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Dear Vegans: The Holidays Don't Have to Suck

Embracing the holiday season also means embracing new ways of improving your life.

The holidays are approaching, and for some, this time of year can be stressful. Between shopping to find the perfect gifts, having to cook for a big crowd, all the holiday parties, and the obligatory family gatherings, things can get pretty overwhelming, even for the most zen person! However, the holidays don’t have to be something to dread. Instead, follow our five easy tips, and you just might reduce your stress level and survive the holiday season. That’s a win-win situation if we’ve ever heard of one!

1. Start a new exercise routine before the New Year
It’s winter, and all you feel like doing is cuddling under the blankets with your rescue dog while reading your favorite plant-based cookbook or watching your favorite vegan documentary on Netflix. Leaving the house under those circumstances can be extremely difficult, so if it’s too cold to walk your dog, you don’t have the energy to take a yoga class, or you don’t want to go to the gym, you can still exercise at home. All you need is a yoga mat, and you can follow along with your favorite YouTube exercise video. Doing any form of exercise will help reduce stress levels and leave you feeling more energized and better able to cope with all the holiday bustle. Even if it’s just 30 minutes a day, exercise can dramatically boost your mood.

2. Meditate
If exercising isn’t your thing, you should try incorporating daily meditation into your routine. Meditating first thing in the morning for even five minutes is a great way to begin the day. Doing so will help clear your mind of negative thoughts and feelings you might have surrounding the holidays, will help you set your intentions for the day, and will leave you feeling motivated to take on the day. Meditating in a quiet room where there are no distractions (be sure to turn off your phone and close your door so you don’t get disturbed) is the best way to start. Begin with five minutes a day, and gradually increase the time with every session. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and quiet your mind, repeat a positive mantra, or just be and not think about anything.

3. Eat healthy
Between all the incredibly yummy vegan holiday-themed desserts and beverages, resisting food and/or drink temptation is nearly impossible. That said, you don’t have to totally deprive yourself because that’s just cruel! Instead, focus on balance. Rather than eating half of the vegan chocolate chip cookies you baked for your loved ones, eat two. Instead of having three Baileys Almande drinks at that holiday work party, have just one. If you know you’re going to be eating more than usual at a family gathering for dinner, try eating a light breakfast and lunch. Overeating is never a good feeling, especially when it leaves you feeling bloated the next day.

4. Spend time with friends and family
Even if you aren’t the most social person, be sure to stay busy by making plans with your friends and loved ones. If you prefer not to celebrate the holidays, there’s nothing that says you can’t plan some non-holiday themed activities such as seeing a movie, having dinner at your favorite vegan restaurant, visiting a nearby animal sanctuary (and maybe volunteering there), or spending time in nature. If you want to treat yourself, you could plan a short getaway with your best friend to get out of your city and explore new plant-based restaurants.

5. Set goals for 2018
Instead of setting 100 unrealistic goals, focus on one (or a few) realistic, attainable goals that you would like to achieve in 2018. These goals can be small things such as donating money or old clothes, volunteering, fundraising for your favorite vegan non-profit, helping a friend go vegan, attending a protest, rescuing an animal, making exercise a daily part of your routine, eating fewer processed foods, spending more time with friends instead of isolating yourself (or working all the time), being gentle on yourself, making yourself a priority, exercising self-care, or being more patient and positive. Getting inspired for what the new year might bring to you can get you excited to try new things, travel more, and be the best you that you can be!

Karine Brighten is a vegan certified personal trainer and pilates teacher.

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