De-stress Your Thanksgiving Holiday

The idea of Thanksgiving is a fantastic one. Gathering with friends and family for a day of gratitude and reflection should improve our lives, increasing feelings of joy and gratefulness.

Yet for many, Thanksgiving brings feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress. So much emphasis is placed on food, most of which is delicious but also waist-line expanding, and we feel pressured to visit with everyone who invites us to participate in their celebration. Oftentimes there is also at least one family member we simply do not get along well with, and the anticipation of an argument can spoil the day before it even starts.

You can put the joy back in your Thanksgiving with a little planning ahead. As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of gain.” Keep reading for 4 tips to create a healthy, happy, gratitude filled Thanksgiving day.

1. Breathe. Start your day with a few slow, deep breaths. Feel the oxygen as it spreads throughout your body from head to toe. Reach your arms above your head and stretch as you inhale, then relax as you exhale. Visualize a beautiful Thanksgiving day and take a moment to express gratitude for one thing. Maybe you had a good night’s sleep, pleasant dreams, woke up in a cozy warm bed, cuddled with loved ones…there is a least one thing you can find to be gateful for to start the day. Say thanks as you breathe. This tip also works when your least favorite uncle has cornered you to bash your political beliefs or tell you all the parenting things you are doing wrong. Excuse yourself to the restroom. Place both hands over your heart. Close your eyes. Take a slow deep breath and as you exhale think to yourself “relax”. Repeat until you feel your body releasing any tension. Then say to yourself, out loud if possible, “I love and accept myself just the way I am. I love myself deeply, completely, and without expectations or conditions. I love and accept others just the way they are.” Repeat to yourself 5 times, or however many it takes for you to feel your power and peace. Then take a few more slow, deep, cleansing breaths, and head back out for more family time. You’ve got this!

2. Bring a dish (or two!). One of the most difficult things is to enjoy holiday food without wrecking your nutritional eating plan. So, how do you avoid that second slice of pie or accidenatlly eating all the gravy? First of all, plan ahead. Bring a dish to share. Choose your favorite holiday dish and use healthy ingredients. My favorite is sweet potato casserole. This is a holiday staple in my family, and everyone loves it. All too often though it contains excessive amounts of sugar. I use a few tweaks to make it healthier, but still tasty, such as using grassfed butter or ghee plus coconut oil rather than all butter, replacing the milk with unsweetened non-dairy milk such as almond, coconut, or cashew, leaving out all of the sugar the recipe calls for in the sweet potato mix, and creating a low sugar topping with only a small amount of organic brown sugar mixed with chopped pecans and coarse sea salt. You could also substite stevia  or a little maple syrup or local raw honey in place of the bown sugar in the topping. I like the crunch the brown sugar creates, and I am able to use only a nominal amount to achieve this effect. Plus the addition of coarse sea salt to the topping adds depth to the flavors of the dish, satifying that sweet+salty taste so many of us love. Another trick I love to use is to bring a unique, colorful salad. Lately I’ve been roasting delicata squash and mixing it with arugula, spinach, pepitas, pomegranate, avocado, and a few goat cheese or feta crumbles. Toss with balsalmic vinegar and high quality extra virgin olive oil. Add a little freshly cracked black pepper. The colors are so inviting and the salad is delicious and satisfying. This is a nice option to have available alongside appetizers that are usually full of fat and simple carbohydrates. Starting your meal with a healthy salad makes it so much easier to pass on that extra dessert later.

3. Move your body. When I think of Thanksgiving, one of the first things I think of is football. As a Dallas Cowboys fan, there is always  a game to watch on Thanksgiving day, which my family loves. We also love to get in the spirit for the game by tossing a football around outside, going for a walk, or shooting some hoops together. Think of ways to incorporate movement into your Thanksgiving. Start your day with a walk, bike ride, swim, or some yoga to get your heart pumping, your body loosened up, and your joy flowing. Take a walk around the neighborhood with your favorite cousin after dinner, or if you decide to get a jumpstart on holiday shopping (some stores open late on Thanksgiving) be sure to chose a parking spot far away from the entrance so you can get some extra steps in on your way into the store.

4. Reset your Mindset. I often hear from patients that after they indulge for a holiday event they end up staying off track for several weeks, going back to previous less healthy eating habits, and experiencing a recurrence of old symptoms. Listen, we all get off track from time to time. Even the healthiest folks indulge on occasion. The trick is to reset your mindset as soon as possible so you can stay on track and continue to feel better rather than allowing those old aches and pains to return. Before you go to bed on Thanksgiving, take a moment to breathe and express gratitude for your healthy body. Say thank you to yourself for all of the hard work you’ve been putting in toward improving your wellness. Remind yourself that only you are responsible for your choices and you have the power to choose healthy foods each and every day. Breathe in the future. Exhale the past. You’ve got this!

5. Love Yourself. If you live away from family, Thanksgiving can be emotionally difficult. When I was a medical student, few of us were able to go home for the Thanksgiving holiday, so we would often have potluck style “Friendsgiving”. It was always a wonderful day! Then I moved to a new city where I didn’t know very many people. I was invited to several Thanksgiving events, but I was also exhausted from moving, starting a new job, and adjusting to a new city. I felt completely overwhelmed by the idea of spending the day with so many strangers. So, I made the decision to keep the day for myself. I slept in, called my family and chatted, took a walk down the beach, thought about all of the things I was grateful for in my life, took a little nap in the sunshine, then went and saw a movie I was excited to see. It was a wonderful, realxing, fantastic Thanksgiving! I was so happy I took the time for myself. Consider what you need this Thanksgiving holiday and how it fits in with your plans with family and friends. Then give yourself the gift of love and gratitude.

At Integrative Wellness Solutions, we are honored to be your Naturopathic Doctor of choice and grateful to play a role in helping you achieve your health and wellness goals.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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