Healthy Habits Unlocked: How to Stay on Track of Your Health this Holiday Season
Written by: Rebecca Eaton
Time to read 8 min
There’s no denying that the holiday season can be an incredibly joyous and exciting time for many. With more drinks flowing and a seemingly never-ending supply of delicious food on offer, it can be easy to lose sight of our health goals.
Unfortunately, what’s happening to our bodies internally — whether it be nutrition or stress — is written all over our skin. If we don’t provide our body with the proper nutrients, hydration, and mindset, our skin will be the first physical sign that it’s time to make changes. The take-home message: our skin doesn’t lie.
If you struggle to navigate this period healthily and are seeking simple tips to approach the festivities with a health-first mindset, you’re in the right place. Keep reading to learn more about the connection between nutrition, mindset, and skin health and how you can make the most of the festivities without undoing the hard work you’ve put into achieving radiant skin. Let's get started on our go-to healthy habits to thrive this holiday season!
First things first, how does nutrition and stress impact skin health?
Skin health isn’t just about what you put on your body; it’s about what you put in it and how you take care of yourself. The bottom line is that unhealthy lifestyle habits and a poor mindset can significantly impact your skin’s health. As your body’s largest organ, it is often the first to show internal imbalances. Let’s have a closer look at how they may impact your skin:
Inflammation – Consuming a diet rich in processed foods, sugary snacks, and unhealthy fats makes your body more susceptible to inflammation. Prolonged inflammation may present itself as acne or eczema.
Puffy Eyes – You know those delicious extra-salty foods we all know and love? Unfortunately, they can wreak havoc on your eyes. Heavily processed and salty foods can result in water retention, which plays a large role in causing puffiness under our eyes.
Premature Ageing & Wrinkles — Consuming a diet high in processed foods is known to cause inflammation in the body. Unfortunately, this can disrupt the bacteria in our gut, negatively affect our immune system, and lead to chronic inflammation. When looking at skin health, ongoing inflammation and irritation can release agents that result in inflammatory damage, interfering with the skin’s structural components (i.e., collagen and elastin). What does this mean? Early signs of ageing.
Poor Skin Nutrients — What we feed our body is crucial in hindering or progressing our skin’s appearance and functionality. Suppose you aren’t consuming nutrient-dense foods, such as those containing Vitamins A, C and E and omega-3 fatty acids. In that case, you may find that your skin cannot function optimally (i.e., produce collagen, repair wounds and skin damage, protect you against pollutants, etc.).
Dehydration — As we know, not consuming an adequate water supply will cause dehydration. Dehydrated skin is often characterised by dry, flaky skin, making you more susceptible to wrinkles and the signs of premature ageing due to a lack of skin elasticity.
Similarly to nutrition’s effect on the skin, stress can also negatively impact the look and functionality of your body’s biggest organ. Consider the following:
Acne Breakouts — When you’re stressed or anxious for a prolonged period, your body releases more cortisol. When stressed, a flood of adrenaline and cortisol is sent from your brain to your body, increasing your heart rate and blood flow to your organs — a vital reaction when entering fight or flight mode. With more cortisol rushing through your body, you’ll likely experience an increase in corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). CRH is suggested to increase oil production in your sebaceous glands, which, when excessive, can clog your pores and result in acne. However, the link between stress and acne isn’t yet conclusive, so we always recommend doing your own research.
Skin Dryness — Your stratum corneum — your skin’s outer layer — consists of protein and lipids, which are fundamental in hydrating your skin cells and protecting the skin underneath. When it isn’t functioning optimally — like during times of heightened stress — it can increase skin dryness and itchiness. Studies have shown that stress can impair the functionality of your stratum corneum’s barrier and impact your skin’s ability to retain water and protect you from unwanted, harmful microbes, resulting in unwanted dryness and compromised skin.
4 Ways to Stay on Track of Your Health this Holiday Season
1. Enjoy a balanced diet
Let’s be honest: the best part about the holiday season is the delicious food. And guess what? That’s absolutely okay! Enjoying a healthy holiday season doesn’t mean restricting your calorie intake or strictly eating broccoli… It means enjoying all of the delicious foods but in moderation.
Aim for a variety of nutrients, and be mindful of your portion sizes. Pay attention to your body’s natural hunger cues and listen to when your body feels full to avoid unnecessary eating. Enjoy the Christmas turkey and the rocky road, but be sure to also load your plate up with salads and vegetables to help fill you up and to ensure you’re receiving adequate nutrients to facilitate optimal skin and health functionality.
Simple tips to be mindful of what you’re eating:
Eat smaller portions of sugary foods (fill up on the good stuff and enjoy the extra tasty goodness in smaller amounts to satisfy the craving).
Load your plate up with salads, fruit, and veggies first — before you add the indulgent treats to your plate, be sure to add the nutrient-dense foods first.
Don’t skip protein — this macronutrient (i.e., chicken, turkey, ham, fish, etc.) will keep you fuller for longer, which may help reduce unnecessary snacking.
Don’t skip meals to save calories for later — you’ll often find yourself overindulging and eating far more than you need!
Drink plenty of water — not only is this incredibly important for skin health and nutrient delivery, but it will also stop you from snacking, keeping you fuller for longer.
2. Prioritise Selfcare & Mental Wellbeing
Take the time to fill your own cup. Sadly, the festive period isn’t all that festive and merry for everyone. For some, it may be a time filled with joy and celebration; for others, it can be a period of loneliness and grief. If this season brings on feelings of stress and unhappiness, be gentle with yourself and prepare a toolkit in advance to help you get through this challenging period. Just remember, it’s about thriving, not just surviving.
Here are a few simple tips to consider when building your selfcare and mental health toolkit:
Connect with the right support network — If you need more support during the Christmas season, build the right support network and communicate your needs and boundaries during this time. This may mean you need to identify any triggers or concerns and confide in a supportive group of people you can trust to check in with you and have your best interest at heart.
Lean on mental health organisations — Don’t be afraid to connect with national and local support organisations and programs that are designed to offer mental health services. Organisations such as Headspace, Beyond Blue, Lifeline, Black Dog, and more offer fantastic services for those in need. Don’t feel as though you need to tackle this season alone.
Don’t compare your life to others — It’s easy to get caught up in social media buzz during festive periods. However, it’s important to remember that what people project externally through social media is merely a highlight reel. We often aren’t privy to the nitty gritty of someone’s life, so don’t compare your lowest moments to someone’s highest moments. If social media does more harm than good for you during this period, it might be worth considering a social media detox until you feel ready to jump back online.
Set yourself realistic goals — This period — particularly as we approach the New Year — is often characterised by overly ambitious goals and big plans for the year ahead. However, it doesn’t need to be. Just remember, small steps lead to big changes, so be realistic about what you feel you can and want to achieve and don’t expect perfection from your health routine.
3. Don’t Forgo Sleep
During the holiday season, it’s not uncommon for people to throw their daily routine out the window in exchange for spontaneity and enjoyment. While it is all well and good to enjoy a few extra late nights and those last-minute plans, it’s important to recognise the importance of quality sleep and the impact a lack thereof can have on your health, including your skin.
There’s no denying the detrimental impact of long-term sleep issues. Consider the following consequences:
Weakened immune system – Your immune system is hard at work while you’re asleep. During this time, it produces crucial infection-fighting antibodies and cytokines, which help protect you from unwanted bacteria and viruses. However, if you’re running low on sleep, its ability to fight off invaders weakens.
High blood pressure and a heightened risk of heart disease — Sleep plays a vital role in keeping your heart healthy, particularly regarding blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation.
Increased risk of diabetes & weight gain — When you don’t receive adequate sleep, you’re more likely to make unhealthier lifestyle choices (i.e., overconsume food and reduce exercise activity). A lack of sleep is also suggested to impact two critical hormones, leptin and ghrelin, responsible for telling you when you’re hungry and full.
Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night, including over the holidays. You’ll be amazed by how much better your body and mind function when you prioritise rest — from stress management to food intake.
4. Focus on managing your stress
From additional expenses to a never-ending social calendar and many complexities in between, it’s safe to say that the holidays can be as stressful as they are joyous. However, it certainly doesn’t have to be, and nor should it.
Why is this an important area for your health? When we think about maintaining holiday health, we often think it’s all about drinking the right amount of water and watching what we eat. While those things are important, it’s not the only area of our health that can feel the weight of the holiday season. Unfortunately, chronic stress can interfere with just about every bodily process — from anxiety and depression to digestive problems, weight gain, muscle tension, and more.
So, what can you do to prioritise stress management this festive season? Try incorporating one or more of the following tips or practices into your daily ritual…trust us, your body AND skin will thank you for it:
As aforementioned, prioritise quality sleep and regular exercise — give your body its best chance of repairing itself and releasing the right hormones for happiness. Aim to walk outside for 30 minutes daily and try incorporating a solid bedtime routine.
Allow your body to relax — make time for your body to slow down and introduce some healthy practices, such as yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation, into your daily ritual. Find a solution that allows your brain and body to slow down and focus on the present (this may look different for everyone!).
Learn to say no to things that drain your energy or don’t add value to your life — remember, excluding things that no longer serve us is just as important as adding new things to our lives!