It’s not just the batteries that run down this time of year
Is it only mid-December? Between the gifts, gatherings, and endless little tasks, you’re already exhausted.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents to an American Psychological Association survey said they sometimes, or often, felt fatigued during the holidays, even though they found it to be a happy, joyful time.
“And as we get older, the season gets more tiring,” says Elaine Rodino, Ph.D, a psychologist in State College, Penn.
Use these tips to help you power through the New Year. Party on!
What’s better than a holiday party? Nothing. What’s better than your fifth holiday party in 10 days? Just about everything.
“The thing that gets to people is that feeling of obligation that you mustdo things—you have to make other people happy,” says Rodino.
To keep from draining yourself physically and emotionally, learn to prioritize. Choose the events that are the most fun, and perhaps those you feel most obligated to attend, and graciously decline the rest.
Annual customs with family and friends—gift exchanges, reunions, parties—are well worth the time and effort spent. They’re also an energy drain.
So throw the party, but try swapping some of the work-intensive aspects for newer, more relaxing rituals. You might turn a big dinners into a potluck, for example, or choose a family gift theme such as books or food, in order to limit the time you spend researching items.
And don’t stress about judgment from your loved ones. “People get so stuck in thinking it has to be the way the previous generation did it,” says Rodino. “We should embrace evolution.”
Try to lock out a few hours and use the time to recharge. It’s time well spent: Studies show that breaks prevent “decision fatigue,” a psychological phenomenon where making too many choices depletes your mental energy, leading to increasingly poorer decisions.
Even if you can’t dedicate a big chunk of time, you can actually reduce your stress level in as little as five minutes, if you do it properly: The practice of mindfulness, a type of meditation, involves bringing your attention to the present and connecting to your emotions.
Go out by day, conk out at night
Don’t have time to work out? No problem. There are plenty of ways to sneak fitness in, even during the holidays.
“Take the dogs for a walk, or walk the mall,” suggests Lauri Wright, Ph.D, RDN, LD, an assistant professor at the University of South Florida and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Getting outdoor exercise supplies extra doses of mood-enhancing sunlight and vitamin D, too.
At the other end of the day, a good night’s sleep replenishes energy and helps restore your immune system. Shorting yourself does the opposite—it makes you sluggish and more susceptible to overeating and illness.
To get to bed faster and stay asleep longer, keep your room quiet and set the thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees. Turn off your phone at least 30 minutes before lying down.
And when possible, limit your alcohol and caffeine intake. Alcohol is a depressant, which saps your energy. Both disrupt sleep, adding to fatigue.
Keep eating. Really.
You overdid it at the party last night, so you decide to cut back and skip breakfast and lunch the next day.
“This is the worst thing to do,” says Wright. You’ll feel listless—and also set yourself up to overeat at the next meal.
Instead, keep to regularly scheduled meals—as well as snacks!—that rely on whole grains, lean proteins like shrimp and chicken breast, nuts, and yogurt. Wash them down with water—dehydration is an energy-zapper, too.
Then go ahead, have a few Christmas cookies.