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Inhale. It means to breathe in. Slow or controlled breathing is often used to reduce heart rate, calm emotions, and lower stress. This controlled breathing technique has been around thousands of years in yoga, meditation, and other health practices. I saw this advice recently reminding me to inhale during this holiday season, and I loved it.

When I saw the admonition to inhale, I took it as a reminder to take it all in. That is the inhale; be purposeful in choosing what to take in and what to pass on. Our holiday schedule looked extra hectic this year with one daughter dancing in a professional nutcracker production, a new college student rejoining our family for her extended break, travel for work and a visit from my parents. I knew with all this I had to be extra careful about what I inhaled.

Taking that same definition of inhaling and applying it to our holiday busyness can be difficult. We are often rushing from event to event, and tackling a never-ending list of holiday fun. Advice is always easier to give than take in and follow. Several friends shared with me what they do to inhale the holidays. These can be simple, such as:

Spending a quiet morning before everyone is up, enjoying coffee and the Christmas tree and remembering why we celebrate the holiday. ~ Sarah

Making an effort to turn off the TV and put away phones so that family time can be enjoyed. ~ Amanda R.

Spending some quiet time and making sure to get quality sleep. ~ Jessica

Making an effort to start each day with an intention and not rushing out the door. ~ Amanda W.

Admiring a Christmas tree in the darkness and taking a moment to be grateful. ~ Lorrissa

Taking a few minutes after work to take some deep breaths, and reflect and center before joining family and evening activities. ~ Amanda B.

Other ideas included some simple planning to emphasize the events and traditions that matter most, such as:

Making a December bucket list of the most important activities and traditions and hanging it up for the family to see. This makes it easy to say, “This isn’t a priority for us” when things come up. ~ Becky

Make an effort and a plan to focus on small acts of kindness and simple holiday experiences.  Leaving treats for a mail carrier, dancing to Christmas music, or driving around to look at lights, have these things planned out so they can be included and enjoyed. ~ Amber

Besides having a plan and making simple changes, prioritizing and self-care can help with your holiday inhale. Other ways to inhale include:

Reflect on what is important to your holiday celebrations. Realize that this may change over time. Thinking about what is most important will help you to be intentional when choosing how and who to spend your time with. It is hard to make your holiday meaningful if you don’t decide before the rush starts what gives it meaning.

Ask for help. Let your family know how they can support or help with holiday tasks and plans. Accept their offers to contribute. This will help involve them, as well as lighten your workload. This can also be a way to share traditions or teach skills with children and other family members.

Keep in mind the holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint. In other words, pace yourself. If adding an extra party or gift to your schedule causes you stress, then don’t. The parties, events, gifts that you do choose to participate in- inhale! Be present as you experience and participate in them.

Take care of yourself. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Extra social gatherings can be fun, but do not compromise your physical, mental or financial wellness by doing too much. Acknowledge that you cannot do everything for everyone. Practice saying “no” without guilt.

Do not throw out your routine. Do your best to make healthy food choices, relax, exercise and get plenty of sleep. Sticking to your routines will help with your endurance and patience as you manage the holiday.

Most importantly, whatever you do this holiday season, enjoy the inhale!

Writer: Alisha Barton, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County, barton.345@osu.edu

Reviewers: Lorrissa Dunfee, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Belmont County, Dunfee.54@osu.edu

Sources:

LifeCare Inc. (2011). Managing Holiday Stress. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.wfm.noaa.gov/pdfs/Conquering_Stress_Handout_1.pdf

Butanis, B. (2014, June 9). Ten Tips for Enjoying the Holidays. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/stories/ten_tips_for_enjoying_holidays.html.

Keep it Real This Season. (2019, December 4). Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/12/05/keep-it-real-this-season/.

LifeCare Inc. (2011). Managing Holiday Stress. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.wfm.noaa.gov/pdfs/Conquering_Stress_Handout_1.pdf

Russo, M. A., Santarelli, D. M., & O’Rourke, D. (2017, December 1). The physiological effects of slow breathing in the healthy human. Retrieved from https://breathe.ersjournals.com/content/13/4/298.

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Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate your blessings and is often centered on a feast with family and friends.  Thanksgiving dinner usually features traditional dishes such as turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, yams, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, rolls and homemade pies. This can easily add up to 3000 calories!  Your Thanksgiving dinner can be healthy and help you avoid putting on extra pounds with just a few modifications.

Here are some tips for preparing a healthier meal.

  • Turkey.  Turkey is the star of the day.  Turkey is a lean protein and contains no saturated fat-unless you purchase a self-basting turkey that has been injected with butter or oil.  Avoid these and baste the turkey with low-fat, low-salt broth, wine or juice.  Avoid rubbing the bird with butter before roasting.  Try heart-healthy olive oil, chopped fresh herbs and garlic for a healthy delicious option. If you roast a turkey without overcooking, it won’t dry out.
  • Mashed Potatoes.  Instead of using whole milk in mashed potatoes, use skim milk.  Save yourself some time and leave the skins on the potatoes.  This provides extra fiber and potassium.
  • Stuffing.  Switch from white bread to whole-wheat bread for the benefits of whole grains.  Many traditional stuffing recipes call for butter.  Use low sodium chicken broth instead to keep it moist without the added fat or calories.  Add flavor with fresh herbs and vegetables, such as carrots, celery and onions.  Adding dried fruit is another delicious option.
  • Green Beans.  Use fresh or frozen green beans and skip the cream of mushroom soup and french fried onions.  Other vegetable options may include brussel sprouts, broccoli or asparagus.  Lightly steam these vegetables and top with a sprinkle of fresh lemon zest!
  • Sweet potatoes.  Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet, so we can eliminate the brown sugar and marshmallows and add maple syrup or honey during the baking process to enjoy their great flavor.
  • Cranberries.  Forgo the cranberry sauce and use fresh cranberries either in a cranberry relish with half the sugar, fresh oranges and orange juice.  Or add fresh cranberries to a salad for a great antioxidant loaded dish.
  • Gravy.  The key to great tasting gravy is using all the drippings from the roasting pan with the fat skimmed off.  This provides plenty of flavors without adding fat or calories.  Skip added butter, which adds up in calories and fat.
  • Squash.  Cut squash in bite-sized cubes, toss with a small amount of olive oil and fresh herbs and spread evenly on a baking sheet.  Roast until softened.

 

Drink plenty of water, take reasonable portions and enjoy a walk with friends and family after dinner.  The holidays are a great time for celebrating with family and friends, and with some small changes to the way you prepare your feast, you can keep off the extra pounds and still enjoy all the season has to offer!  Happy Holidays!

Written by:  Beth Stefura, M Ed, RD, LD.  Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County.  stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County.  rabe.9@osu.edu

Sources:  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442460011

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