Monday, March 4, 2024

Right after Halloween, Ashley Guerra started being inundated with invitations — for Friendsgiving, for holiday parties and for New Year’s Eve.

“The holidays always feel a little chaotic,” said Ms. Guerra, 33, who lives in Dallas and works in product marketing for a tech company. “It’s more eating, more drinking, more late nights, more energy in showing up for other people.”

So this year she’s preparing by taking some time for herself ahead of Thanksgiving. “I’m filling up on my own cup,” she said.

In other words, Ms. Guerra is trying to give her body a break. Instead of the cardio or heavy strength training workouts she does in the summer, she’s focusing on slower, more restorative routines like Pilates and hot yoga. She’s added supplements to her daily routine, like lavender oil before bed to put her in a calmer state.

Ms. Guerra has scaled down her social interactions from five times a week to one or two. Instead of going to bars and restaurants, she’s asking friends to meet for coffee or take walks around the lake. She’s also spending more time not socializing at all, instead staying in to read or watch movies. “I definitely already feel a lot more prepared, even just energetically, to show up fully for the holiday season,” she said.

The holidays can be taxing, both mentally and physically. According to a poll from the American Psychiatric Association, 31 percent of Americans went into the 2022 holiday season expecting to feel more stressed than they did the previous year, up nine percentage points from 2021. The indulgent and constant eating and drinking, the financial strain of buying gifts and traveling, and the reunions with family members and old friends can all take a toll.

But some forward-thinking Americans are taking steps now to get their bodies and minds in fighting shape for what’s next — and it’s a little different from what many people did during the pandemic-era quarantines ahead of the holidays, though Covid is, of course, still in the mix, too.

Some people are cutting back on drinking, socializing or spending money. Others are adding wellness practices to their daily routines or taking spa trips. “I’m calling it a mini-hibernation,” Ms. Guerra said. Others are calling it a “preset,” a “pretox” or a wellness break before the holidays.

Sarah Mary Cunningham, 41, a vice president of publicity for Columbia Records who lives in Jersey City, has been frequenting her wellness club, where she does cold plunges, vitamin drips, cryotherapy and breath work.

She thinks of it as resetting the nervous system. “During the holidays there are endless advertisements, there are more people in the city, there are longer waits for Ubers, restaurants are really packed,” she said. “It’s a lot of stimulus, and it’s important to counteract that now.”

She also hopes to strengthen her immune system. “I have ended up with the flu at Christmas,” she said. “I am trying not to do that again.”

Parents in particular are seeing the need for a pause before the holidays. Heather Grabin, who has two children, ages 6 and 11, said, “Between things going on with my industry and work and breakfast with Santa, Christmas sleigh rides, chorus concerts at school, we are going to get inundated after Thanksgiving.”

That’s why last week Ms. Grabin, who works in hospitality marketing and lives in Bernardsville, N.J., went on a girls’ trip to Montreal, where she spent two and a half days in Nordic spas. “I needed to make time for self-care,” said Ms. Grabin, 36. “It’s amazing what that short amount of time can do for you.”

She now feels ready to embrace the holidays. “I want my kids to really be able to enjoy the holidays fully,” she said.

Gabi Ramos Caldato, 38, a journalist and communications consultant who lives in Manhattan, has given up alcohol and caffeine for the month of November. “I am buying a lot of spinach,” she said, laughing.

By cutting back now, she will have more wiggle room to indulge when she goes to South America, where her family lives, for Christmas. “Every night there will be dinner at someone’s house, and we are Latin, so there will be like 300 people there,” she said. “Not drinking now is giving me more energy to do that.”

Devon Chulick, 36, who runs a gaming start-up and lives in San Francisco, has also cut back on his drinking for the last few weeks. “It feels like the same thing as before summer comes along, when I start eating healthy to get my summer body back,” he said. “I think because I feel so good, I am not going to be stressed out for all the family gatherings this year. I am so hyped for the holidays.”

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