The holiday season is a wonderful time to gather and celebrate with friends and family, but it can also be a busy, stressful time during a cold and wintry season. This can make it especially hard to prioritize your own health and well-being. One way to change that is through lifestyle medicine.
“Lifestyle medicine focuses on a healthy lifestyle and is a more preventive approach to health,” says Kylene Krause, PhD, clinical manager and licensed psychologist at Holland Hospital Outpatient Behavioral Health Services. “It can treat or even reverse some chronic health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. It can also play a significant role in improving mental health.”
There are six pillars of lifestyle medicine: plant-based nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress management, avoiding risky substances and social connection. “They all tie in and support one another,” notes Dr. Krause. “It also helps to realize how much control you have over your own health and well-being. Even little changes can lead to huge positive outcomes.”
Dr. Krause takes us through each of the six pillars of lifestyle medicine with specific tips for the holiday season.
- Plant-based nutrition. This means getting most of your nutrition from more plant-based foods and fewer processed food products.
- Enjoy a fruit and veggie tray before dinner.
- Try a healthier version of just one traditional Thanksgiving dish.
- Physical activity. No gym membership is required; just incorporate small bursts of physical activity throughout your day. Good nutrition makes it easier to live a more active lifestyle.
- Park farther away from the store, take the stairs and go for quick walks – even if it’s just for 15 minutes. It all adds up!
- Mix this with the social connection pillar and walk while you talk to a friend or family member.
- Sleep. Get an adequate amount of restorative sleep. If you are more active during the day, getting good sleep is easier.
- When you get tired, don’t push through it to try to get more done. Write a note or set an alarm to remind yourself to finish tomorrow.
- Get up and go to bed at around the same time every day.
- Avoid screens before bed, keep your room dark and cool and implement a relaxing bedtime routine.
- Stress management. This is most effective when it is preventive instead of waiting until burnout has already happened. Quality sleep enhances our ability to manage stress.
- Schedule regular times for rest as you would any other appointment.
- Ask for help from friends and family.
- Go for a walk outside (yes, even in the snow!), practice deep breathing and give gratitude journaling a try.
- Avoid risky substances. This includes alcohol, tobacco products and other toxic substances. This is easiest if your stress is being well-managed.
- Many holiday drinks like eggnog, hot chocolate or cider (hot or cold) are delicious without adding alcohol.
- For those making an effort to avoid alcohol and tobacco, minimize your time at gatherings where it may be harder to say no.
- Social connection. Try to make these face-to-face, but if that’s not possible video, phone calls and old-fashioned note writing work too.
- Keep the fun going after the holidays by scheduling the next gathering before everyone leaves!
- Prioritize events you know will be fulfilling and keep stressful or draining visits short.
- Tell someone that you’re thinking of them or appreciate them and why.
It’s important to take care of yourself and prioritize your health. By following Dr. Krause’s tips, you can make sure your well-being doesn’t get lost in the busyness of the season.
“It's amazing what a difference these lifestyle changes can make,” she says.
Holland Hospital Behavioral Health Services offers a broad range of inpatient and outpatient mental health services that treat the whole person—mind, body and spirit.
Holland Hospital Lifestyle Medicine implements a personalized approach that incorporates nutrition, fitness, sleep, stress reduction and decreasing environmental exposure to empower people to adopt healthier habits and live their best life. To learn how lifestyle medicine can benefit your life, visit hollandhospital.org/lifestylemedicine or call (616) 494-8387.