How to Beat the Obstacles Contributing to Your Holiday Slump

Tired Indian boy slumps on couch feeling listless. Feeling depressed, lack of motivation, sadness, boredom. Exhausted, he collapses on the couch from stress. Burn out

How are you feeling? As we gear up for New Year, you – like many others – might already have the sense that you’ve hit a holiday slump – both in your physical and mental wellbeing.

In this article, fitness content specialist, Chloe Ekberg, from US-based Garage Gym Reviews, sums up seven common obstacles that cause healthy lifestyles to slip away over the holiday period. She also shares handy hints on how to overcome them. Some of the tips are more applicable to the U.S. but they make for an interesting read – wherever you’re based.


Obstacle 1: All. The. Food. And. Drinks.

Walk into any holiday party and you’ll see fudge and cookies and alcohol and tons of sugar and processed treats. You don’t have to run scared. I believe that you should allow yourself to eat the foods you want to eat. Of course, moderation is key, but so is prioritization.

The average weight gain over the holidays is only 0.81 pounds, so go ahead, have the piece of pie

Zoe Schroeder, registered dietitian, recommends not not skipping meals to “save calories” for indulgent foods. Ultimately, she says, this will likely lead to extreme hunger and make you much more likely to overeat on high-calorie holiday foods.

“Plan for your indulgences instead of trying to swear off all treats all season long, which will ultimately lead to a binge later on. Think about your favorites, plan out when, where, and how much you will enjoy, and do so without guilt or feeling bad about yourself, instead, enjoy it and move on.” – Zoe Schroeder, registered dietitian

How To Overcome It: 

  • Treat yo’self! You’re allowed to eat a piece of pie and enjoy it.
  • Make your own versions of holiday favorites to bring to the party if you have dietary restrictions due to allergies or sensitivities.
  • Eat meals with whole foods whenever possible to fill up.
  • Set a limit for yourself on how many drinks you’ll have (alcohol or high-sugar.

Obstacle 2 : Travel

Travel is a number-one interruption to everyday life. During the holidays, this is exacerbated because we spend significant time out of town. But with a little bit of planning, you can preempt travel-related slumps:

How To Overcome It: 

  • Walk around the airport while waiting for your plane.
  • If you’re driving, take advantage of bathroom breaks and move around outside before taking off again.
  • Bring your own healthy snacks to the airport. (Don’t pay $17 for the worst sandwich you’ve ever had.)
  • For road-trippers, try to stop at grocery stores, not gas stations, for on-the-go snacks.
  • Try to recoup as much of your normal routine as possible once you get to your destination.

Obstacle 3: Lack Of Routine

“Deviating From An Established Exercise Routine Can Interfere With A Person’s Overall Functioning And Wellbeing,” Says Paige Harnish, Licensed Mental Health Therapist. “Exercise Is An Important Fixture In Many People’s Lives And Serves As A Source Of Motivation, Stress Management, Socialization, Self Care, And Much More.”

Although ditching your routine might sound like the easiest thing to do amid holiday hurriedness, it’s probably the worst thing you can do for your overall health during this time. Sticking to some semblance of a routine, even if it means reducing the length of your workouts, will help you continue to prioritize your wellbeing during the holidays.

How to Overcome It: 

  • Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time you usually do
  • Schedule in your workout and let people know that’s what you’ll be doing
  • Start the day with a healthy breakfast

Obstacle 4: Lack Of Time

The American Psychological Association reports that nearly 70% of people who experience an increase in stress during the holidays attribute that stress to a perceived lack of time.

Sure, the holidays are busy, but this is where time management is key. The saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” really rings true when it comes to the holiday slump.

“It’s important to plan and prepare ahead of time. If you are traveling, scope out a gym you can attend as a guest or pack a small amount of equipment to bring to your destination.” – Paige Harnish, licensed mental health therapist

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But also, be real with yourself, Harnish says. “Ask yourself if there is a way to modify your existing routine to accommodate added challenges at holiday time. Dialing back the duration of your workout can still lead to many of the same benefits of a longer workout and give you a bit more time to complete other tasks.”

How To Overcome It: 

  • Block off time in your calendar for workouts, walks, or your physical activity of choice—treat it like it’s an important meeting you can’t miss.
  • Working out in the morning means nothing can come up during the day and force you to skip.
  • If nothing else, look for 10-minute windows where you can walk or do jumping jacks.

Obstacle 5: Holiday Tunnel Vision

The holiday season is certainly hectic. On top of all your normal daily obligations, you’re now tasked with buying gifts, hosting or attending gatherings, preparing extra food, visiting or hosting family, and traveling.

It can be easy to lose sight of your long-term goals and focus on solely getting through the season. This is especially true for people who have to deal with family members they don’t get along with (everyone, amiright?) or who have seasonal depression.

How To Overcome It: 

  • Get your friends and family involved with group workouts or healthy meal cooking
  • Write your goals on a piece of paper to put on a mirror in the bathroom where you are staying or somewhere you’ll see it every day.
  • Set boundaries for yourself but also for others.

Obstacle 6: Holiday Blues

The holidays aren’t merry for everyone, and it’s easy to forget that as someone who loves everything about them. For people who feel more lonely than joyful during the holiday season—or for those who deal with seasonal affective disorder (appropriately acronymed SAD)—negative emotions can quickly gobble up any motivation or discipline you normally have for exercising and eating healthy.

How To Overcome It: 

  • Wake up early to enjoy quiet on your own
  • Try to get sunshine when possible
  • Maintain a consistent sleep cycle
  • Eat healthy
  • Exercise

Obstacle 7: Lack Of Motivation

Lots of things can mess with your motivation as the holidays wear on. Financial stress, jetlag, and family matters zap your precious—and finite—energy. Not to mention, increased consumption of alcohol and decreased consumption of nutritious foods don’t do much for your motivation level.

As most fitness enthusiasts know, motivation doesn’t last, anyway. During the holiday season, you’ll need to tap into your self-discipline instead of relying on intrinsic motivation. ‘Cause the fact of the matter is: You probably won’t feel motivated to work out or eat healthy in the presence of a bunch of people who are doing the opposite.

How To Overcome It: 

  • Create an alarm or calendar event that pops up with motivational quotes or reminders of your goals
  • Ask a friend to help you stay accountable

Obstacle 8: All-Or-Nothing Mindset

Toying with an all-or-nothing mindset is a dangerous game. Skipping one workout can spiral into skipping two months’ worth, and eating one indulgent dinner can lead to weeks of noshing on dense leftovers. During the holiday season, it’s extremely important to avoid falling into an all-or-nothing trap.

“You May Not Be Able To Exercise As Frequently As Normal, But Not Exercising At All May Lead To Negative Thoughts Or Emotions Which May Make Coping With Holiday Stress Even More Difficult,” Says Paige Harnish, Licensed Mental Health Therapist. “It’s More Difficult Physically And Mentally To Get Back Into A Routine When You’ve Deviated From The Routine Completely.”

How To Overcome It: 

  • Moving for 10 minutes three times a day still adds up to 30 minutes
  • Pick one time that you know for sure you’ll be able to exercise and stick to it.
  • It doesn’t need to be structured exercise to be good exercise. Fun family games like ring toss, cornhole, frisbee, or capture the flag, can increase physical activity without feeling like a drag.

This full article, including holiday workout routines you can do anywhere, first appeared on the Garage Gym Reviews website.

You might also be interested in this article about living with SAD:

5 Self Care Tips for Seasonal Affective Disorder This Autumn 2020


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