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NWI health coach: Maintaining sleep, diet, other routines will keep your days merry and bright
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NWI health coach: Maintaining sleep, diet, other routines will keep your days merry and bright

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It's the most wonderful time of the year — except for the stress, chaos, and  extremely full calendar.

It’s easy to get caught up in the line, “I don’t have time to (fill in the blank).” Maintaining as normal a routine as possible is the secret to fully enjoying the celebrations and moving into the new year with gusto.

If you’re caving under the pressure of the season, take a moment to regroup and make a plan.

Sleep. During times of increased stress, sleep is one of the first essentials to go. Some folks believe that there is honor in minimizing the hours their body is in recharge and restore mode. There is not. Sleep is nature’s tonic, acting like a good shampoo in removing toxins from your brain.

Getting 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep a night improves your ability to lose weight, reduces the amount of disease-causing inflammation in the body, increases your creativity, aids in proper gut health, and improves metabolism and cognitive function. Oh, and you’ll probably be more fun to be around.

To improve sleep quality, establish a consistent bedtime and wakeup time and stick to it the best you can. Avoid eating a heavy meal and consuming alcohol late in the evening. Relax with a warm bath or shower. Jot down all the “to do” list items for the next day before your head hits the pillow.

Eat. We're talking fruits and vegetables. Ruining your healthy eating habits leads to weight gain, opportunity for disease, winter illnesses, and nutritional deficiencies that zap your energy. Include these, even when you’re on the go. Not only will you increase your fiber and nutritional intake, you’ll also have less room for empty treats.

And don’t fall into the trap of not eating before a party to save the calories. This only leads to trouble. Maintain energy throughout your day by drinking  water and eating balanced, and perhaps smaller, meals. This will keep you from overeating later on.

Plan physical activity — even chores. When you take your walk, run, or visit to the gym, the stress from everything you have to do will subside. You’ll feel better and you’ll be able to tackle tasks with a fresh perspective.

With all the decorating, shopping, wrapping, baking, and card writing, finding time to do the everyday activities such as laundry, grocery shopping, and cooking, may seem daunting. Plan to do most of your errands on one day, so you don’t feel like you’re always on the go. If possible, do them earlier or later in the day to avoid heavy traffic. Pace yourself. Invite family members to help.

Cook. When you do, make extra for another meal. Rotisserie chickens are ideal for packed days. Make a big batch of soup, stew, or chili on the weekend for later in the week. When my best plans fall apart, I make hamburgers and add a salad. Keep quick meal ingredients on hand, so dinner can happen in 30 minutes or less.

Enjoy your family and friends. If your seasonal gatherings are reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell card, yet you’re drained, it’s hardly worth it. Let perfectionism go. Maintaining even a few of your routines will make you happier and healthier.

Carol Slager is a licensed pharmacist, author, blogger and health coach in Northwest Indiana. Follow her monthly in Get Healthy and at inkwellcoaching.com.

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