All is Calm-ish and Bright — Tips for a happier, healthier holiday season.

The holidays focus on faith, family and fun. Which can make it hard to focus on yourself. Most household duties and magic-making activities are handled by women, says Dr. Heidi Braun, an OBGYN at the Short Pump office of Virginia Women’s Center. “I know how easy it is to get overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the season, so I try to remind myself to be thankful for the people in my life and the quality time we get to spend together during the holidays. At this time of year, I also reflect on how grateful I am to know and care for so many women. Over the years, we’ve exchanged ways to not only survive but thrive during this busy time! Here’s “our” list of tips for a happier, healthier holiday season.”  

  1. Ask for help. Sit down as a family and decide how each person will help, whether that means baking, decorating, addressing holiday cards, or shopping. Put every event—whether it’s the kids’ visit with Santa or your own office party—on the calendar. This discipline will help you spot conflicts, make choices and avoid burnout. Don’t forget to include family traditions. If your grandmother expects you to go caroling with her, it needs to be on the calendar.
  2. Prioritize ruthlessly. Don’t do things just because you think you should. The holidays should be special, not stressful. If something feels more like an obligation than an opportunity to spark joy, skip it. We know someone who once opted out of a child’s holiday school performance saying they had a family obligation. The obligation? Snuggling on the couch and watching “Elf.”
  3. Skip the gym. If time is an issue, skip the drive back and forth to the gym, but not the exercise. Fitness Blender, Yoga with Adriene, Psyche Yoga, Caroline Girvan, and Jessica Smith all offer fabulous, free, at-home exercise options that will save you time and money during this busy, expensive season. 
  4. Plan meals. It’s tempting to treat every get-together like an all-you-can-eat buffet, but sugar cookies and cheese straws aren’t what your body needs. Eat a healthy, protein-rich meal before going to a party and then mindfully choose a treat or two to enjoy while you celebrate with friends. 
  5. Carve out quiet. Use a free meditation app such as Calm, Aura or Headspace to center yourself before a stressful visit with the in-laws or your partner’s company holiday party. any women find that they sleep better and stress eat less when they meditate.
  6. Multi-task. Anxious to catch up with your visiting sister-in-law but desperate for a workout? Invite your sister-in-law for a long walk. Want to spend time with the cousins but also need to squeeze in a workout? Do both at the same time. Plan a family football game, an outdoor scavenger hunt, or a sightseeing hike.
  7. Use the buddy system. Promise a friend you’ll meet her for yoga before work. Tell your date you’re only going to have two drinks at the New Year’s party. Sharing your intentions and saying these things out loud makes you more likely to keep your promises. 
  8. Embrace traditions. Whether it’s Christmas Eve service or Shabbat Hannukah, an ornament exchange with friends, or baking cookies with grandparents, meaningful traditions are good for your mental health. Don’t have any holiday traditions? Start some new ones (see #6).
  9. Count up, not down. It’s all too easy to view the holidays as a balsam-fueled bacchanal that comes to a screeching halt on January 1. Instead of cutting loose for all of December, use this month to get a head start on next year’s healthy habits. How many days in a row can you eat healthily, prioritize self-care or get 30 minutes of physical activity before you ring in the new year?
  10. Volunteer. Get in the holiday spirit by giving your time to someone in need. Community service has a number of health benefits, from lowering stress and boosting self-confidence to reducing the risk of depression. Follow @HandsOnRVA on social media for opportunities to make a difference in your community. There are even projects you can do at home on your own schedule. 
  11. Give yourself the gift of health. If you’re like many women, your annual wellness visit is the only time you take out of your hectic schedule to see a doctor. So, if you’re due or overdue, schedule your annual well-woman appointment as the ultimate act of self-care.  Then, make the most out of it. Be honest and open so that they can help keep you healthy, catch problems early, start treatment and prevent long-term issues.
  12. Put yourself in the picture. Literally and figuratively. Too often, women opt out of family photos. Don’t. You will only experience this holiday season once in your life. Even if there are some less-than-magical moments, memories of those tend to fade away as time goes by. And, one day, you’ll want to look back and remember the faces of loved ones along with the laughter, hugs, and tears. 
  13. Be grateful. During this gentle season, enjoy life’s simple blessings and the beauty of each quiet moment.  If you have a faith tradition, let it guide your moments and priorities.

Dr. Heidi Braun is a much-loved OBGYN and practices at our VWC Short Pump location. When she’s not caring for women in the office, Dr. Braun spends as much time as she can with her husband and two daughters—especially during the holidays.