Carolers are singing, sparkling lights adorn trees, and shops are filled with bustling people searching for the perfect gift. While the holidays are an undeniably special time of year, they can also come with undeniable amounts of added errands and commitments (hello, holiday parties and family gatherings) — which can sometimes result in stress and fatigue. Don’t let this year’s festivities leave you feeling run down! Find out how to combat fatigue and stay healthy during the holiday season with our 9 simple, science-backed tips.
Tip #1: Stay active
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The benefits of regular exercise are almost too numerous to list — from helping you control your weight, to fighting heart disease and high blood pressure, to improving your mood and beyond.1 But being active also offers an immediate perk by giving you more pep — a real plus during the holiday season, when your energy levels are likely zapped by an ever-growing to-do list.
Here are some quick ways to integrate more activity into your day:
- Park farther away — Going shopping? Don’t fight the crowds trying to a get a premium parking spot — park at the back and enjoy the added steps!
- Do a few laps around the mall — If the weather outside is frightful, do a couple of laps around the mall. You’ll get some extra browsing time and extra steps!
- Do something first thing in the morning — If you start your day with just 10 minutes of physical activity — you’ll add over an hour of movement to your week! New to exercise? We’ve got you covered. Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Exercise.
Tip #2: Catch your zzz’s
If you want to fight fatigue, you need healthy amounts of sleep. That can be hard to come by around the holidays, when everything from party planning, shopping, cooking and preparing for visitors can eat up the hours in a day (and night!). But making sleep a priority — and focusing on your sleep habits — can pay off in a big way when it comes to your energy levels.
If you do find yourself feeling sluggish, a power nap might work wonders. Aim for about 20 minutes; if you go much longer, it can make you feel groggy or interfere with your nighttime sleep, the National Sleep Foundation2 reports.
Tip #3: Avoid caffeine overload
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In fact, the authors of a 2013 study7 found that consuming 400 milligrams of caffeine — often found in many 16-ounce servings of coffee — up to six hours before bedtime significantly disrupted sleep among study participants. And the closer to bedtime the caffeine was consumed, the worse the effects. The researchers therefore recommend avoiding “substantial” caffeine use for at least six hours before sleep.
To avoid relying on caffeinated beverages to get you through the holiday season, swap them out for herbal tea or water as the evening draws near. You might sleep better and feel less fatigued the next morning.
Tip #4: Keep your diet healthy
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You already know there are many reasons to eat a balanced diet, but did you know that doing so could help keep you feeling energized? According to the Cleveland Clinic,5 enjoying healthy foods — yes, even over the holidays! — may help you fight fatigue. On the other hand, eating a diet that is high in added sugars, saturated and trans fats, and processed foods could zap your energy.
While you’ll undoubtedly have some treats over the holiday season — try your best to eat healthfully most of the time. The experts at the Cleveland Clinic recommend the following to help ensure a fatigue-fighting meal plan:6
- Don’t skip breakfast. Doing so can lead to fatigue, research shows.11 It also may be bad for your waistline, as researchers at the Mayo Clinic8 found that people who ate breakfast daily gained less weight than those who didn’t eat a morning meal. Breakfast eaters also had a smaller waist circumference and less dangerous visceral (belly) fat.
- Avoid refined carbs. Cookies, pastries and candy can be delicious, but they can also have a roller coaster effect on your blood glucose levels: first the high, then the crash. Enjoy complex carbohydrates instead (here’s the difference between simple and complex carbs) — they’re a good way to keep your energy levels up. If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth without derailing your weight loss progress — check out these six low sugar dessert ideas.
- Pair a bit of protein with your snacks. Not only does protein help you to feel full by taking longer to absorb and digest than simple carbohydrates, but it also helps slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream when paired with a carbohydrate-rich food. Nonfat plain Greek yogurt paired with berries, a tablespoon of nut butter or low-fat cottage cheese paired with an apple are all good choices.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals and snacks throughout your day. Doing so helps keep your energy levels more stable and could help you to avoid sugar crashes.
Tip #5: Avoid alcohol
Not only can alcohol hinder weight loss, but it can also interfere with your sleep and sap your energy levels. The sedative effects of alcohol can make you fall asleep quickly, but several hours later, you’re likely to experience disrupted sleep, according to Harvard Medical School.9
Going to a holiday party and want to avoid alcohol? Try these five alcohol alternatives to stay on track with your goals this season. Or, trade your holiday cocktail and midnight champagne for a healthier bubbly drink: fruit-infused water. Cheers!
Tip #6: Get enough fluids
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If you’re not feeling full of holiday spirit, try drinking a glass of water: It’s important to stay hydrated — not only for your overall health, but also because dehydration can cause fatigue and low energy.10 An easy rule of thumb is to watch the color of your urine: It should be pale yellow. If it is dark or strong smelling, it can be a sign that you’re not getting enough liquids.
The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine11 says that different foods and beverages can also contribute to your overall intake. (Check out the best foods for hydration). A general rule of thumb is to aim for at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Your water intake also depends on several other things — like your activity level and the climate that you live in. Always listen to your body and drink when you’re feeling thirsty!
Tip #7: Watch your portion sizes
It can be oh-so-hard to watch your serving sizes when you’re treated to a full holiday meal only once or twice a year, but eating too much can not only leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable — it can also send you into a “food coma,” causing you to feel exhausted and devoid of energy.
Before you sit down to a holiday meal, come up with a game plan to keep you from overfilling your plate. These healthy holiday tips can help you to stay on track! If you do happen to overindulge, don’t worry — it happens. Use these tips to bounce back after overeating.
Tip #8: Turn on some tunes
Feeling low on energy? Sleepy? Tired? Turn on some lively music! Not only can your favorite tunes help with a stress-induced low mood, but they could also boost your energy.12
Tip #9: Take steps to reduce your stress
Stress is an energy-zapper, and unfortunately, the holidays tend to come with their own unique stressors. Try these tips to help keep your stress in check:
- Plan ahead. Figure out when you’ll go shopping, when (or if) you’ll do your holiday baking, which parties you’ll go to, etc. Planning activities in advance can help you from adding non-essential activities to your holiday list.
- Let loose. It’s hard to feel stressed when you’re having fun, so try being a kid for an hour or two. Play a board game, engage in a rousing game of tag with your children, chase your dog around the yard — do something that makes you smile.
- Take a break from the madness. Stressed out after a hectic day of shopping? Do what you need to get centered again: Take a bath, listen to soothing music, step outside and look at the stars … and, most importantly, just breathe.
We hope we’ve given you some tips you can use — starting today — to give yourself more energy, more clarity and more joy during this holiday season. And who knows: Maybe they can even translate to other times of the year, too!
Did you know eating the right kinds of foods can give you more energy? Jenny Craig’s menu plans are designed by a team of registered dietitians and nutritionists to support weight loss and a healthy lifestyle. Find the menu plan that fits your lifestyle and get started today.
Carole is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California who specializes in health and wellness topics. Her work has appeared in Parents, Fit Pregnancy, Mom & Baby, Yahoo News, Viv magazine and Lifescript. She's won several national awards for her work including a National Science Award and two National Health Information awards. A frequent contributor to Jenny Craig’s Blog, Healthy Habits, she enjoys gardening, spending time at the beach and adopting far too many rescue animals in her spare time.
Favorite healthy snack: jicama dipped in homemade hummus
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
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Edited by Stephanie E - Jenny Craig