The holidays are a time that many people look forward to all year, but they can also be stressful. It is easy to overextend yourself with parties, travel, and shopping. But overscheduling during the holidays can put a damper on your self-care routine. You may find yourself with less time to fit in physical activity, prepare healthy meals, and maintain a restful sleep schedule. Letting these poor health habits take over can be challenging for anyone, especially for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Regular sleep, exercise, and healthy foods are essential to help manage your PCOS symptoms. This article discusses how to manage your PCOS during the holidays and stay on track for the new year.
Get enough sleep.
Adequate sleep is essential to help manage your PCOS symptoms. A healthy sleep schedule can help support mental health, healthy hormone levels, healthy weight, and more. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends at least seven hours of sleep per night for most adults. But the stress of commitments during the holidays can make it difficult to get enough sleep, and seven hours may seem like a lofty goal. Consider cutting back on certain holiday activities and commitments to make sure you’re well-rested and feeling your best for the holiday moments that you cherish the most.
Here are some ways to help you handle the holiday rush and maintain your sleep schedule.
- Plan in advance for family get-togethers. Family is an important part of the holiday season for many, but hosting relatives during the holidays or bouncing between multiple family parties can be stressful. Write down your family commitments on a calendar, so you’re well-prepared, and consider setting boundaries, so you don’t overbook yourself during the holiday season.
- Use aromatherapy to relax at night before bed. Scents like chamomile, lavender, and sandalwood are calming and helpful for setting the stage for sleep.
- Meditate for 10-15 minutes before jumping into bed. Adding this practice into your bedtime routine can help ease you into a night of restful sleep. Headspace is one app that can help guide you through meditation.
- Wrap and label gifts as soon as you get them. Unlike Santa, you probably don’t have a house full of elves to wrap your gifts and stack them neatly under the tree. Waiting until the last minute to wrap gifts can add a huge task to your to-do list – make it more manageable by wrapping as you go.
Exercise during the holidays.
Let’s face it: for many families, the holidays can involve a lot of sitting around talking, eating, and eating some more. However, exercise is essential for women with PCOS to help support healthy blood sugar and energy levels.
Here are some ideas to help prevent the holidays from derailing your exercise habits:
- While out shopping, fit in your cardio by taking some extra laps around the mall.
- Plan a group walk when visiting friends or relatives. This can help you connect with your loved ones while getting in a few steps. You don’t have to go far, and you can circle back to the house for those who don’t want to walk for very long.
- If you’re traveling, check out nearby gyms for daily rates. Some national gyms even allow you to work out for free at any gym in the franchise.
- Bring along a set of resistance bands and look up some exercises that you can do anywhere.
Stick to a regular meal plan.
There are special foods you only get a chance to taste during the holidays. Maybe it’s your aunt’s sweet potato pie, the sugar cookies from your neighbors, or the green bean casserole with those crispy fried onions on top that your grandmother makes. Don’t worry. With some planning, you can still include all of your favorite holiday treats.
Allow yourself to have a small serving of these special foods, and don’t skip meals to fit them in. Make sure you have sweet treats with a well-balanced meal, including some protein and fat, to help support stable blood sugar levels. Indulging in your holiday favorites can help you celebrate without feeling deprived.
If you’re traveling or out running errands, you might not find what you usually eat at a rest stop or a fast-food restaurant. Check out tips for making healthy food choices when you’re on the go:
- Make smart swaps at fast food restaurants. Choose grilled options instead of fried, opt for a small size instead of a large, swap fries for a side salad or fruit, and choose zero-calorie beverages instead of soda. Most restaurants offer nutrition information on their menu or online. Check out their website before you go to help guide your food choices.
- Many rest stops have a la carte items. You may be able to find veggies and hummus, a fresh fruit bowl, a stick of string cheese, or a small bag of nuts. You can easily create a healthy snack or small meal for yourself by pairing together some of these foods.
- Pack some shelf-stable snacks from home, such as nuts and fruit.
Drink responsibly to help manage your PCOS.
At holiday parties, alcohol may be flowing freely. It’s important to make smart drinking decisions to help manage your PCOS.
Four ounces of wine supplies about 95 calories. Alcohol can fuel appetite, which can lead to overeating, so limit yourself to one 4-ounce glass.
Some may suggest red wine because it contains small amounts of resveratrol, an antioxidant found in the skins of grapes, berries, and red wine. Research suggests that resveratrol may be beneficial for women with PCOS, but you’d have to drink two liters of wine to reach the amount used in studies. That’s a lot of wine. You’re better off sticking to one standard five-ounce glass of wine to avoid over-indulgence.
If you prefer cocktails, think about your mixers. Sugar-laden beverages can make it more difficult to maintain a healthy blood sugar, especially on an empty stomach.
Depending on how you make your cocktail and its size, the sugar content of some of your favorite drinks may surprise you. A mojito may have 23 grams of sugar, a Long Island iced tea could have 33 grams, and a margarita can pack 55 grams.
Manage holiday blues and depression.
If you find that you’re feeling blue around the holidays, you are not alone. Financial struggles, entertaining out-of-town guests, and forced social interactions can be stressors during this time and affect your mental health.
As many as 40% of women with PCOS have depression. If you’re feeling more tired than usual despite getting adequate sleep, having difficulty with simple activities, having trouble concentrating, or losing interest in activities that used to be enjoyable, you could be experiencing holiday-induced depression. If you’ve struggled with depression in the past or if your symptoms extend into January, seek care from your healthcare professional right away.
The holidays are supposed to be magical and full of childlike wonder. Try to savor the holiday spirit, and make sure you set aside time for yourself for the things that bring you joy. Take time to listen to your favorite holiday music, watch your favorite seasonal movies, and do whatever makes you happy. Maintaining your regular health habits can help you stay healthy throughout the holiday season, allowing you to connect with your loved ones and make cherished memories.
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