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The NSPA Blog

Keeping the “Happy” in Happy Holidays!

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Posted on December 24th, 2019 by Bettina Carlson, under Caregiver, Take Charge, Tips & Resources

After many weeks of listening to Christmas music in stores, seeing holiday decorations almost everywhere, buying gifts, and making various arrangements, we finally arrived at the Happy Holidays.

To keep the “happy” in the Happy Holidays, here are some ideas I love to share with you. Maybe one or more are useful to you!

Eating for Smiles

One of the bigger challenges for many of us is the over abundance of delicious foods. We may overeat and/or eat more of the foods that we usually stay away from because they are too rich, like deserts, heavy sauces, starchy or carbohydrate dishes. And we end up bloated and feeling heavy and tired. Remember how you felt on Thanksgiving?

Now, I can’t tell you what to eat, but I can encourage you to eat mindfully. Think about what you will eat and how it has made you feel in the past; then decide, if you would like to feel this way again or not, and eat accordingly. You may not even skip it altogether, maybe you just need to reduce the quantity. Maybe you can eat some of your “bad” foods and skip some of the other “bad” foods in favor of those. It’s your choice. (Unless medically contraindicated or not recommenced). And it’s your consequence. I’ve been there. Feeling heavy and tired, ready to hit the dining table with my head for a quick snooze. Generally speaking though, starches and carbohydrates will make you feel bloated and tired way quicker than vegetables. So, these days, I load up on veggies, make those my main dish, add meat, chicken or seafood as my second food group, and then go easy on the carbohydrates and starches, aka potatoes, pasta and rice. And I feel much better. And still enjoy my meals thoroughly. 

You could also control you overall portions. One easy way to do that, is to use a smaller plate, like a salad plate instead of a dinner plate, and fill this up with all your favorite foods. Automatically, you will have smaller portions, saving your waistline and but more importantly your overall health. Who needs to spike their blood-sugar? Who wants to gain quick weight, but struggle for weeks to get back to their baseline?

Exercising for Miles

As always, to offset the abundance of food over the holidays, getting exercise is quite beneficial. 

As far as exercise goes, don’t break down over not having time, but break down the time in smaller units. You actually have the time and you have the place. Take a few minutes here and a few minutes there. Go for brisk walks around your neighborhood, even on a cold day, just bundle up; you can manage 10-20 minutes outside. Or when you go to visit family or friends, or when you run errands, don’t park right in front of the entrance door, but park as far away as possible; take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever you have the option; when putting away your laundry, don’t put all your laundry in a laundry basket, but take a pile at at time and walk it to where it needs to go, ideally on a different level. If anyone needs something anywhere in the house, offer to get it and get moving; when watching TV, be “courageous”, and get up and jump in place for a few minutes, present you are jump-roping; or walk in place; and/or lay down on the floor and stretch. While your family may chuckle at you (can you hear them already), you get the last laugh when you outperform them in well being down the jumps. These activities may not be magic or bring huge differences, but it’s amazing how they add up in steps and benefits if exercised consistently. 

Gifts for smiles

When you get together with family and friends give them the gift of a beautiful memory. Write down or orally share a beautiful or happy memory you have experienced with them. For example, when did you know you could trust your partner or friend? Which was your most fun vacation together?  Which was the nicest thing someone did for you? Which was the craziest thing someone did? And more! The more detail you can share, the more lively the memory will be. This is especially intriguing and potentially helpful with family members, who suffer from cognitive impairments, like dementia. You not only might be able to connect with them over the celebrations on a happy level, but you might discover a “secret” tool that might help you down the line, if their cognitive health may get impaired to such level, where they won’t be able to communicate their needs or worries to you. Knowing a happy memory that could potentially comfort them in times of confusion or upset could become your “medicine” to connect with them during such an unsettling time. Read our previous blog on “Live their Truth” for more info: https://www.northshorern.com/live-in-their-truth/.

Eyes on your Elderly

Speaking of elderly family members, the holidays are also a good time for many adult children not only to enjoy time with their parents now, but also to observe them for signs of possible needs for support, to continue to enjoy as much time with them as possible. 

Watch out for signs of forgetfulness and confusion – are your parents asking the same questions over and over again, are they struggling for words, are they confused over how to perform a familiar task?  

Watch for personal hygiene – do they smell like they haven’t showered or bathed in a while, do their clothes smell? 

Watch for problems with balance and mobility – do they walk steadily or are they stumbling more frequently. Do they have bruises they cannot explain, which could be signs of bumping into furniture or walls; or if they live in an Assisted Living situation, are they treated properly? Do they have trouble getting up from a sitting position?

Watch for weight loss – have they lost a lot of weight, which could be an indicator they are not eating enough, or the right foods, or it could be a symptom of an illness.

Watch for mood swings – significant mood swings could be a symptom of a greater problem, possibly the onset of dementia.  

Finally

Even if you don’t do any of the above, just be present in the moment with your loved ones! Appreciate the fact that you are together, embrace your sweetnesses and overlook your weaknesses. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. But the moment is yours. Make it happy! You are sitting at the controls to do that. 

Happy Holidays to All! 

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