Fighting Holiday Fatigue
Small Changes Make a BIG Impact
-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian
From Goblins, to Gobblers, to Gifts and Goodies…this time of the year can be draining! Some days you can be so low on energy that you are drowsy by lunchtime and in need of a nap by mid-afternoon. Think about all the extras you have been adding to your already hectic lifestyle—office parties, gatherings with the relatives, costume shopping, trick-or-treating, holiday shopping, extra cooking, entertaining guests and visitors from out of town, school parties, religious celebrations…
The list seems endless. If just thinking about it is already wearing you down, then it’s time to make some drastic…okay, small but helpful…changes this year. Take a quick inventory of the things that might be responsible for your exhaustion. Whatever the cause, once you discover what’s draining your energy, you can take these steps to put the vitality back in your life and survive the holiday blitz.
Time to downsize? If you are running from one task to the next without a break, it is eventually going to wear you out. You do not have to stay to the end of every party or even attend every gathering. Look at your list of events and obligations and see where you can cut back on time, energy, and money.
- Do you have to prepare a seven-course meal yourself, or can each of your guests pitch-in?
Discuss the gift-giving routine early. Most likely, your family and friends are probably feeling just as overwhelmed as you are. Can changes be made? Instead of buying for all, how about drawing names from a hat or giving to a local charity in someone’s honor.
Lack of sleep. You don’t have to pull an all-nighter or miss several hours of sleep to feel negative effects. Getting just ONE hour less than what you normally need can leave you drowsy and unable to handle the increased chaos.
- Avoid eating, reading or watching TV in bed.
- Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.
- Stick to the same sleep schedule daily. Naps are fine, take them earlier in the day and keep them short—a 4-hour snooze is not a nap. Sometimes all you need is 10-30 minutes to reenergize.
- Exercise at least 3-4 hours before bedtime.
A small evening snack may help you drift off to sleep, but large late-night meals can keep you tossing and turning all night.
Horrendous eating habits! If you are not eating properly or drinking enough water, your body is not getting the fuel and fluids it needs. Using caffeine as a jolt will only backfire. So start your day with a low-fat, high-fiber breakfast including whole grains and fruits for energy. Stay away from sugary cereals, sweetened drinks and caffeinated drinks.
- Do NOT skip meals. It may be necessary to go with 4-6 mini meals that include whole grains, fruits, veggies, low fat dairy, and protein. Examples include turkey on rye with cheese, lettuce and tomatoes; soup and salad; peanut butter on whole-wheat toast, milk and an orange; or cottage cheese, bagel and carrot sticks.
Low carbs, and extremely low calories are guaranteed to zap your energy levels.
Inactivity. Don’t mistake being "busy" for being "active." You still need to get some exercise. After fatigue sets in, you are too tired to exercise. And when you exert yourself you tire more easily. Exercise is vital to improving your mood, your muscles and your energy level. You say you don’t have 30 minutes? Start with 10 minutes at a time.
- When shopping at the mall, take one extra fast-paced lap before you leave.
While waiting to pick up the kids from practice, wear your tennis shoes and circle the parking lot or sidewalk.
Alcohol. Be aware that alcohol depresses your central nervous system and acts as a sedative, making you tired for hours after consuming no more than only a drink or two. It may also disrupt your sleep if you drink before bed.
- Limit yourself to 1-2 drinks with a meal or dinner— at least 4 hours before bedtime.
If you’re drinking later at night, you may be more fatigued the next day. Look at your schedule in advance and plan a way to catch up on sleep if needed.