Holiday Survival Tips from Dr. Patel, Sensei Lanai

The holiday season can be stressful for some people in the best of times, but even more so this year for the many who have been isolating thanks to the pandemic.  For anyone feeling even just a little stressed as the holidays descend on us, Dr. Vishal Patel, Director of Wellness Research at Sensei has created the Sensei’s Holiday Survival Guide.   Here are just a few words of advice from Dr. Patel:

Are you stressed about over indulging?

Dr. Vishal PatelFeasting during the holiday season is a time-honored tradition across cultures around the world, so how can we still feast with the family without guilt?  Dr. Patel has three suggestions:

Use a smaller plate. If you are a “plate clearer” – meaning, you eat all the food on your plate regardless of if you are hungry – you will benefit from using a smaller plate. A smaller plate provides less surface area for the food, which allows us to  reduce our portion sizes automatically without thought.

Front load on fiber. Eat your veggies first – not the stuffing or the dinner rolls. Vegetable fiber takes up more volume in your stomach while packing in fewer calories than meat or bread. This means you’ll become full sooner, but in a much healthier way.

Eat slower. Once your stomach has reached capacity, it takes another 20 minutes for the stretch receptors in your stomach to send the signal – “I’m full” – to your brain. The slower you eat, the more time you allow for your stomach and brain to synchronize and avoid the painful feelings of overeating.

Are you stressed about family dynamics or awkward situations? 

We’ve all been there – The awkward question from an in-law or a distant cousin or a feeling of there being literally too many ‘cooks in the kitchen.’ How do you relieve that tension? Dr. Patel has two suggestions:

Take stock of your feelings beforehand. Are you dreading seeing a particular in-law or feeling anxious about seeing people you haven’t been with in over a year? These levels of anxieties are normal, especially because the last year has been anything but normal. Because of this, there is greater uncertainty about the upcoming interaction. Acknowledging these feelings beforehand is one step in the right direction.

Don’t be afraid to reach out. The work of Nobel prize-winning economist, Daniel Kahneman, found that in the face of the unknown, human beings resort to the “availability bias,” where our minds fill in the unknown based on information we have seen in the past. For the holidays, this means that a verbal exchange at a past holiday event predisposes us to expect this event to occur again at the next family gathering. Rather than falling prey to our biases, address this bias head on by gathering data ahead of time: send that estranged family member a text message or give them a call to ease these feelings.

Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort
Photo courtesy of Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Is the colder weather stressing you out and bringing you down?

The change of the seasons is accompanied by shorter days and longer nights, which for some people can evoke the “winter blues.” This can  make it harder to wake up in the mornings, increase irritability, and sluggish feelings during the day due to the lack of sunlight.

  • Seek out the warmth.  Since these feelings are brought on by a decrease in sunlight, a helpful remedy is simply to find some sunlight! That means breaking up your day and stepping outside to catch some rays during peak sunlight hours (usually 12-2 pm).
  • No sunshine? No worries. If you live in an area where natural sunlight is hard to find, then light therapy is an effective alternative. Light therapy involves continual exposure to bright, full-spectrum, white light for a minimum of 30-60 minutes per day. Light therapy can be self-administered at home using a light box. This type of exposure to light appears sufficient to stimulate light-sensitive cells in our eyes to send signals to our brain.

Are you stresses about flying?

Check out these five-tips for stress-free travel

Finally, are you looking to enjoy a relaxed and totally stress-free holiday experience?  Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort provides a beautiful environment to reconnect with loved ones this holiday season, offering packages such as the Guided Sensei Experience and the Discover Sensei Experience. With these packages, all family members (must be 16 years and older) can have personalized wellness itineraries that allow for some well-deserved holiday R&R.