While the holidays are immortalized in song as “the most wonderful time of the year,” the fact is that they can also be the most stressful time of the year. This is true even if you and your family members are healthy and not filled with fear, anxiety or stress that comes with these challenging times. 

This holiday season is just different. We live in anxious times, even more so if a loved one is ill or has passed this year. During this challenging season, it’s important to care for yourself. A suggested and proven way to do this is through a combination of three essential ingredients—healthy nutrition, stress reduction and mindfulness. Hopefully this “recipe” can help bring joy to you and your family.

A “cup” of healthy nutrition

Focus on a plant-based diet and eat nutritious foods to lift your mood, increase your energy level and relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Avoid eating fast food and those highly processed. Instead, eat foods that support your emotional health such as fish, whole grains, lean protein, leafy greens and yogurt. Eating healthy will help you feel nourished, energized and stronger. 

A “heaping tablespoon” of stress reduction

Take deep breaths to manage your stress level. Research shows that spending just a few minutes purposefully breathing in and out will relax you and reduce stress. Take five minutes to sit down, breathe deeply, feel your lungs fill with air, let it go easily and repeat. Just place your attention on how it feels to inhale fully and release the breath fully. After a few minutes of breathing exercises, you will have more oxygen running through your body which causes you to relax.

A “pinch” of mindfulness

Give yourself five to 10 minutes of quiet and clarity each morning. This can be achieved through prayer or meditation. Called mindfulness, you shut off your thoughts to achieve a mental state of staying in the moment and grounding yourself in the present. One technique is to orient yourself to how you want the day to go. You will still need to do what is necessary and meet your obligations for the day; however, think mindfully about how you want to engage in those activities. What are your priorities and how can you take care of yourself so that you can be in the present and attentive? In other words, focus on the task at hand. 

The holidays are a special time to enjoy with family and friends. But we all know, from logistics to unrealistic expectations and family dynamics, this time can be overwhelming. The past two years have been unprecedented. The latent stress we are all holding right now will not let up because the calendar says it is a holiday. 

While it is important to speak with your physician before making any changes to your diet and/or physical activity, it is crucial to think ahead and plan for managing your stress level. Incorporating the above—mentioned recipe—healthy nutrition, stress reduction and mindfulness—into your daily routine now will give you a head start to making the holidays a time of reunion and joy. 

All of us at Alzheimers Coachella Valley wish you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season!

Editorial by Pat Riley, MBA, board member of Alzheimers Coachella Valley, a community resource for dementia support and education. For more information, call (760) 776.3100 or visit www.cvalzheimers.org.

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