Keeping Life Balance during the Holidays

Brought to you by Creative Healing for Youth in Pain's Parenting blog

Diane Poladian PT DPT OCS
December 18, 2023 / 7 mins read

‘Tis the season when life gets hectic. Schedules change, and with those changes come excitement and merriment, as well as increased stress. Let’s step back for a moment and look at ways to keep life in balance.

There are six basic categories to consider to keep life balanced. We all have our everyday routines, and when our routines change due to vacations, holidays, or life changes (such as going off to college, changing homes, starting a new job, etc.), it results in stress – stress being defined as anything that causes you to adapt or change.

Sleep
During the holidays, we generally get less sleep as we go out for social gatherings and stay up late preparing for activities. It is essential to get restorative sleep. Good sleep hygiene includes the following:

  • Follow a nightly routine and keep it consistent.
  • Avoid eating after 8 pm. Keep late snacks light. Avoid sugar and alcohol.
  • Turn off all electronics at least 30-60 minutes before bedtime, as the light causes mental stimulation. Dim lights to promote the release of melatonin.
  • Allow time for winding down by listening to music, reading, or meditating.
  • When ready to sleep, block out light to prevent light from interrupting your sleep.
  • Use white noise to drown out disruptive noises.
  • If unable to sleep, get up and read or do something calming for 20 minutes and try again.
  • Keep a consistent bedtime and morning wake-up time.

Nutrition
The holidays are a time of special treats and a bit of indulgence! Enjoy the special treats, but be sure that you also include fresh fruits and vegetables, your choice of protein, and healthy fats (avocados and nuts) in your diet. Healthy fats help to stabilize blood glucose levels, which helps to avoid those sugar crashes.

Creativity
Creativity is an essential aspect of our lives and tends to elevate during the holidays as we bake, decorate, make gifts, etc. It is also a great way to distract from pain and may also include music, writing, and art activities. It just needs to be balanced so that sleep and exercise are not compromised.

Mental Stimulation
Mental stimulation tends to decline during the holidays but includes reading books, participating in discussions regarding special interests, debating, exploring, playing games, or going to a museum or a play. Teens may be overstimulated with preparing for finals or finishing reports to turn in before winter vacation. Family time with board games or completing a puzzle are great ways to have some mental stimulation during the holidays.

Meditation
Meditation tends to get put aside during the holidays, but it is so vital when we are extra busy. Stop and take a breath. As you exhale, release body and mental tensions. Take a meditative walk and be mindful of your surroundings. Watch the sunset or gaze up at the night sky. It is especially important to take moments throughout the day to breathe and allow your body to be calm.

Exercise
Exercise is another category that generally is postponed during the holidays. Exercise is another way to reduce stress. It is important for adults to do at least 3.5-5 hours/week of aerobic activity, such as walking or cycling; if pressed for time, walking meditation covers two categories. Stretching is also helpful to get your body moving after a busy day or first thing in the morning. For teens with pain, they must move as much as tolerated, doing an activity that they enjoy. Think of creative ways to move. Turn on some holiday music and dance! Go on a scavenger hunt in the neighborhood with family–make up a list with items to find in the neighborhood. Have fun while moving!