5 Tips for a Less Stressful Holiday Season

Not everyone is beaming with holiday cheer this time of year. A lot of people find this to be the absolute worst time of year, and go through the holiday season feeling miserable. It’s not only those with clinical depression that suffer great stress and depression, either. Feeling down this time of year can be especially taxing because you feel even more out of step with the world.

When the parties, family get-together’s, shopping, the overly played music and expectations get you down, know that you are not alone: there are many others feeling the same way. It might even be the person standing next to you at your office holiday party.

But for those with depression or who have had depression in the past, they need to be especially careful when dealing with the stress of the holidays.
It will take some effort, but it is possible to reduce stress. You might even catch a bit of that holiday spirit that everyone keeps talking about. Below are 5 tips to make this season easier on you.

 

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1. Know your triggers
Think of what kind of people or situations trigger your holiday stress and avoid them as much as possible. If staying at your family’s house is hell for you, get a hotel room and have some of your own fun. If your friends like to booze it up while on holiday break or like to drink enough on New Year’s Eve to start the first month of the new year with a hangover, and you no longer want to take part, find some other plans. If you have a certain uncle that likes to get a rise out of you by bringing up politics, religion, etc. just change the subject or walk away. You are in control of every situation. And never forget the that word NO holds great power.

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2. Eat right
When you have 300 parties (damn, you’re popular!) and family gatherings to attend, it becomes increasingly hard to stick to a sensible diet. But try. Eating healthy will keep you in check not only physically but emotionally. This is the hurricane season of emotional eating. Unfortunately, emotional eating usually equals excess sugar, processed foods and general over abundance. Having a large, healthy and balanced meal before venturing out to your shindig will keep you pleasantly full long enough to escape having only had a “bit of the bad” that was offered. On the other hand, don’t beat yourself up for having too many of *those* cookies that you love so much. Tomorrow is a new day and one night of overindulging is not going to ruin your health.

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3. Don’t rely on alcohol (or other substances)
Let’s be honest, the holidays are a time of heavy drinking. It’s also a time for using alcohol as a tool to deal with anxiety and stress. As much as it might sound like a brilliant plan to have a few extra glasses of wine or a little more bourbon to loosen up enough to “deal” with the anxiety at hand. It is not. Remember that alcohol itself is a depressant and will leave you feeling worse. And if you’re on antidepressant medication, it can be downright dangerous.

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4. Stick to your schedule
Try your best to stick with your normal routine during the holidays. If you exercise 5 days a week, find a way to keep it up no matter where you might be spending time this season. If you like to be in bed by a certain time, don’t stay up all night wrapping gifts or making cookies. Sleep disruption can have devastating effects on your mood. While it is often impossible to stick to your exact routine, some planning and time management will help you stay on track emotionally.

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5. Be good to yourself
This is the most introspective time of the year for many of us. It’s also a time of year to dwell on mistakes, imperfections and those damned “what ifs” that seem to surface at the most inopportune times. Be extra gentle with yourself. Show yourself kindness and forgiveness. Focus on the good and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. Attempt to live in gratitude and realize that the holidays only come but once a year.

Be well and have a happy, healthy holiday season.

 

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Christopher Hostetler is the founder of Do Not Die Young – Integrative Health & Nutrition Coaching. He’s a proud father, gunshot survivor, musician, writer and Muay Thai enthusiast residing in Los Angeles. He has made self evolution through nutrition, lifestyle, and mental and physical wellness his life’s work.

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Do Not Die Young’s Top 10 Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas for 2014 (and A Survey)

 

Whether you are searching for a gift for someone who is trying to change their life around or for someone who already leads a healthy lifestyle, it can be a daunting challenge picking out that perfect gift. Maybe you are making changes to live a happier, healthier life yourself? Either way, the following list is sure to make anyone, from superstar to rookie, excited and inspired to continue down the road to self improvement.

 

1. VITAMIX: High Performance Blender

In my opinion, this is one of the best investments that anyone can make for their health and the health of their family. Period. There’s a reason that most top chefs, health food stores, juice shops and health pros use (and gush over) these incredibly powerful and versatile machines, because they are simply the best at what they do. They are also a family owned company in Ohio that take great pride on impeccable customer service. Vitamix also offers some of the best warranties in the business, if you ever have to use it. These things are built like aesthetically pleasing tanks! Vitamix is also on Oprah’s Favorite Things 2014 list. So, there’s that.

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Follow this link to check out their site and to get FREE shipping on any machine!

 

2. Cookbooks

The road to optimal health starts in the kitchen and the more homemade meals you make, the better. Not only do you know what all of the ingredients are when you cook at home, you will save money by preparing nourishing, healthy meals from the comfort of your own kitchen.

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Here are a few of my favorites:

How To Cook Everything: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food by New York Times food writer and heath advocate Mark Bittman. Believe the title, the book really does tell you how to cook everything!

Nourished Kitchen: Farm to Table Recipes for the Traditional Food Lifestyle. Vacant of all industrial, nutrient-deficient food–Jennifer McGruther nails down some impressively exquisite, traditional, farm to table recipes. I must add that I got to meet and spend some time with Jennifer and her family at a fermentation festival this past summer and she is as good natured and kind as they come.

Gourmet Nutrition: The Cookbook for the Fit Food Lover by one of my mentors, John Berardi. He is the Chief Science Officer of Precision Nutrition Inc. and an adjunct assistant professor of Exercise Science at the University of Texas. Not only is his book chock full of delicious recipes, it’s one of a kind in that it has full nutrition data for every recipe!

 

3. Massage

While material gifts can be exciting to unwrap, a GREAT gift will bring someone true pleasure. Far too many of us never take the time to unwind, relax or simply get the knots worked out that are caused by the stress and pace of everyday life.

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While there are many different types of massage, I highly suggest a Thai Massage. Be aware that a Thai Massage wouldn’t necessarily be labeled as relaxing by most as it is a massage mixed with manipulations developed in Thailand, and influenced by the Traditional Medicine systems of India, China, and Southeast Asia, as well as by yoga. The benefits are very much worth the intensity of the massage. It’s the only massage I’ll get as all others now pale in comparison.

 

4. Fitness Ball

I recommend Fitness Balls – also known as Stability Balls – to all of my clients (family and friends, too). People do not realize the potential that these balls have for exercise and how they can be a staple in your overall fitness routine. Whether someone is a gym rat or a couch potato, they offer some of the most bang for your fitness buck! While they can be a great tool for toning your abdominal muscles (abs), as well as other core muscles, they are also fantastic for stretching and helping to increase overall balance.

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Fitness Balls are ideal for home exercise. Some people even use them instead of a desk chair because they not only force more proper posture, they also engage core muscles while in a sedentary state. I use mine every morning and my balance (and abs) have thanked me for it.

 

5. Notebook

I make it a point to always have a nice Notebook for writing down thoughts, ideas, poems, etc. We have become a culture so obsessed with typing on keyboards and swiping screens that we tend to forget the magic of having words pour from our heart and mind through the tip of our pen to paper. There is something magical about actually writing in our own words instead of a pre-made font. Try typing a love letter and then writing the same thing, see if you don’t agree.

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Notebooks make a thoughtful, unexpected gift. Maybe the person on the receiving end of this gift idea will be writing their next love letter to you? You never know.

 

6. A Health/Fitness Challenge

There are many great 7-day, 30-day, 60-day, etc. challenges out there. And some not so great challenges out there. A couple of my favorites are the Whole 30 by Whole 9 and the 30-Day Fitness Challenge by Active. Be warned that some challenges can be very restrictive when it comes to nutrition and that can be terrible for those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or specific autoimmune diseases. Plus, some intense fitness challenges can be downright dangerous for your body, causing muscle imbalances, high risk of injury and offer little to no results. So, choose wisely and consult with your doctor if you fall into a questionable health category.

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I’ve created a very affordable nutrition/fitness challenge called the Fit and Clean for 2015 Challenge that involves no crash dieting, deprivation or questionable fitness advice. It kicks off on January 5, 2015 and you can find it here. You’ll enjoy yourself, get support directly from me and notice results before it even ends. Whatever challenge you decide on, it’s always a good idea to grab a friend to participate with you for added accountability. You’re worth it!

 

7. CSA Membership (Community Supported Agriculture)

A CSA membership is a partnership between the consumer and the farmer. By supporting local farmers through tough seasons it allows the farm to continue. During most seasons, a CSA membership provides enough produce to feed a family of four. Now is a great time to support local farmers and an opportune time to take advantage of large discounts.

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Local Harvest is a fantastic resource to locate not only your local CSA, but Farmer’s Markets, high quality meat and more.

 

8. Cast-Iron Skillets

Cast-Iron Skillets might seem old-fashioned. But they are some of the most dependable, long lasting (decades) cookware that you can buy. They also conduct heat like a champ and can go from stove top to oven without any issues.

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I suggest Cast-Iron to everyone because I believe that every kitchen should have one. More importantly, switching to Cast-Iron allows someone to throw away their non-stick pans. Avoid the harmful chemicals that are found in non-stick pans! The coating contains PFCs (perfluorocarbons), a chemical that’s linked to cancer and developmental problems. Not only that, but according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, early menopause.

 

9. Vegetable Spiral Slicer

They are all the rage for good reason. Vegetable spiral slicers do exactly what they claim: slice your veggies (and fruit) into long vegetable strands for healthy vegetable meals. You can use the strands in place of pasta or make fun treats for the kids in your life. The less white flour pasta, the better for your health.

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Here’s a helpful video that demonstrates some of the most popular brands available.

 

10. Charitable Donation

What better way to spread some holiday cheer and some real goodwill than to make a donation to someone’s favorite charity? Simply bring it up in conversation or ask them directly what causes they truly believe in. You can present the receipt in a wrapped box if you think that would add something special to the moment. Helping others is the best gift that you can give at anytime of year.

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Charity Navigator is a trusted non-profit organization that evaluates charities in the United States.

I wish you and yours a very HAPPY and HEALTHY holiday season!

Did I miss something? Have some other suggestions? Please comment below!

 

 

Living Fast and Dying Young is Bullsh*t

I’ve struggled with depression, addiction, weight loss, over eating, under eating and countless other problems for most of my life. My motto was “F*+% it!” for decades. F exercise! F eating healthy! F meditation! F getting help! F my future! It was much easier to give up than to try to better myself and admit that change needed to take place. Change is hard.

Over the last few years I’ve learned that change is actually not the hard part, the process of changing is the challenge. This is why so many of us try fad diets, weight loss pills, detoxes, drinking less, eating less, counting calories, etc. Our minds tell us to take the easy way out. Unfortunately, the easy way out rarely works and when it does it is never sustainable. This is why crash diets and self-improvement books make $10 BILLION per year. Yes, you read that correctly. There’s some gold out there, but most of it is regurgitated words put together to make a quick buck off of those who are desperate to better themselves.

It’s easy to simplify overall health into a 5-second pitch. But blurbs and slogans aren’t enough to help people fix their bad habits and find lifestyle choices that are right for them. Eventually every diet system fails. Eventually the same exercise routine will hit a ceiling. For example, I gave up meat at the age of 21 and vowed to NEVER eat it again. Turns out that years later my body needs some of the nutrients that animals provide. I also used to make fun of people who went to the gym and gave such thought to physical fitness. I’m now in love with Muay Thai and fitness has become a huge part of my life. I’ve been vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian and Taco Bell-ian. I’ve tried low-fat diets, low-carb diets and counted calories. Sound familiar? I’m now an intuitive, mindful eater and have never been healthier in my life.

The only way to long-term success is the ability to properly listen (and decipher) what it is that our bodies really need. This takes a lot of practice + some outside help from a Health Coach, Nutritionist, Personal Trainer or someone who is well qualified to help you with nutrition and overall physical health. I will freely admit that before my venture into health and wellness I thought I knew all the answers and that I needed no advice. I was sorely mistaken and I paid for it with many years of nutritional deficiencies, lethargy, depression and, well, a less than desirable physique.

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Instead of living fast and dying young, which is a complete and utter bullsh*t mantra that unhappy people live by. Let’s start a new rebellion, shall we? How about Living Slow and Dying Old (and healthy)? It might not have the same ring to it, but being healthy is no longer a thing that hippies, losers, teetotalers and squares do. It’s a way of life that many now see as an enlightened choice. Clean living and a life filled with healthy choices is much more punk rock than following the sedentary, pizza eating, beer binging crowd who for some odd reason (insert sarcasm) always feel terrible.

Ask yourself:                                                                                                                                            Are you ready to take charge of your life, to look and feel your best? Are you ready to set a good example for your children, family and friends? Are you ready to give yourself the best chance to  add healthy and vibrant years to your life?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time.

I believe in you.

Be sure to sign up for my newsletter for some exciting announcements and a chance to win a free copy of my upcoming Fit and Clean 30-day challenge!

“The things that matter most should never be at the mercy of the things that matter least.”              – Goethe