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Lya Wodraska: Simple tips to help manage the holiday stress season
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

So it begins: The holiday season is here. It's a time for gifts, joy and treats, lots and lots of treats.

As much fun as the holidays are, they can be the most challenging time of the year for those trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Stressful situations, sporadic meal times and holiday travel are all challenges that can lead to unwanted weight gain or bad habits.

Help yourself get through the next month by avoiding such pitfalls using these three tactics.

Drink water • Water is nature's best detoxifying agent as it helps to remove toxins from the body through sweat, urine and feces. When we are dehydrated, our bodies' systems become stressed, which leads to poor digestive function and can even affect the hormonal systems.

The holidays are a bad time to let this happen since many of us are indulging in a few too many sweets or drinks.

Help your body recover from such affairs and function at its best by drinking at least half your weight in ounces of water a day. For example, a 100-pound person should at least drink 50 ounces of water a day.

The added bonus of staying hydrated is you will feel more satiated and less tempted to eat more.

Treat yourself to the book Your Body's Many Cries for Water, by Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, to learn more about the benefits of water.

Find a rhythm • The holidays are a time when we are pulled to-and-fro, which makes it easy to feel scattered and stressed. When your mind is stressed, your body becomes stressed and remains in a "fight or flight" state that can be taxing on the hormonal system, which can negatively affect all the other systems in your body. (Think about how many times you are upset and you get an upset stomach, and it's easy to make the connection.)

Make a commitment to take up some sort of rhythmic exercise to help calm the mind and give you the added benefit of sticking to a fitness routine.

Rhythmic exercises can be as intense as you want them to be, although the best during stressed times are ones that are going to leave you energized, not exhaust you more. Walking, hiking, swimming, cycling, jogging, tai chi, yoga and even weight lifting are all exercises that feature rhythms.

If nothing else, take a few moments at the beginning or end of your day to focus on breathing. Do this by putting your hands on your stomach and breathe, pushing your belly into your hands as you do, which will fill the belly with air first before the chest.

Treat yourself to a pedometer. Pedometers are a cheap and easy way to track your steps. Purchasing one and keeping it handy will serve as a great reminder to get in some rhythmic walking. Even a stroll around the block will produce great benefits.

Write it down • Athletes hold themselves accountable to their training schedules by keeping track of their workouts, meals and meal timing and sleep patterns.

Keeping a journal and writing down what you eat as well as descriptions of your activity level is a great way to keep yourself on track during the holidays.

You might be surprised at how one bite here and one bite there can add up to a lot of calories.

Don't forget to write down what you drink, too, as holiday drinks have a lot of calories in them.

Treat yourself to a training diary. While there are many electronic apps now available to keep track of activities, I still recommend one in which you physically make notes. For many, just the effort of writing is a great reinforcement to their commitment.

A training diary can be as simple as a notebook, or a more detailed training diary that has places to write down what time you go to bed, what you eat and your heart rates.

Embrace these tips as a way to embrace the holidays.

Lya Wodraska is a certified CHEK Practitioner and holistic lifestyle coach. E-mail her at Lwodraska@sltrib.com.

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