It’s called the silly season for good reason: from the slew of work-related functions to parties with friends and family to all the gift shopping, the holiday season is a crazy time of year. It can also be exhausting, and not just physically, but emotionally.

This is especially true if you’re not a natural extrovert. While a full calendar of events can be stressful even for a social butterfly, for those for that prefer to stay in their own cocoon, it can be overwhelming. And then there’s the effect it can have on your personal routines, and not to mention your waistline!

But there are ways to keep the pressure – and those unwanted pounds – at bay. Read on to find out how.

Surviving the Festivities

The holiday season presents a non-stop schedule of events, particularly on the business front. While these functions often present a great opportunity for networking and building on existing relationships, the constant late nights, booze and food can all impact your life in not so great ways. They can also be tricky to navigate, especially if you’re a little socially awkward. Here’s how you can survive corporate events or even the dreaded work Christmas party – and actually enjoy yourself!

  • Make the most of it by mingling. Even if you’re not exactly there by choice, you might as well get as much as you can out of your time. Make a point to mingle with as many people as possible, including those you don’t know. Networking is a huge part of business and it’s a chance to start building relationships at all levels.
  • Don’t just talk business. You are more than your work, and so is the person you’re talking to. Try to find out one or two personal things about everyone you meet. People generally like talking about themselves and similarly, they like people who actively listen. Plus, if you store that information away you can use it as a conversation starter the next time you meet, not only making future interactions smoother, but enhancing the impression you leave on the other person.
  • Don’t arrive hungry. While it’s tempting to save your calories for the event, the truth is you’ll probably just end up overeating even more. A small meal or snack, especially one filled with protein and fiber, will help you avoid loading up on the often high-calorie fare served at parties.
  • Come prepared. If you’re not the most natural talker, prepare a list of conversation points before the event. That way, in the event you get tongue tied, you have some back up.
  • Don’t drink too much. While a drink or two may loosen you up and make you more sociable, don’t overdo it. That liquid courage could soon turn into embarrassing behavior that makes the absolute wrong impression. Some strategies to limiting your alcohol consumption include sipping your drinks, making every second drink non-alcoholic and keeping an eye on the clock to pace your drinking.

 Creating a Survivable Schedule

The key here is not to overdo it. When you try to do too much, everything will start to feel like an obligation. And where’s the fun in that? Figure out what your limits are, say no when you have to, and remember that the holiday season is supposed to be enjoyable.

  • Keep your routine. Or at least try to. You will be better placed to handle the hectic holiday pace if you get the right amount of sleep, exercise and stick to healthy eating habits.
  • Be realistic. Don’t try to do everything. Realize that you’re likely going to have to say no to some things and don’t beat yourself up about it.
  • Prioritize your time. Of course there will be events that you absolutely must attend, but there will also be others that won’t matter if you miss them. Unless you actually want to attend the latter events, strike them off your calendar so you can save your energy for the important family and business functions.
  • Be efficient. Don’t waste your time on tasks that can be simplified. Rather than spending hours at the mall, harness the power of the internet and do your shopping online. Rather than handwriting your cards, consider having envelopes or mailing stickers printed so all you have to do is hand sign the card itself. Or even better, go electronic and send e-cards this year.
  • Build in down time. If you max out your schedule, you’re almost guaranteed to burn out. Make sure you include time for relaxation. Whether it’s a little time each day that you set aside for things like meditation, working out or reading a good book, or you allocate one day each week to do something you enjoy, the main thing is to make time to decompress.

Beating the Holiday Bulge

This is possibly the hardest part of the holidays. From rich food to endless appetizers and high-calorie cocktails, things can easily get out of hand on the food front. But there are some strategies you can employ to help keep your eating in check and still enjoy the foods you love.

  • Stay active. At a minimum, keep your current workout routine. Even better, find ways to add more activity during the holiday season. Try something a little more challenging in the place of one of your workouts each week. Take a class with a friend rather than meeting up for drinks or dinner. Go for a walk with the family after a big holiday meal. Use the stairs instead of the elevator and park further away from the store. These small increments of activity can add up and keep that holiday weight gain at bay.
  • Use the 80/20 rule. You can still indulge in your favorite foods, but limit that to 20% of the meals you eat. The rest of the time, stick to a healthy eating plan.
  • Don’t wait until the New Year. If you’ve completely blown your diet, don’t give yourself permission to continue the splurge until January 1. Every day is a new chance to start fresh. One big night (or even a week) doesn’t have to completely derail you. Get back on track today.
  • Eat smart. Use small plates, skip appetizers, pass on the bread basket and try to avoid grazing. A simple rule for avoiding mindless snacking in social situations is if you’re not sitting down to a meal, don’t eat.
  • Say no to seconds. If you really don’t want to eat anymore, just say no. This can be hard, especially to friends and family, but there’s no reason to overstuff yourself to please others. If yo u truly do want seconds, give yourself some time before grabbing another plate. It takes time for our stomachs to register when we’re full, and if you wait, you might just find you don’t need that second helping after all.
  • Load up on nutrients. Much of what we eat over the holiday season isn’t exactly nutritious. Make sure you get the nutrients you need by making your at-home meals as healthy as possible. Green smoothies, salads, grilled meat and fish and steamed veggies are all fantastic choices.

So you really can not only survive, but actually enjoy the holiday season if you take the right approach. As long as you make plans, set limits and take care of yourself, there’s no reason why the holidays can’t become your favorite season.