 1 cup serving. Some lighter drinks to consider are:

  • 5 ounces of dry red or white wine - or better yet, make your drink half wine-half seltzer water for a wine spritzer
  • 4 ounces of Champagne or sparkling wine – garnish with some strawberry slices or raspberries to be festive
  • 12 ounces of light beer
  • If you choose to drink liquor, always use a zero-calorie mixer like club or diet soda (1 ½ ounces of spirits is considered a serving)

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