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How to handle stress, eat healthy, and stay safe this holiday season

Mental Health
Author name: Lee Health


Holiday blues photo

The holiday season is the perfect time to celebrate the joys of family and friends. But it’s easy to forget about ourselves when fulfilling the obligations and responsibilities that create those wonderful holiday memories.

We encourage you to follow and pay special attention to your health and wellness as you cross to-dos off your list. Lee Health wants to see you ring in the New Year in good health and good spirits.

Deck the halls with reds and greens—not the holiday blues

We’re more stressed during the holidays—more than 80 percent of us, according to the American Psychological Association.  All that stress can lead us to overeat, overspend, and overextend ourselves—which can leave us feeling anxious, depressed, and even more stressed.

Also, as time passes and life occurs, it may become harder to keep the holiday spirit, says Certified Family Life Educator Andrianna Moustakas. She’s a coordinator with Lee Health’s Resilience Education Support Program (REST), which helps prevent burnout and fosters resilience among Lee Health's healthcare staff. 

“From childhood onward, we’re taught that holidays are meant to be spent with those we love and care about. But nearly 66 percent of people feel lonely and isolated during the holidays,” Andrianna says.

The reasons for getting the blues vary, she says, but they often include:

  • You’re grieving for someone (alive or deceased).
  • You’re suffering from empty nest syndrome, which many parents feel when their children move out of the home.
  • There’s been a recent change in your family dynamics, such as the death of a loved one.
  • You don’t have a family of origin with whom to spend the holidays.
  • You’re feeling left out because you don’t participate in a religious holiday.
  • Your attempts to recreate joyous memories from childhood don’t measure up to present-day reality.
  • You’re expected to be joyful during this time of year.

“We need to have realistic expectations for the holidays,” Andrianna says. “It won’t be perfect, and don’t push yourself to do more than you can handle. This is a crucial reminder to prioritize mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being so you can manage expectations during the holiday season.”

She offers these tips to help with the holiday blues, courtesy of the National Alliance of Mental Health:

  • Try to stick to your normal routines.
  • Prioritize sleep.
  • Eat and drink in moderation. Don't drink alcohol if you are feeling down.
  • Exercise.
    • Take a walk
    • Play pickleball or tennis
    • Go to the gym or a yoga class
  • Make a realistic to-do list. Keep it simple!
  • Set reasonable expectations for yourself for
    • Holiday activities
    • Shopping
    • Cooking
    • Entertaining
    • Attending parties
  • Set a budget for holiday activities and presents.
  • Find ways to relax that suit you. What relaxes you?
    • Music
    • Cooking
    • Dancing
    • Meditation

For more resources on how to navigate this holiday season and beyond, visit Lee Health’s Mental Health Resources.

Healthy Eating During the Holidays

Maintaining healthy eating during the holidays can be challenging. Between increased social events, work potlucks, and endless cocktails, you may be wondering how you can still enjoy celebrating while not making yourself sick.

Lee Health registered dietitian Aikaterina “Kat” Galeos serves up some tips to keep the pounds off with healthier choices.

  1. Start with veggies. Fill your plate with veggies first. This will help you get fuller quicker and also fill you up with nutrient-dense foods to feel satisfied.
  2. Balance:  Aim to get lean protein sources, whole grains, fruits and veggies.
  3. Hydration: Always begin with water. When you first get to a party or before a meal, start with a glass of water. This helps control calorie intake, keeps you hydrated and curbs your initial feelings of hunger. Get plenty of water and make sure not to fill up on sugary drinks or high-calorie alcoholic beverages.
  4. Moderation, not deprivation: Enjoy holiday treats in moderation, and do not snack mindlessly!  If someone makes a food you swoon over, and it’s only offered once or twice a year, give yourself grace and enjoy it. Make your indulgence worth it.
  5. Be mindful: Be fully aware of what you’re eating, and make sure to chew your food slowly. Be aware of your hunger and fullness cues. It helps to put your fork down between each bite to really enjoy your food.

Try not to have that mindset shift during the holiday season. Many people tend to relax and indulge over the holidays with the intention of returning to healthier habits afterward. This mindset will lead to overconsumption. So please be mindful this holiday season, practice self-care and other enjoyable things that will give you peace and support your health and wellness!

Healthy Holiday Recipes

Spice Roasted Carrots

Serves 4

Adapted from The Minimalist Baker


  • 5 large carrots, cut on a diagonal into 2-2 ½ inch pieces 
  • 2-3 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (if you do not like the smoky flavor-try plain paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Add carrots to a medium-sized bowl and drizzle with oil, salt, paprika, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and cayenne, and toss well to combine.  I use my hands to mix everything to ensure every carrot piece is covered in the spice!
  3. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until the carrots are tender and slightly browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.
  4. Eat on their own or serve with a yogurt sauce!

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Serves 4-6


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 2 cups chopped leeks (white part only)
  • Sea salt
  • 1 head cauliflower chopped
  • 7 cups veggie broth
  • ¼ cup raw unsalted cashews
  • 3 tablespoons chopped chives for garnish


  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and sauté garlic, leeks and a pinch of salt until soft.
  2. Add cauliflower and sauté for another minute.
  3. Add veggie broth and increase to high heat. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes until cauliflower is completely tender.
  5. Remove from heat and allow soup to cool slightly. Add in the nuts.
  6. Pour soup into blender in batches and process for 1-2 minutes until creamy.
  7. Return soup to saucepan on warm heat.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Serve with chives.

Notes: If you like nutmeg, you can replace the chives with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Traveling This Holiday? Steps to Protect Your Home While You’re Away

Theft is a crime of opportunity. Discourage would-be thieves from visiting your home while you’re gone. Here’s how:

  • We love our social media – so do thieves. Avoid broadcasting your travel plans. When planning your travel, plan not to share your vacation information on social media. That selfie of the family in front of the Grand Canyon is an invitation for would-be thieves to visit your home. AAA also suggests avoiding geotagging a photo of your hotel.
  • Tell your neighbor. If you’re leaving town during the holidays, tell someone you trust, ideally a neighbor who can keep an eye on your home for any suspicious activity. Also, ask your neighbor or a friend to collect your mail and any boxes or papers that show up on the porch.
  • Keep those wrapped gifts away from prying eyes. Keep gifts and packages away from windows or other places that offer a view.
  • Safety doesn’t end with the holiday. After you return home, don’t set empty gift boxes on the curb with the trash. Instead, flatten and fold them smaller so they’ll fit into recycling bins.

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