Long weekends are something that many people look forward to throughout the year. It’s the gift of an extra day to do with as you please: celebrate the holiday with your family and friends, get out of town, stay up late and sleep in, or binge-watch your favourite show. And most likely indulge a little (or a lot).
But when the weekend is over and it’s back to reality, that indulging—whether it was food, alcohol, lack of sleep or inactivity—can leave you feeling bloated, tired and guilty. Instead of regretting your decisions (what’s done is done), try focusing on the things you CAN do to re-energize and get back on track (or start a new, healthier track altogether!). There’s no better time than now!
#1 Keep Eating – Don’t Skip Meals
If you ate your weight in holiday delights, you might be tempted to skimp on calories to balance it all out. But missing meals or shorting your calories = slow metabolism = less energy, which is the opposite of feeling better. Instead, eat smaller, more frequent meals (for example: a total of four to six meals/snacks spaced every three to four hours). By eating this way you won’t feel weighed down and your blood sugar and energy levels will even out. That’s the goal.
#2 More Plants, Less Animals
You don’t have to become a strict vegan, but a little more plants never hurt anyone. Actually, eating plants is one of the most beneficial things you can do to nourish your body. Cardiologist, professor and long-time vegan, Dr. Joel Kahn, says a plant-based diet can reverse eight common diseases and save eight million lives every year. Even the revised Canada Food Guide due out in 2018 is rumoured to de-emphasize the necessity of animal meats and dairy. Recovering from a long weekend is a great time to try making some different decisions about your food (here’s a sample vegan meal plan from a certified health coach). You might just feel a little lighter, leaner and full of energy.
#3 Replenish Your Fluids
Detoxification means clearing the body of toxins through lifestyle changes. Drinking water is key to accomplishing this task and ensures your body’s organs and systems are functioning properly. The Institute of Medicine currently recommends 104 ounces (13 cups) of water per day for men and 72 ounces (nine cups) for women. Are you getting enough? Try adding cucumber or lemon slices to your water for a little extra pizzazz.
#4 Step Away From the Caffeine
When thinking of properly hydrating yourself, remember that sports drinks, sugary beverages and especially coffee and other caffeinated drinks are not part of the equation. They take a toll on your body instead of replenishing and re-energizing it. In addition to water, try herbal tea–either hot or iced. Peppermint, camomile and ginger tea are particularly helpful for recovery and digestion. And if you’re taking care of yourself (food + water + sleep), you may not feel like you have to drink coffee all day.
#5 Slow & Steady Exercise
Movement–any movement–will make a difference. With an overload of carbs, fat and sugar in your system, exercise is what your body needs–it actually GIVES you energy. After a long weekend, it’s okay (and recommended) to start slowly. You don’t have to do that 5K (unless you really, really want to). A walk, bike or swim and some simple weight training will get your heart pumping and blood flowing. Try a combination of lunges, squats, push-ups and crunches. And don’t forget to stretch! Here are some ideas for easy yet effective workouts.
#6 Reduce Media & Other Distractions
How many times a day do you check your phone? How often does your well-intended multi-tasking morph into crisis mode and despair from not being able to be all things to all people? Writer Linda Stone calls it “continuous partial attention”. She writes, “In a 24/7, always-on world, continuous partial attention contributes to a feeling of overwhelm, over-stimulation and to a sense of being unfulfilled.” Essentially, this unconscious behaviour contributes to stress. Try turning off notifications on your phone and being more aware of all the times your stress levels are rising from over-stimulation and distractions. The more you’re aware of these habits, the easier it is to break them.
#7 Show Gratitude & Appreciation
It’s not just about diet and exercise. There is plenty of science-based research to support the mind-body connection. One habit you can start practicing after a long weekend (especially Thanksgiving!) is incorporating more gratitude into your everyday life. According to researchers and academics, people who experience gratitude cope better with stress, recover more quickly from illness and have lower blood pressure. It’s really simple to start a gratitude jar (or a container of your choosing). Each day, find a scrap of paper and jot down one thing that you’re grateful for, even if it’s something small that happened that day. It will make a difference.
#8 Make Sleep a Priority
This probably should have been the number one step in re-energizing after a long weekend because it’s that important! The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night for adults, which millions of people are just not getting. You simply have to make time for it. Try setting an alarm to start your bedtime routine (it’s not just for kids!) 30 to 60 minutes before you want to be asleep. Your routine can include herbal tea, a good book or guided meditation with dim lighting. Anything that helps you wind down away from electronic devices. Combined with a healthy diet, exercise and reduced stress, a good night’s sleep will have you feeling back on your feet in no time.