I love health goals: the only type of books on my nightstand are self-improvement, my step tracker is my best friend, and I even built a career out of helping other people reach them. But as we near the end of the worst year, I don’t know, ever, there’s only one health goal I’m focusing on. You see, no matter what New Year’s resolutions you make or even what feels best for you throughout the year, health is not supposed to be restrictive or definitive. In fact, you’re supposed to change how you take care of your body based on the seasons, years, and what’s going on in your life.
Most of us are wrapping up the year with pressure at work, pandemic anxiety, and even stressors about the little, normal things like finding a budget for all the gifts you need to buy or scheduling every social gathering (even if those social gatherings are over Zoom). Add in the sad moments like not being able to hug your grandma, foregoing your favorite yearly traditions, or making a Christmas Eve dinner for one, and it’s easy to start letting stress take over your life. So my only health goal this month? Restoration, relaxation, and stress reduction. After all, I believe the only point of physical health is for mental health; eating nourishing foods and moving our bodies are simply tools to help us live the happiest lives possible. Here’s how I’m rethinking all of my healthy habits in every area of my life to focus on reducing stress:
With exercise: trying stress-relieving yoga challenges
Listen, I love a good HIIT class or sculpt session as much as the next girl. But “health” does not mean working out hard every single day; it means finding balance, depending on what your body needs. My body needs stress relief and relaxation this month, and exercise is no exception. Since I still love a good “challenge,” I’m embarking on Obé Fitness’s Yoga Deep Dive as my form of movement. This 15-day program explores yoga’s most foundational practices while helping you gain new tools to improve your flow. It will basically be like taking a mini retreat in between work meetings, so sign me up! Yoga based on stress reduction will help me find balance and grounding through an extremely stressful month, while the “challenge” aspect will keep me focused and motivated to prioritize myself.
With diet: eating intuitively
Even if you think diet rules like “no sugar” or “no processed food” is healthy for you, restrictions are stressful. Period. While I like to think I’ve ditched outdated food rules years ago, I still stick to a plant-based diet and prefer to feed my body with whole foods from the Earth that make me feel good. The problem with this is that when it’s time for holiday dinners and festive goodies, believing that you need to stick to any one diet or way of eating can cause guilt, and guilt will cause stress.
Instead of sticking to my plant-based way of eating 24/7, I know that since I nourish my body with fruits and vegetables most of the time, sugar cookies or Christmas Eve fettuccine alfredo won’t do any harm to my body. There’s plenty of room for mindful indulgences, even in a healthy diet. I will consistently check in to identify what my body truly needs: am I feeling sluggish and need some more veggies to nourish, or will I enjoy this slice of pumpkin pie? Forget eating for perfection; I’ll be eating with the #1 priority of self-compassion.
With morning and evening routines: making extra time for myself (whatever that means)
I live for a morning and evening routine. I love a warm cup of lemon water and gratitude journaling in the a.m., and I look forward to evening stretches, skincare, and meditation all day long. However, routines feel more difficult to fit in during the holidays (or any other busy time). My clients often come to me around this time of year, frustrated that they didn’t make time for a morning meditation or that they binged Netflix instead of taking a bath. My answer? The goal of a routine (or any self-care practice) is not to check items that you’re “supposed” to do off of a list. Instead, the goal is to do something that makes you feel good, whatever that looks like to you, and for however long you can.
Sure, I love an entire hour for a wind-down routine, but some nights, it looks more like five minutes of sitting alone and reading my favorite book before bed without even washing my face. And guess what: that’s OK. In other words, morning and evening routines should not feel like something else to check off your to-do list or another chore on the calendar. Instead, it should feel easy and something to look forward to. Make time for yourself every morning and night, but be OK if what that time looks like changes.
With work: prioritizing self-compassion and enjoyment
At this time of year, we’re having end-of-year reviews and setting goals for next year. You probably have a long to-do list of what needs to get done before holiday break or are working long hours to set your business up for success in 2021. I find that I put the most pressure on myself during this season: I want to make myself proud of how the year went, but also want to feel ahead in the new year. While ambition and hard work are great, putting pressure on yourself makes you forget to prioritize yourself. I actually can be more productive and successful overall in my work life if I allow myself to take breaks, am strict with cut-off times, and remember that the point of life is to enjoy it (that means in your career too!). This month, I’m responding to what I can’t accomplish with self-compassion and spending more time on the jobs that don’t even feel like work (like client sessions or writing articles like this one).
With holiday activities: finding balance between alone time and time with loved ones
Through seasons of Christmas past, I tried to fit in everything: holiday parties, gift exchanges, happy hours, limitless shopping trips. “Balance” was the last thing on my mind, and “alone time” felt more like a far-off memory than a priority. This year, of course, I am indulging in and enjoying the family traditions (although they look a little different in 2020). However, instead of doing it all, my goal is to find a balance between family time and making time for myself to decompress and relax.
If you are spending the holidays with family, make sure you’re still fitting in alone time to prioritize yourself. Go on a jog in the morning, take a bath at night, or find any time you can to recharge. If you’re spending the holidays alone, try to schedule a socially-distanced gathering outdoors or a virtual holiday party with your closest friends. Having social events on the calendar will give you something to look forward to, but scheduling it will also ensure you’re spending time with people you love, even if it is virtual or socially distanced. Alone time to prioritize ourselves and time with loved ones to laugh and connect are equally important, so focus on finding the balance of both, depending on what you need more of.
This post includes a sponsored inclusion of obé, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.