Self-Care Activities to Help You Through the Holidays

Wild Lotus Yoga

Wild Lotus Yoga

The holiday season is upon us. A time meant for family, friends, love and good cheer. But with all the added social and family obligations, travel arrangements and gift buying, on top of our everyday life commitments, things can get a bit stressful.

For some, it can even be a time wished away, instead of a time relished. In order to feel more of the latter and less of the former, it's important to take care of ourselves during the holiday rush. Therefore, I've come up with a few self-care activities to help keep stress at bay and to hopefully find more joy during the holiday season.

Just keep in mind the advice on self-care I received from Swan River Yoga's certified yoga teacher Claire Privat (who is also a doctoral student in clinical psychology): "If it feels like a chore or another thing looming on your to do list, you won't get as much from it." Instead, she says to remember, "it's all about giving yourself permission to just do it and enjoy it while you're doing it without expectations."

Shine Day Spa

Shine Day Spa

Pamper Yourself

I love a good spa day. Turning off my cell phone, stepping away from my laptop and letting someone cater to me? Yes, please. In addition to their rejuvenating services, Belladonna Day Spa on Magazine St. invites their guests to lounge with a mimosa on their outdoor patio or relax in their sauna beforehand. If there's no time for the leisurely extras, Shine Day Spa in Mid-City is a tranquil option that transforms from a bright storefront to a dimly lit, quiet sanctuary by just turning a corner. Whatever service or spa chosen from the multitude of options in New Orleans, give yourself permission to tune out and let go of any tension.

Restorative Yoga

As I heard a Wild Lotus Yoga instructor put it, restorative yoga is a time to allow ourselves to do nothing. Many people have a hard time doing that, especially considering how electronically connected we all are. However, with guided instruction on how best to support yourself in various reclining poses for several minutes at a time, while listening to calming music and the lull of the instructor's voice, it's easy to give in to it. Even if your mind wanders to your to do list, sometimes in this state of relaxation, our stresses can become more focused and manageable. In addition to Wild Lotus, I highly recommend taking one of Privat's classes at Swan River Yoga – both studios also offer discounted class options - or, if making it to a class isn't feasible, try these poses at home.

Sculpture Garden at City Park

Sculpture Garden at City Park

Immerse Yourself in Nature

Nature has a calming effect on our moods and stress levels. Research proves it. If time is an issue, this might be the best way to add self-care to your busy schedule. Take a lunch or coffee break in a green space without a phone or laptop. The Sculpture Garden at City Park is my favorite place to do that, but It could simply mean just heading outside the office for fresh air. You can also combine cardio with nature by biking/walking/running the tree-lined paths of Audubon Park or along the Mississippi River at Crescent Park. Just make sure to stop and appreciate your natural surroundings. If there's time, go all in by getting out of the city and hike at one of these nearby trails.

Try Something New

Learning an activity completely foreign to you increases the likelihood there won't be enough space in your brain to also worry about holiday/work/life stress. I mean, who's going to obsess over their holiday shopping list while trying to figure out how to hang upside down from a silks hammock without falling to the ground at Fly Circus Space? You could also just let your mind be free of any worry and jump around like a kid, or ninja warrior if you prefer, at a trampoline park. Whatever new activity you attempt, you might just get in a surprisingly good workout, feel a sense of accomplishment and most importantly, have some fun.

Fly Circus Space

Fly Circus Space

Don't Over Extend

This might be the most important activity to partake in: Learn to say no. Show up for the people and activities that are important to you and politely decline the ones that immediately invoke stress. You'll save yourself a lot of aggravation. And, whether it's a financial issue or you're tired of frantically searching for something to buy at the last minute for people who have everything they want or need, maybe say no to gift giving. (Not for your kids obviously) Instead, find a way to spend time with those people, which can be far more meaningful anyway. You could also donate the money not spent on gifts to a favorite charity or find somewhere your group can volunteer together. (Stay tuned for opportunities to do that with Move Ya Brass this holiday season.)

What are your favorite ways during the holidays to achieve more this:

And a lot less this:

Head over to Instagram and share your best holiday self-care activities.

What to Know About Running and Nutrition

Photo credit: Tomas Orihuela

Photo credit: Tomas Orihuela

Knowing what to eat before, during and after a run is a tricky thing, so we reached out to Move Ya Brass Krewe member and Registered Dietician Lisa Littrell for advice.

Lisa serves as the current Health and Nutrition Coordinator at Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans Head Start Program. She's also a lifelong athlete who found running in 2015. She ran her first 5K that year at The Crescent City Fall Classic and continued training so she could participate in this year's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and an ultra 50K at the Croom Fools Run in Florida.  

Here's what she told us about fueling as a runner.

Before a Run

"I would advise [eating] something that's low in fiber," Lisa said. "If it's a long run [anything longer than 90 minutes], you should have a little bit of protein in there also. Toast with peanut butter or an egg in a tortilla, [or] fruit and yogurt. Something also that is low in fiber and that you have already experimented with prior to a race, because everybody's stomach reacts differently to things. So, it takes a little bit of trial and error."

For a shorter run, like a 5K, she suggested something small, like a piece of toast or a banana at least 30 minutes before.

During a Run

"If you're going beyond 90 minutes you definitely need to have nutrition during the run and be paying close attention to your electrolytes," Lisa stated.

Due to her stomach sensitivity issues, Lisa skips products from popular brands like Gatorade and NUUN, preferring instead Hüma gels because they contain more natural ingredients. She's also been experimenting with chewable salt tabs and products from Tailwind because they have a low FODMAP mix, which makes it easier to digest.

Actual food is an option as well, as she pointed out, "People will put peanut butter sandwiches in their packs or a boiled potato with salt, because that's your potassium and salt and your carbohydrates."

After a Run

Lisa advised eating something 15 to 30 minutes post run. "It doesn't have to be a full meal, but you should definitely have a little bit of carbohydrates and a little bit of protein directly after because of the hormonal effect. If you wait longer, you'll probably end up over eating later on because of the hormone reaction to a run … And then, you know, have your big meal later on, but there should definitely be some rehydration and refueling immediately after."

Forget About Carb Loading

Runners often hear about this, but, per Lisa, a consistently healthy diet is a better option. "I think that more important than what happens the day before a race is your routine," she said. "So as long as you're having a healthy diet on a day-to-day basis and you're hydrated on a regular basis then carb loading doesn't really affect your run. Because things like hydration and nutrition are based off of multiple days, not just the day before."

As for what to incorporate into your daily diet, Lisa detailed that thee meals plus snacks, or six small meals should do it. Before breakfast, keep it small and low in fiber, but after, switch to high fiber with protein.

"Yogurt and chia seeds, or oatmeal and a banana, or oatmeal and an egg, or something like that," she recommended. "In general, lots of fruits and vegetables, lean meats and complex carbohydrates for your meals which are high fiber carbohydrates, but like I said, if it's right before a run, if it's a snack to fuel your run, it has to be low carbohydrate because it's easier to digest and absorb."

Skip the Cheat Meals as Well

"My issue with cheat meals is people tend to go overboard on that day because they're waiting all week for this particular day," she explained.

Instead, Lisa prefers to stick to the 80/20 rule: healthy choices 80 percent of the time and choices based off of desire and craving 20 percent of the time.

"I think in terms of calorie content and mental health, it's better to just have a moderate diet every day of the week rather than have something restrictive six days of the week and then a cheat day on Sunday or something like that. But, I do definitely think post run you should eat whatever your heart desires," she laughed. "Because you worked hard."

As for Lisa's post run desire? A burger and fries.