This Introvert and Empath's Guide for Healthy Holiday Survival

November 20, 2018

You wake up in the morning a bit later than usual and notice that you’ve got a mild throbbing behind your eyes. Your heavy head just wants to stay on that pillow for just a bit longer, matching the fatigue felt in your limbs, the pain in your joints, and the bloat in your belly.  


Welcome to the holiday hangover.  


It’s not just about the alcohol. This is a full-on body experience where you feel zapped of energy and out of balance.  


You feel depleted.  


The thing about holidays is that they are often synonymous with gatherings. Now don’t get me wrong - I know that there are some people out there that love (and thrive) off of events full of food, family, and friends. For me, I need limitations on it all. Too much of any of those things and my body starts to rebel.  


To help you out in the same way that I’ve learned to help myself out, I’ve put together this quick guide of self-care tips to get you through the next few months perhaps not only having survived but maybe even having thrived. 


Here is my game plan for this holdiay season that starts with Thanksgiving: 


1) Morning yoga and meditation/prayer. Being connected and present are priorities for my self-care and on a busy day, a grounding practice can make a big difference. Gently moving my body and starting off my day with wellness keeps me aware of my intention for a healthful, mindful day. Because it’s also Thanksgiving, I’ll spend extra time in gratitude prayer.  


2) A nutrient-dense smoothie for breakfast. Hunger is driven not by the mere need for food but more so by the need for nutrients. To start my day off right, I will be having a smoothie using Perfect Protein vanilla protein powder, ¼ of an avocado, 1 handful of organic mixed berries, 1 oz of raw pepitas, a handful of organic spinach, and unsweetened organic coconut milk. The combination of liquid volume plus fiber, protein, and fats will keep me going until dinner time around 2 PM. 


3) Hydrotherapy in the shower. I end my showers with about 30 seconds to a minute of cold water every day and Thursday will be no different. If you’re curious as to why, you can read here about why a cold shower may be just the thing you need. Seriously, they’re addicting.  


4) The Thanksgiving Day Parade. Because tradition and music. :-) 


5) Green tea throughout the day until 2 PM dinner. It’s warm, it’s full of antioxidants, and it’s a liquid – ideal for keeping my tummy happy until dinner time!  


6) Dinner – what I’m eating and what I’m not. Now I know that haters are going to hate...but I’ve really fallen out of love with a lot of the foods that I used to look forward to. Whether green bean casserole or pecan pie, I just don’t look at them the same because of knowing what I know about food and my body. Thankfully, the events I attend are potluck so I always bring something that I know I will eat in addition to whatever item I’m making for the gathering.  


This year I’m making homemade buns to carry on Grandma’s tradition. But while I won’t be eating one (or two or three like I used to), I will be eating a quinoa and cauliflower rice based “stuffing” that’s full of all of the flavor of the real stuff but without gluten and processed wheat. In the last few years, there have been a few more family members on the health-train so I can usually find some vegetables too.  Olives make a nice little snack and I’ll also bring along a container of hummus to go with the veggie tray that usually makes an appearance. For my beverages, I stick with water and coffee. Perhaps I’ll bring a kombucha if I want something with a little sparkle. Dessert is just plain off the menu. It is Pandora’s box for me and I’m terrible at, “I’ll just have one bite.”  


Over the years I’ve learned that wine, food, desserts, and family functions are not a good combination for me. Which brings me to the next self-care item... 


7) Take a break/walk after dinner. There are a few reasons why I NEED to do this. For starters, I am an introvert that doesn’t do well with too much stimulus. That’s noise, energy...people. Yep, I said it. I don’t do well with a lot of people. An after-dinner walk helps my body to burn off some of that food, helps my brain to process, and also restores some energy. Depending on how things are going, sometimes I like to stick around for a bit after dinner and other times, I’m ready to head home.  


8) Deep breathing all day long. Stress simmers in my body and later manifests as something else whether a headache, muscle tension, poor digestion, etc. To bring relaxation in, I plan on focusing on my breathing – particularly my exhalation as longer breaths out can trigger the parasympathetic nervous system which controls your rest, relax, and digest response. Deep breath in for a count of four, hold for two, and out for eight.  


9) Communication with my family. I have an empathic daughter who also gets worn out and an extrovert husband whose volume increases with the number of people around. My other kiddo is in the stage of life where she’s just “bored” all of the time as there are literally no other kids her age around. So, we all have our “thing” that we bring with us to family events. After dinner, I check in with everyone to see what their desires are and craft a plan for departure. I also remind my kids to eat a bit more if they want because they are always and inevitable hungry and thirsty on the 30-minute ride home. #momlife.  


10) Après-dinner relaxation. One advantage of visiting somewhere for a holiday is that it lightens the work load. On our drive home, the radio stays off. I know that sounds like a total buzzkill for some people, but I have a hard time with a lot of noise. But, if I’m feeling up to it, I will throw on some Christmas tunes while we head home. Once we get home, it’s comfy clothes, blankets, couches, and fires in the fireplace for the rest of the evening. Tomorrow is Black Friday and that is a big day for... 


11) #optoutside. This is my plan for Friday and my reason to get a good night’s sleep on Thursday. Over the last few years, I’ve come to realize how much I detest shopping. It used to be one of my favorite things and now I realize why I don’t like it anymore. Back then, I was looking for something. Material happiness. And now, it’s so clear that happiness has nothing to do with stuff. If I truly need something, I’m an Amazon Prime girl. So instead of shopping, I’ll be headed outside on Friday morning with my family for a hike to get in fresh air and some nature time.  


12) Easy does it on the digestive system. Thanksgiving round #2 (aka Thanksmas) occurs on Saturday. This event is a brunch so I will be skipping breakfast and planning on eating there. I am bringing roasted Brussels sprouts and root veggies since egg bakes often have some filler ingredients that don’t sit well in my belly. On Friday, it’s a day off for my gut so I’ll be making a batch of some sort of soup to have for lunch and dinner that’s full of veggies with a bone broth base. I love to add a splash of heavy coconut milk into my soups for a nourishing bowl of goodness that’s a little bit heavier than a clear broth. Sipping on apple cider vinegar can add in digestion and help a tired-out gall bladder too. While I don’t take probiotics all of the time, I plan on taking one Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for a bit of an immune boost.  


Not going to lie – you will probably find me under the covers on the couch for most of Sunday. While I used to view this type of retreat as being lazy, I have come to learn that my brain gets so full that I often don’t have the energy to even read. After consecutive family events, I need to shut ‘er down for a day. In addition to being an introvert, I am also empathic which means I feel everything. Gatherings for me mean a heightened sense of body language, facial expressions, tones of voice, and all of the stuff in between. I’m aware of it all. 


The good news is that over the years I have learned how to take care of myself when saying no isn’t really an option. Yes, yes – I know that we always have a choice. But my husband and girls really enjoy seeing our family and I want to be a part of that too. I’ve just had to learn how to take care of me to make the most of it! I hope that you can do that too! 


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