The holidays are here — and for most, that means celebrations, good times, and disruptions to routine. As a practitioner, you likely feel this too. Running a private practice is challenging throughout the year, but add in the effects of the holiday season, and you may be teetering toward burnout.
Additionally, you may feel like you’re up against impossible odds when it comes to helping your clients stay motivated with their health goals during the holidays — especially as they prepare for a successful new year.
So you’re probably wondering exactly where to start. Here’s what to consider to help your clients stay motivated during the holidays and through the new year.
Remind them about moderation
The holidays are a time of more, which can feel depleting if your client has an all-or-nothing attitude. All-or-nothing thinking is prevalent in perfectionism and those dealing with anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, this type of thinking is also one of the most common cognitive distortions — polarizing situations, experiences, and choices. This type of thinking can impact your clients with the following:
- Decreased confidence and self-esteem
- Less willingness to take risks
- Fear of asking for help
- Inability to find common ground
- Lack of self-compassion
- Less resilience
If your client is facing the all-or-nothing thought process, use these tips to encourage them about moderation.
- Eliminate guilt: The holidays are not the time for shame. There is a place for all types of food in a diet, in moderation of course. Clients should never feel guilty for enjoying dessert or a glass of wine. Help them develop a plan of action if they find themselves overwhelmed with guilt. Is there a healthier option they can choose to indulge in? Or is there an underlying challenge that needs to be addressed?
- Practice mindfulness: The holidays only come once a year, so it’s important that clients take advantage of all the season has to offer. This often requires mindfulness and self-awareness about what matters most. Have your clients ask themselves, “What do I enjoy about the holidays?” Then, remind them to focus their time and energy on those things. Practicing mindfulness helps them to prioritize, experience joy, and keep them on track with their health goals.
- Manage expectations: If your clients are stressed about indulging or not having the time for their healthy habits, encourage them to add something healthy that does fit into their busy lifestyle this season. For example, going for a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood after dinner.
- Compromise: Always sticking to their health plan isn’t possible, especially during the holidays. Remind them they must be willing to compromise and give themselves grace whenever they veer from their health goals. This also implies flexibility and empowers clients.
Clients are more likely to continue with their health goals this holiday season if they are permitted to indulge in the things that bring them joy. But doing so in moderation helps to maintain their health goals and prepare for a successful new year.
Help them maintain their routine
Many of your clients will be traveling, attending parties, and likely staying up later than usual, all of which cause drastic changes in their routines. However, maintaining healthy habits is more about consistency, so help them devise ideas to keep their routine amidst the chaos.
Maintaining a routine amidst chaos requires some planning and careful consideration about what is most important. This is a valuable endeavor because routines, especially morning routines, can increase energy, productivity, and positivity.
But during travel and party-attending, helping your clients stay motivated with their routines, even more so a morning routine, may not be feasible. Here’s how to support them with maintaining their routine.
First, ask them what is most important to their routine. For example, do they value getting in a sweat session? Do journaling and practicing gratitude help them feel more grounded? Or do they feel best when they have a few minutes of quiet reflection?
Next, have them consider why these things are essential. How do these activities make them feel? When they can see the value these things add to their lives, it’s easier for them to adjust their schedule to accommodate.
Then, have them set a realistic goal for the amount of time they dedicate to their routine. For some, that may be only five minutes, while others can devote 30 minutes or more.
Finally, remind them that consistency — not perfection — in maintaining their morning routine is the most important. Consistency ensures structure. On the contrary, lacking structure increases stress and anxiety and decreases productivity and motivation. So being consistent with what they can do during the holiday season will help them prepare for a successful new year and maintain their health goals.
Encourage self-care and mindfulness practices
The holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year, but buying gifts, attending parties, and trying not to break healthy habits can also make it the most stressful time of the year.
Self-care and mindfulness practices are essential in helping your clients manage their stress and maintain their health goals. Here are some to consider.
The holidays can stir up a lot of emotions and discomfort for many people. Your clients may be stressed about money or missing a loved one; they may dread seeing their extended family.
Regardless of what is causing the emotions or discomfort, they’re not alone. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, 38% of people surveyed said their stress increased during the holiday season — ongoing stress can lead to physical illness, depression, anxiety, and substance misuse.
And if your clients are living with a mental illness, the National Alliance on Mental Illness noted that 64% of these individuals say their conditions worsened around the holidays.
One way to help your clients maintain their health during the holidays is to set boundaries. Boundaries are important to mental wellness and help people feel heard and connected genuinely. They can also be a part of self-care.
Healthy boundaries help your clients:
- Build self-esteem
- Identify their values and beliefs
- Focus their well-being
- Avoid burnout
- Develop independence
- Create a greater sense of identity
Setting healthy boundaries starts with helping your clients define their limits.
- Identify what supports and what detracts from their well-being. Ask them: When you think about the situation, what comes to mind — how does it make you feel? They can use these insights to inform the goal of setting (or needing to set) a boundary.
- Prepare for pushback. When people set boundaries, they’ll likely receive some pushback. This is especially true if others disagree with their boundary. So ask them: What do you anticipate happening if you say “no” to something? For example, what would they say if they told their family member they couldn’t attend a holiday gathering because they wanted to avoid being tempted by unhealthy options?
- Openly communicate their boundaries. A boundary is only effective if it is consistently shared. They should express their limits clearly and precisely — doing so without becoming emotional. For example, if your client does not want to drink alcohol, they should share this information directly with a brief explanation of why, stating only the facts.
- Avoid feeling guilty. Reassure your clients that setting boundaries should not accompany guilt and that healthy boundaries are essential to self-care.
Mindfulness deepens the capacity to cope with anxiety and other challenging emotions by gently interrupting intrusive thoughts and feelings. When practiced with self-compassion, mindfulness helps increase your client’s ability to regulate emotions and decrease stress, anxiety, and depression. In addition, according to a 2022 study in Frontiers Psychology, mindfulness increases overall life satisfaction and is a widely recognized indicator of well-being.
“Individuals with a high level of mindfulness are more willing to actively accept themselves and the events that happen to them — including accepting things they cannot change, such as appearance and thoughts, than individuals with low mindfulness,” the study authors wrote. “The higher the degree of self-acceptance of individuals, the more possibilities they have to form a positive self-evaluation.”
Encourage your clients to use mindfulness to help them maintain their healthy habits this holiday season.
- Sensations: Sensational grounding techniques are strategies that help connect or “ground” a person in the present moment. They’re a form of mindfulness and known to help stressful situations and various mental health conditions. One of the most common sensational grounding techniques includes engaging the five senses — known as the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. This technique requires looking around and identifying five things you see, four things you feel, three things you hear, two things you smell, and one thing you taste. This method is effective because it disrupts negative thoughts, helping your client get back to what is happening around them.
- Breathing: Another mindfulness practice your clients can use to maintain their healthy habits includes breathing exercises. Breathing exercises increase relaxation. And deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. You can practice breathing exercises like “lion’s breath” with your clients to help them manage stress.
- Curiosity: Staying curious is a mindfulness practice that also promotes self-awareness. For example, when your clients feel triggered or like they’re falling off track with their health goals, remind them to open their minds and stay curious about the situation. Have them ask themselves, “What is happening and why?” Encourage them to pay close attention to their feelings and emotions. Remember, feelings are different from emotions — emotions are associated with bodily reactions that are activated through brain messengers (neurotransmitters) and hormones. Whereas feelings are the conscious experience of emotional responses. Have your clients note what their body feels like when they experience an emotion, i.e., frustration or overwhelm. Then have them identify what happens next.
Practicing mindfulness should always be a judgment-free zone. Remind your clients not to judge themselves for the thoughts, feelings, or emotions they may experience because all are valid.
As you continue your practice through one of the busiest times of the year, keep these three tips in mind to help your clients stay on track with their health goals and prepare for a successful new year.
About the Author
Heather Cherry is a freelance health and wellness writer and content marketing coach. She helps businesses create strategic, creative, and conversational messages as well build effective content teams. She has been published in Forbes, Sleepopolis, SELF, Insider, and author of Market Your A$$ Off.
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