The holidays are a time that many people look forward to all year, but they can be stressful for some. It is easy to overextend your time with parties, travel, and shopping. Overscheduling during the holidays can lead to skipping workouts, unhealthy food choices, and sleep deprivation. Letting these poor health habits take over can be tough for anyone, but especially for women with PCOS. Regular sleep, exercise, and healthy foods are essential to help manage your PCOS symptoms. In this article, we outline how to manage your PCOS during the holidays.
Get enough sleep.
Adequate sleep is essential to help manage your PCOS symptoms. The stress of commitments during the holidays can make it very difficult to stick to a regular sleep schedule, and when you’re sleep deprived, you’re more likely to be stressed. Start the holiday season of right by saying “no” to non-essential activities so that you have time for sleep.
Here are some more ways to carve out enough time for yourself to get everything done and sleep well too.
- Plan in advance for family get-togethers. For some seeing relatives during the holidays can be stressful and can keep you up at night. Have a plan ready in advance for how to handle the situation. For example, change the subject in a conversation that starts to go off the rails. Only talk about neutral topics. Plan outings when visiting such as going ice skating or to a holiday movie. That way, you’re not spending all day sitting around which sometimes can be a lead into conflicts developing.
- Use aromatherapy to relax at night before bed. The scents 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. Trying to wrap a pile of gifts as the holiday approaches is not fun, and can keep you up at night.
Exercise during the holidays.
Let’s face it, for many families, the holidays can involve much sitting around talking, eating, and eating some more. However, exercise is essential for women with PCOS to help improve insulin resistance and also to keep you energized.
Here are some ideas to help prevent the holidays from derailing your exercise habits:
- While out shopping you can 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 while having fun and steering clear of the cookie tray. You don’t have to go far. Furthermore, 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 get a chance to taste only 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 pre-planning, you can still eat these special foods.
Allow yourself to have a small serving of these special foods. Do not skip meals to fit them in. Since these foods may cause a spike in blood sugar, have them with a full, well-balanced meal including some protein and fat to help keep your blood sugar levels stable. Indulging in treats can help you celebrate the holidays 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. However, you can still make healthful choices. Although the scent of a Cinnabon might be enticing, here are some tips for making healthy decisions when you are out that are tasty and filling:
- Choose grilled chicken, a small cup of chili or a small hamburger and add a side salad if at a fast food restaurant. Skip the fried food. Check out fast food restaurant nutrition information online. A good ballpark is not to exceed 500 calories per meal.
- 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 meal for yourself by pairing together some of these foods.
- Keep some portable snacks with you, such as nuts and fruit.
Drink responsibly to help manage your PCOS.
At holiday parties alcohol will be flowing freely. One of the best choices you can make when choosing a drink is red wine since it has small amounts of resveratrol, which has antioxidant properties that may benefit women with 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.
If you’re thinking of having a sugary cocktail, think again. Sugar can be problematic for women with PCOS since it can spike insulin levels which, over the long term, increase your risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Depending on how you make these drinks and the size of the drink, the sugar content of some of your favorite cocktails 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. Lack of money for gifts, entertaining out-of-town guests, and forced social interactions can be stressors during this time and cause you to feel sad.
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.
Finally, the advice included here about avoiding too much alcohol, getting enough sleep and planning balanced meals to incorporate some favorite holiday treats can be very helpful to keep your mood stable and your energy up during this busy time.
The holidays are supposed to be joyful, so take control of your time and do the things that bring you joy. Savor the holiday spirit and set aside time for yourself. Take time to listen to your favorite music, watch your favorite shows and do whatever makes you happy. Making time for yourself and maintaining your regular health habits can help you focus on the spirit of the holiday and truly enjoy this time.
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