Stress is almost inevitable this time of year, regardless of what your traditions are and what holidays you celebrate. And if you’re pregnant during this bustling season, there’s added pressure to ensure you don’t go overboard on errands and obligations or indulge in too many goodies.
Much of that stress is manageable, though, and doesn’t have to negatively impact your spiritual, emotional and physical health.
As a Certified Nurse Midwife, I help patients of all ages reach their optimum health, whether they’re in childbearing years, premenopausal or post-menopausal. Healthy eating, staying active, getting plenty of restful sleep and not overloading a to-do list are tips I offer year-round—but they bear special emphasis this time of year. When it comes down to it, being proactive about stress management will help you live a better life on many different levels.
#1: Regular Exercise
This topic has been in the news a lot lately: inactivity—like sitting at a desk all day— can be worse than smoking. It’s essential, especially if you’re pregnant, to keep active and not sit for long periods. If you work in an office or at home, develop a routine of stretching exercises or take a twice-daily lap around the perimeter of your building or your neighborhood or choose the stairs over the elevator. Benefits of regular exercise include better sleep, improved mood, easier stress management, and achieving overall well-being.
#2: Healthy Eating
Try eating from a smaller plate—portion control is easier when you eat from a salad plate rather than a large dinner-size plate. Slow down when you eat, chew your food and consider using chopsticks instead of a fork. Although it’s tempting to skip a meal, that doesn’t help you lose weight—in fact, studies show that forgoing a meal (especially breakfast) triggers cravings and can actually prompt you to eat more. Eating 3 to 5 small meals a day will help you maintain energy throughout the day and keep you from feeling hungry between meals.
Limit sauces such as gravy, Hollandaise and ranch, which can quickly add calories to a meal, and eat sweets moderately. Ripe avocados are perfect for alternative spreads or purchase or make chutney to use as a flavorful condiment. Eat health snacks throughout the day—some nuts, for example, are a good source of protein.
#3: Avoid Liquid Calories
Beverages such as soda, milk, sweet tea and juice are packed with extra calories—as are most coffee-shop drinks other than brewed coffee. Switch out fattening drinks for seltzer water garnished with fresh fruit, plain tea or even flavored water. Consider this staggering fact: a can of soda each day for a year is equivalent to 15 pounds of added weight.
#4: Shift Focus
If you celebrate the holidays, make it not as much about buying gifts, but about spending quality time and making memories with family and friends. Volunteer in your community at a food kitchen or homeless shelter or another nonprofit that aligns with your personal passions. Make a date with your family for board game night or pack a thermos of hot chocolate and take a drive to enjoy holiday lights. Start a new tradition by making a craft that gets the entire family involved.
#5: Get Restful Sleep
Again, studies show that sleep deprivation encourages hunger pangs and can create other health ailments such as increased vulnerability to colds and flu. Get your eight hours of sleep in a darkened room; turn off the television or computer at least an hour before turning in.
#6: Personal Time
Easy to say, hard to do. But quiet time alone, away from the hustle and bustle, can help readjust a stressed-out frame of mind. Listen to your favorite play list, make a cup of herbal tea with a drizzle of honey and close your eyes. That’s the best gift you can give to yourself this time of year—peace and serenity.