Per usual, October was approximately three seconds long. I feel like the past few months have been a complete whirlwind, and things are only going to continue to pick up from here on out! Thanksgiving is less than 3 weeks away! Writing that out really makes it hit me. It’s going to be 2018 before we know it.

I wanted to write a post about the holiday season before we really get in the thick of it, because I know it can be a stressful time for many. It’s also a very magical time – it’s my absolute favorite time of year. If you’ve followed me for awhile, you know that I’m definitely a holiday person.

There are truly so many wonderful things about the holiday season. It’s a time to be grateful, a time to spend with family and friends, a time to reflect on all of the amazing things in our lives, a time to listen to carols and cozy up by the fire and make new memories. Everyone just seems to be… happy. That being said, my goal with my blog and platform is to always keep it real, and to address the things that we all struggle with. We are human, and not every moment is rainbows and sunshine. So, let’s talk about it, get it off our chests, and enjoy the holiday season!

The holidays can be exhausting and stressful for a number of reasons. First of all, everyone becomes incredibly busy. There seems to be a party or event every weekend. People come into town and want to visit with you, and suddenly your friends and family who already live nearby want to spend extra time together. You realize you have a ton of errands to run – holiday shopping, getting the house ready for visitors, decorating, and so on. Maybe you’re planning a holiday event, which means cooking and baking and decorating and making sure there are plates and chairs and tables and drinks and all of the things. I hope that run-on sentence got the point across.

Tied up in that, there are a lot of emotions during the holidays. Oftentimes, tied to family. Maybe you have a lot of family drama that is emotionally exhausting. Maybe you’re dreading going home, where you’re treated like a child or misunderstood. Maybe you don’t have a lot of family drama, or a lot of family at all. Maybe this time of year is especially difficult because it reminds you of loved ones you’ve lost, or relationships that have changed in a way you never expected them to. You might feel lonely, or you might feel overstimulated. You might run into the comparison trap, seeing everyone else spending time with their family, friends, and significant other, prancing around in the snow, laughing. (Or maybe I just saw that on Pinterest?)That might make you feel lame. Reminder, though – pictures, and even videos, are not real life.

Then we’ve got the food and exercise, which is especially relevant to those in the health and wellness space. I know many people stress out about overeating during the holidays, especially with all of the events, holidays, and drinks and treats around. People feel like they can’t keep up with a workout routine because there is so much going on, so they decide to just deal with it in January. I see a lot of unhealthy, compensatory behaviors go on around the holidays. People will starve themselves earlier in the day so they “can eat more” at night, or they’ll do two workouts a day because they had an extra slice of pie. These behaviors are only doing your body harm in the long run, and they usually feed the cycle of bingeing and restricting.

Some people feel like they “already messed up,” so they might as well just keep “messing up” until the holidays are over, right? Noooo! This is where that January attitude comes in. Everyone sets unrealistic goals and expectations for the New Year, they eventually give up, and then the same thing happens all over again the next year.

I get it. I’ve been there. I used to feel that way. I have a much different perspective now on the holidays than I used to, and I’m grateful for it. Like I’ve said, the holidays have always been my favorite time of year, but they were also extremely stressful for me. I used to stress out about family drama, overwork myself and focus too much on the superficial things, and freak out about all of the holiday food. It wasn’t until I went through a holiday season on a gut-healing protocol while very sick that things changed for me. I wasn’t allowed to eat sugar, or many other foods, during that holiday season, and suddenly the holidays weren’t about the food anymore. I was weak physically, so worrying about exercise wasn’t even an option. I lost a lot of relationships that were important to me during that time, and I felt incredibly lonely. I was accustomed to the season being filled with so many friends and family members that it was overwhelming, but that year I felt like no one was by my side. However, that gave me a lot of time to think and reflect on what was important to me, and what it all meant.

Since that year, I look at the season much differently. I’m grateful that I have a much better perspective, because it ended up making the holiday seasons that followed so much more meaningful. I was not worried about the trivial things, and I truly felt the pure joy of the holidays. I focused much more on my closest relationships, and got more out of them. I learned how to deal with the family and friend drama so that it wouldn’t affect me as much. I learned to be much more grateful for what I have.

I know the holidays aren’t everyone’s favorite time of year, but my (very unrealistic) goal is to make them be! Or at least to make others love them a bit more. I want nothing more than for you to have a stress-free, relaxing, truly joyous holiday season – and a healthy one at that. Easier said than done, I know. So… how do you do that?

That’s exactly why my friend Kayleigh and I released our ebook – Gratitude: A Healthy Holiday Guide for a Paleo Thanksgiving. I am so incredibly excited about this book and proud of it. I know you will love it! Inside, you’ll find over 20 healthy, delicious paleo recipes (and most are vegan) that are perfect for Thanksgiving, but can obviously also be used for Christmas or any other event or occasion. These recipes are to die for, and we both tested them out on a lot of picky eaters. We’ve got appetizers, mains, sides, desserts, and drinks inside, and we kept all of the ingredients as simple as possible. You don’t have to be a wizard in the kitchen – all of this is foolproof. Some of my favorites are the cauliflower mash and gravy, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, pumpkin dip, pumpkin pie, maple-spiced cookies, and pumpkin nog! Get ready to impress your friends and family… and even yourself!

We went far beyond the recipes, though. Part of the stress of the holidays is planning everything out and organizing it all, so we covered that as well. We have a Thanksgiving week calendar to plan out your entire week, as well as a holiday planning checklist to make sure you get everything done. You don’t have to remember all of the things you might need to do or check on – we’ve done that for you.

Basically, we’re taking all of the thinking out of the holidays for you! Buuuuut of course that’s not it. What I love most about this ebook is that we address all of the lifestyle factors that come into play during the holidays. We talk about how to deal with family and friends and how to optimize your mindset to truly be in the moment. We discuss how to handle all of the treats and drinks in a healthy, balanced way. We share our outlook on exercise and movement. We even give all of our top digestion tips to make sure you still feel great even around food-centered holidays! There is so much incredible content inside, and it is much more than a menu.

I’ve seen many of you make the recipes already, which makes me so happy! Everything you could ever need for a stress-free, healthy holiday season is in this ebook, so I suggest you pick up your copy right now! If you’re hosting a dinner or event at all during the holiday season, we’ve literally done all of the hard work for you. If you want to avoid stress, I suggest you pick up the ebook, read it, follow the instructions, and actually enjoy yourself this year.

That being said, I want to give a few quick tips on handling the holidays right now, just to get you started.

  1. Do not restrict yourself. I’ve written a whole blog post on how to handle holiday treats, which you can read here. When you restrict yourself, you will most likely binge on something else later. There is nothing wrong with having a holiday treat. There is nothing wrong with eating more during this time of year than you might usually. Is it necessary? No. But it doesn’t matter. If you want some Christmas cookies, then eat some Christmas cookies! The holidays only happen once a year, so don’t miss out on anything, food or not, that would really fill up your soul.
  2. Relating to that, be mindful and present. In the moment, ask yourself what you really want. Is it the extra slice of pie that you really want, or is it just spending time with your cousin who is eating alongside you? Maybe it’s both, maybe it’s just the pie, or maybe it’s just being with your loved one. Ask yourself these questions in the moment to get in touch with what your soul and body are actually craving. Are you already full but eating because you feel obligated to? Are you really hungry but trying not to overindulge? Get in touch with your real emotions and your body in the moment, so you can identify what you truly need. Sometimes we use food to compensate for emotions, which ends up making us feel worse. On the flip side, sometimes it’s okay to eat emotionally. The important thing is to recognize in the moment why you are making the choice you are making, and accept it. Make every choice out of love and nourishment for yourself.
  3. Make sure you move your body, and have a realistic exercise routine. I think it’s important to get movement in every day. That might mean a formal workout, or it might mean just getting some steps in. Walk on your lunch break, walk to the store, and take the stairs instead of the elevator when you can. When it comes to formal workouts – be realistic. You don’t need an overly complicated fitness routine to get the health benefits of exercise. It’s all about getting the best results you can in the most efficient way possible. If you don’t know where to start, my friend Les from the Balanced Berry is doing a holiday fitness challenge called the Holiday Slay, which you can sign up for here! All of the workouts are under 30 minutes and require no equipment. You can definitely fit that into your life. And no, she has no idea I’m saying this in my post (although she better read it to find out!). Les is truly one of the only people I trust with workout programming. Her workouts are quick, effective, and always kick my butt…in the best way!
  4. Focus on the relationships that really matter to you, and don’t be afraid to say no. There are so many opportunities to spend time with people during the holidays, but you are not obligated to go to every holiday party and get-together. You are only one person! It’s okay to skip a work party to have a quiet night in if you’re feeling drained. You don’t even need an excuse. It’s okay not to get lunch with Aunt Margaret who happens to be in town but is a total Negative Nancy. Who fills you up and actually rejuvenates you? Take the time to focus on those people, even if others are pressuring you to do otherwise. It’s flattering that they want to spend time with you, but also remember that you need to focus on activities and people that make you feel happy and positive!
  5. Take time for yourself. The times that feel the craziest, the times when you feel like you have no time for yourself, are the times when it is most important to take time for yourself. Maybe that means spending an extra five minutes in the morning to slow down and sip on a mug of tea while reading a book. Maybe it means setting aside some time to paint your nails, soak in a bath, or do a face mask. Maybe it means taking ten minutes out of your day to walk around the block without any technology. Whatever calms you down, do it. It’s the season of giving, so give yourself some love!
  6. Be present. If there is ever a time to put your phone away, it’s Thanksgiving dinner. You will not fully enjoy the holiday if you haven’t even given yourself a chance to be in the moment! Also, respect your family and friends’ time. Wouldn’t you rather spend time focusing on the people right in front of you, who love you and want to spend time with you, than scrolling through Twitter and Instagram? Social media and the Internet will be there tomorrow, next week, and the week after. The present moment is only happening now. If you have to choose, wouldn’t you rather choose real life? You’re not going to make memories scrolling through your Facebook feed, but you might make some really great ones if you interact with people in real life.
  7. This might sound corny, but I highly recommend writing down a list of things that excite you about the holidays. What about the holiday season makes you grateful? What are you grateful for in general? It really helps put things into perspective. It can be superficial things, or the deep, emotional things. Maybe it’s seeing Christmas lights, watching your favorite childhood films, and decorating for the events. Maybe it’s going to your family party each year. Maybe it’s just the feeling, or even the weather. Maybe it’s getting to see someone special who you usually never get to spend time with. When you write these things down, it reminds you to truly celebrate them in the moment. I never fully realized all of the amazing things I have in my life, and all of the things I truly adore about the holiday season, until I took the time to make a list and look at it right in front of me. It reminds me what the season is really about for me, and I appreciate it so much more. That helps the petty drama melt away.

I hope these tips were helpful, and I hope you have the best holiday season yet. I want to hear from you – what is your favorite part about the holidays?

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