Checklist to thriving through the holiday season

By: Drake WellbeingHub

  • Focus on your relationships
  • Engage in regular social activities
  • Exercise your brain
  • Spend time in nature
  • Commit to regular mindfulness practice
  • Follow a healthy diet
  • Commit to daily physical activity
  • Look after your heart
  • Commit to worrying less

Focus on your relationships

People who are in a healthy relationship talk to each other regularly and listen to each other too. There are endless benefits of being in a healthy relationship, on the mind, body and soul. Research has found that ineffective interactional processes between intimate partners are associated with distress, negative feelings, and dissolution in the relationship.

To encourage more open communication in your relationship it is suggested to:

  • Set aside time to speak to each other, without interruptions
  • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes
  • Don’t rely on the other person to guess what is going on, or how you are feeling
  • Listen to each other, and make sure the other person knows you are listening to them
  • Let the other person finish what they are saying
  • Talk about things honestly and respectfully
  • Try not to be too defensive
  • Stay calm and try not to attack

Reference. Health Direct (2019). https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/building-healthy-relationships

A study that examined avoidance and relationship-related conflict with 365 couples found that highly avoidant spouses tended to display negative behaviour during conflict, and were more likely to communicate negatively if their partner showed negative communication.

The authors also found that unhappy couples fail to repair their communication whereas relatively happy couples discuss their differences and work towards a resolution, Kuster et al (2015).

Engage in regular social activities

After spending many months in lockdown, many of us have become accustomed to being alone. Getting back into the rhythm of socialising and being around others can be challenging and may take some time to feel ‘normal’ again. It is, however, important to ease yourselves back into it.

Socialisation is fundamental to our mental health, self-esteem, confidence, quality of life, brain health and provides us with purpose. Particularly during the holiday season where you’re generally not distracted by work, it is an optimal time to engage and participate in social activities and connect with others.

Exercise your brain

Mentally challenging your brain with new activities helps build new brain cells and strengthens the connections between them. This enhances the brain’s capacity to cope better and keep working optimally if other brain cells die.

The brain benefits by having to do something new like learning a new skill or language, taking a different route to work, participating in a new sport, brushing your teeth with the other hand, or solving a new problem. It can be anything, as long as it’s challenging and requires learning.

Reference. Dementia Australia (2019) https://yourbrainmatters.org.au/5-simple-steps

Research has found that higher levels of mental activity throughout life are related to healthy brain function and reduced risk of cognitive decline.

Let’s try some problem-solving tasks to exercise your brain!

Here is a brain exercise:

What’s constantly coming but never actually arrives?

Answer is revealed upside down


Reference. Dementia Australia (2019); Packiam (2011)

Spend time in nature

In our fast-paced world, spending time in nature may be just what you need to slow down, take a breather and reset. According to scientific research, spending time in nature can improve short-term memory, concentration and creativity, reduce stress, restore energy levels, improve mental health and bolster the immune system.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to find time over the festive season to immerse yourself in nature, whether going on a holiday, visiting a place in the country, going hiking or simply walking through a park!

Commit to regular mindfulness practice

Mindfulness practice is a great way to ground yourselves in the present moment. Much of our core anxieties stem from the past or the future. You may feel depressed about past events or anxious about the future, and learning to be more present can rid you of these worries and help you to enjoy your life right here and now.

According to a study by Harvard University, mindfulness can reduce stress, relieve depression and anxiety, lower blood pressure, reduce pain, improve sleep and even improve the ability to form deeper connections with others, among other health benefits.

To engage in mindfulness practice, follow these simple steps:

  1. Find a quiet, uncluttered space.
  2. Establish a duration - 3-5 minutes is a great place to start. Use a timer so that you know exactly when to stop and don’t get distracted thinking about it.
  3. Find a comfortable position - best to be sitting rather than lying down, you don’t want to fall asleep!
  4. Close your eyes and try to focus on your breath and the sensation of air asit flows in and out of your body. If your mind strays, which is completely normal and expected, bring it back to your breath. Observe your thoughts, feelings and sensations and enjoy being in the present moment..

Follow a healthy diet

It is important to nourish your body throughout the year. Understandably, over the festive season it can be a little more tricky sticking to a healthy and balanced diet, but it can be done! A few tips to follow:

  • Eat regular meals. This will stabilise your blood-sugars and ensure you’re always satisfied so that you don’t splurge out of starvation.
  • Consume 2L water per day. Clinical studies have shown that 37% of people mistake hunger for thirst because thirst signals can be weak, so be sure to keep yourself hydrated.
  • Consume a balanced diet of fats, carbohydrates and fats from a variety of different food sources. Food diversity is of great importance to your overall health too.
  • Select foods low in trans fats and saturated fats.
  • Minimise your salt intake, where possible. Slow elimination of salt from your diet is preferable as it will allow your taste buds to adjust and ensure that you continue enjoying your food throughout the process. You should aim for 6g/day which is approximately one teaspoon.

Commit to daily physical activity

This sounds like a big commitment, but it doesn’t have to be. Physical activity can be anything from rigorous gym workouts, to a run or light stroll along the beach, pilates or yoga practice or a swim in the ocean. The point is, you do not have to exert yourselves to exhaustion but rather get your body moving, which in turn will clear the mind, get your blood pumping throughout your body, improve your metabolic rate, and so much more!

Look after your heart

The heart is the centre of your cardiovascular system - it is responsible for circulating oxygen and nutrient-rich blood throughout the body. It is vitally responsible for just about everything that gives your body life!

One sure way to maintain your heart health is to consume a healthy-heart diet (we talk more about this later on). Other ways include:

  1. Give up smoking
  2. Manage your weight
  3. Get active (more about this next)
  4. Cut down saturated fat
  5. Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day
  6. Eat fish
  7. Drink less alcohol
  8. Read the food labels

Commit to worrying less

Many people suffer from excessive worrying, which can have a significant impact on both physical and mental wellbeing. It can cause you to feel more stressed, anxious, irritable, and also disrupt sleep, concentration levels and decision making ability. If you find that your worries are becoming a big part of everyday life, set aside15 minutes each morning to work through your greatest worries and commit to then setting them aside for the remainder of the day. Try to focus on those things that you can control, rather than those that you cannot. Try jotting down your worries. You may find it helpful to create a table with two columns (1) things you can control and (2) things you can’t control. Focus on column (1) and write a list of action items to help you tackle those worries that you can control. Creating this action plan will help you to take charge, leading to less worry of the unknown.

This checklist offers you some great strategies to engage in this holiday season in order to prioritise your health and wellbeing and help you to get the most out of the holiday period. It is a time of celebration and festivities, but it can equally be a time to put you first, get your health and wellbeing on track, and start the new year on the right foot!

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