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A morning routine to combat holiday stress

Bring balance to the hectic holiday season by hitting the reset button this morning.
Waking up in the morning doesn't need to be rushed and chaotic
Waking up 15 minutes ahead of the alarm during the holidays can help you feel like you're taking ownership of your morning.skaman306 / Getty Images

There’s nothing quite like the holidays to throw us off of our well-established routines. During the next few weeks, we’ll likely be eating more, exercising less and racing the clock to get holiday shopping and organizing done. Keeping your health in check and carving out “me time” can feel like another challenge, and one that is tempting to push off until the New Year.

A new survey by VitalSmarts found that 26 percent of people say that trying to stay healthy, active and sober over the holidays is one of their top five stressors, 44 percent of people live by the motto, "my diet starts in January”; 20 percent say they are much more tired and irritable than happy during the holidays, while 10 percent say they have no rules when it comes to health and diet this time of year.

The holiday season throws us off balance

The problem, it seems, is that as the holidays set in we start to veer into the extreme behavior of over-indulgence, and we look to January as a time of extreme rebooting, where we don’t overspend or eat too much. According to Jillian Michaels, famed personal trainer and wellness expert, and the author of the new book “The 6 Keys: Unlock Your Genetic Potential for Ageless Strength, Health, and Beauty” these extreme behaviors are where we start to lose our way and risk our health (and sanity).

“The number one most important thing is striking a balance,” Michaels tells NBC News BETTER. “When you put the word ‘too’ in front of anything you have physiological anarchy, and it’s a recipe for disaster.”

But how do we bring balance to this hectic time of year?

Consider this morning routine that can help you start your day with clarity, energy and self-compassion.

Wake up 15 minutes earlier

Andy Petranek, an extreme athlete and co-founder of the Whole Life Challenge recommends waking up 15 minutes ahead of the alarm during the holidays if only to “take ownership of your morning.”

“Get your body, brain, and heart jumpstarted,” Petranek says. “Get out of your nice warm bed and go out into the cold to remind yourself, ‘Yes, [I] can!’ The colder and nastier, the better. Prove to yourself that you can do it, in spite of nature conspiring against you.”

Get the workout out of the way

Petranek recommends doing an invigorating workout as soon as you wake up, a piece of advice championed by other experts.

“Try to get your workout out of the way first thing in the morning,” says Meg Josephson, a licensed clinical social worker. “Sign up for classes that have a strict cancellation policy — having this in advance will make you less likely to overeat and drink the evening before ‘which can be super helpful when you have several holiday events a week.”

Look at how much time you’re spending on social media and tell me that you can’t get your sweat on for just 20 minutes?

If you don’t have time to go to the gym, Michaels recommends downloading a fitness app, emphasizing that there’s no excuse for not doing at 20 to 30 minutes of exercise four times a week. “Look at how much time you’re spending on social media and tell me that you can’t get your sweat on for just 20 minutes?”

Have a healthy breakfast (especially if you’re going to indulge later)

Holiday lunches and dinners are brimming with delicious treats that aren’t exactly healthy. Make sure to get at least one healthy meal in, ideally for breakfast.

Laura Arndt, founder of Matriarc and a certified strength and conditioning specialist recommends a green smoothie.

“Pack the smoothie full of veggies, fruit, protein powder and a low calorie liquid like low fat milk or almond milk,” Arndt says. “This will help you get almost your entire RDA of fruits and veggies, increase your lean protein and help keep you hydrated. It will also help you keep your overall daily calories in check.”

Another nutritious breakfast suggestion comes from Brock O’Hurn, a fitness expert and social media influencer. He recommends “organic rolled oats, topped with chia seeds, goji berries, and cinnamon. Add a black coffee if you’re looking for an extra boost.”

You’ll also want to be well-hydrated, so drink plenty of water with breakfast and keep it up throughout the day.

Petranek recommends setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to drink 12 to 20 ounces of water every three hours.

Complete a small task to perfection

There’s a lot of pressure to be at our best during the holidays (give the best gift, make the best dinner, have the best time). And yet there’s so much that it outside of our hands.

To combat this pressure and to regain a sense of control, Dr. Greg Kushnick, a psychologist, recommends completing one small task to perfection each morning.

“Make a perfect cup of coffee, make your bed carefully or clean your kitchen counter,” Kushnick says. “Choose a simple task and once it's finished, tell yourself, ‘I did it perfectly.’ Repeat this or another simple task every morning.”

Do a 15-20 minute self-care meditation

“How might you be kind to yourself through this season? How might you give yourself the gift of expecting or doing less, while enjoying more?” These are the questions that Annie B. Kay, balanced living educator at TONE Networks and registered dietitian nutritionist says we should be asking ourselves every morning, in as a kind a way as possible.

“How about taking 15-20 minutes of self-care in the morning? You could try this simple meditation as a morning practice: ‘May I be happy, may I be healthy, and may I stand in the light of my own true self,’” says Kay.

Or just do five minutes of meditating

Michaels, who resisted meditation until she started researching her most recent book, has found that just a few minutes of meditating can do wonders.

“Even just five minutes of meditation every day has overwhelming benefits,” says Michaels. “Appreciate what that will do for your emotional response, impulse control, overall attitude, [and more].”

It’s okay if you slack off some mornings, just resume the next day

A strict routine morning routine (no matter how beneficial) may not be feasible every day this month, and that’s totally fine. In fact, it’s good to allow yourself some flexibility here — just don’t throw it all to the wind if you miss a day or four of prioritizing your wellness.

“It’s this all or nothing thinking that creates problems,” says Michaels. “The mentality of balance is just so critical because we get into these swings of up and down and the farther it swings to one end, the farther it swings back to the other.”


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