Nutrition Articles

Fighting Holiday Fatigue

Small Changes Make a BIG Impact

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From Goblins, to Gobblers, to Gifts and Goodies…this time of the year can be draining! Some days you can be so low on energy that you are drowsy by lunchtime and in need of a nap by mid-afternoon. Think about all the extras you have been adding to your already hectic lifestyle—office parties, gatherings with the relatives, costume shopping, trick-or-treating, holiday shopping, extra cooking, entertaining guests and visitors from out of town, school parties, religious celebrations…

The list seems endless. If just thinking about it is already wearing you down, then it’s time to make some drastic…okay, small but helpful…changes this year. Take a quick inventory of the things that might be responsible for your exhaustion. Whatever the cause, once you discover what’s draining your energy, you can take these steps to put the vitality back in your life and survive the holiday blitz.
  • Time to downsize? If you are running from one task to the next without a break, it is eventually going to wear you out. You do not have to stay to the end of every party or even attend every gathering. Look at your list of events and obligations and see where you can cut back on time, energy, and money.
    • Do you have to prepare a seven-course meal yourself, or can each of your guests pitch-in?
    • Discuss the gift-giving routine early. Most likely, your family and friends are probably feeling just as overwhelmed as you are. Can changes be made? Instead of buying for all, how about drawing names from a hat or giving to a local charity in someone’s honor.
       
  • Lack of sleep. You don’t have to pull an all-nighter or miss several hours of sleep to feel negative effects. Getting just ONE hour less than what you normally need can leave you drowsy and unable to handle the increased chaos.
    • Avoid eating, reading or watching TV in bed.
    • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.
    • Stick to the same sleep schedule daily. Naps are fine, take them earlier in the day and keep them short—a 4-hour snooze is not a nap. Sometimes all you need is 10-30 minutes to reenergize.
    • Exercise at least 3-4 hours before bedtime.
    • A small evening snack may help you drift off to sleep, but large late-night meals can keep you tossing and turning all night.
       
  • Horrendous eating habits! If you are not eating properly or drinking enough water, your body is not getting the fuel and fluids it needs. Using caffeine as a jolt will only backfire. So start your day with a low-fat, high-fiber breakfast including whole grains and fruits for energy. Stay away from sugary cereals, sweetened drinks and caffeinated drinks.
    • Do NOT skip meals. It may be necessary to go with 4-6 mini meals that include whole grains, fruits, veggies, low fat dairy, and protein. Examples include turkey on rye with cheese, lettuce and tomatoes; soup and salad; peanut butter on whole-wheat toast, milk and an orange; or cottage cheese, bagel and carrot sticks.
    • Low carbs, and extremely low calories are guaranteed to zap your energy levels.
       
  • Inactivity. Don’t mistake being "busy" for being "active." You still need to get some exercise. After fatigue sets in, you are too tired to exercise. And when you exert yourself you tire more easily. Exercise is vital to improving your mood, your muscles and your energy level. You say you don’t have 30 minutes? Start with 10 minutes at a time.
    • When shopping at the mall, take one extra fast-paced lap before you leave.
    • While waiting to pick up the kids from practice, wear your tennis shoes and circle the parking lot or sidewalk.
       
  • Alcohol. Be aware that alcohol depresses your central nervous system and acts as a sedative, making you tired for hours after consuming no more than only a drink or two. It may also disrupt your sleep if you drink before bed.
    • Limit yourself to 1-2 drinks with a meal or dinner— at least 4 hours before bedtime.
    • If you’re drinking later at night, you may be more fatigued the next day. Look at your schedule in advance and plan a way to catch up on sleep if needed.
       
    The holidays are just around the corner. By making a few changes in your lifestyle you can turn drudgery into delights and fatigue into festivities!
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • Agreed that most of the tips here are good, but I really wish they'd stop bashing on low carb on here. 'Low carbs are guaranteed to make you more fatigued'. That's not true for everyone (at least not for me) so it's not guaranteed. There are many people whose bodies do not deal with carbs and sugars the way most people can (look at how many type 2 diabetics and pre-diabetics there are). And carbs make me exhausted and give me bloodsugar crashes and binges. So when I lower them I feel much, much better. If you do lower carbs though, make sure to not just eat protein but eat plenty of green and other not-so starchy vegetables! That's what most people forget. I've been able to keep my diabetes pretty well controlled with diet and exercise alone. I just hope this site will start to see that every body reacts differently to foods and that there is no 'one size fits all' solution. - 11/21/2014 3:45:53 PM
  • CASS6631
    Like this - 12/1/2013 11:06:00 AM
  • great article! its good to know the various activities also aid weight loss... - 11/24/2011 10:19:50 PM
  • This was great! It broke down so many things for my that I printed it and saved it! Something this easy to understand I need around year long. - 12/10/2008 9:35:31 PM
  • I need to do a better job of getting more sleep and rest. Today, I feel exhausted, so much so I want to go crash in some corner someplace. That's the one tip on this list that means the most to me. If I could take the steps needed to get more sleep, I'd feel better, more refreshed more often. - 12/10/2008 7:16:36 AM
  • Excellent article!!! Sure hope many read it and heed the good advice given here. I get weary just thinking of how much I always did over the holidays, including special activities with my students, church and my own family. I never asked others to contribute to a dinner because they didn't make dishes just the way I did and I wanted everything just so. The last few years my husband and I have been away for the holidays so no longer fuss like in years past. The kids have to establish their own family traditions. - 11/15/2008 10:03:49 PM
  • Great article and excellent ideas. I do Thanksgiving every year - I really enjoy it - but I've learned that I really can't do everything. Now everyone pitches in - even my young niece and nephews. They really do enjoy contributing and knowing that they played a part in Thanksgiving.
    On the note about slipping exercise in - I wear my sneakers to work and keep my good shoes at my desk. This way, I can go out for a walk at lunch. Sometimes I can't get out for a walk, but do need to go to the bank or somewhere. Since I wear my sneakers, I can at least make the walk to whereever I have to go invigorating. - 11/7/2008 11:23:51 AM
  • Great article. I think this is the most difficult time of the year to get through and be healthy. I'm determined this year to stay on track, so I celebrate the New Year with joy and happiness and NOT regret. - 11/3/2008 11:59:58 PM

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