Lauren Saks

Being a brand-new mom who has spent most of her mom-life quarantined with a new baby, my daily routine has been about as smooth as my son’s sleeping schedule. Keeping the stress down to healthy levels is hard enough without a pandemic. With the High Holidays just around the corner, I can feel my stress levels rising as high as a Rosh Hashanah challah. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up to help combat the stress — just in time for the holidays.

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude

Naturally, we tend to focus on the problems we are facing rather than appreciating the countless ones we’ve overcome. Studies show those who practice the art of gratitude experience stronger immune systems, are less bothered by aches and pains, have lower blood pressure, sleep better and tend to exercise more regularly. So, add a little gratitude to your daily routine. Simply grab a notebook (or a smartphone app like Google Keep) and take one minute, literally, at the start or end of each day to jot down items you’re grateful for — or should be grateful for.

Think of it as a side of honey for your apples. Try it for one week, seven minutes total, and see how it changes your daily life.

Maintain a regular bedtime routine

Maintaining a regular bedtime routine sets you up for success when it comes to making healthy choices this holiday season — and beyond. And no, napping during the rabbi’s speech doesn’t count toward those sleep hours.

Sleep deprivation increases the likeliness of craving high-fat, high-shofar (or is that sugar?) foods. When faced with kugels and honey cake this season, a few extra hours of sleep will help moderate those cravings. Battle your current nightly “wind-down” routine and you will be rewarded. You’ll be shocked at how much better you’ll feel with just 20 more minutes of actual sleep.

Move more

Does exercise class feel as long as Rosh Hashanah services? There are now more virtual fitness options than ever to help you attain your fitness goals. You can find live virtual classes spanning anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes and beyond.

Live virtual workouts allow you to hold yourself accountable to your appointment. Your fitness instructor can see you (if you choose to turn your camera on), motivate you and provide real-time feedback on your form and technique. On-demand classes allow you to attend fitness classes on your schedule, eliminating the stress of making it to the gym by a specific time or worrying about what others might think.

Get sneaky and revamp your kugel

Enjoy the traditional foods of the holiday with some sneaky additions. If you are using oil, go for the healthier ones like olive, avocado or even triple-filtered coconut oil. You can also reduce the proportions of starchy potatoes by sneaking in vegetables like shredded carrots, zucchini, parsnips or yellow squash. Your guests will notice, but they’ll probably be too polite to complain about it directly.

Look for alternatives

What’s Rosh Hashana without a sweet honey cake? There’s no need to sound the shofar alarm. Now more than ever before, there are tons of food alternatives. Instead of regular white flour look for a recipe that utilizes whole wheat, spelt, oat or almond flour.

You can also reduce the amount of sugar, still keeping things sweet with dates, figs and stevia — here’s where your guests might voice their complaints. If you, or they, just can’t cope without a real honey cake, crowd your slice with a healthy heap of fresh fruit and other healthier alternatives to give your appetite some options.

Schedule time for yourself

Taking time out of your day for yourself is not selfish or a luxury; it’s a necessity and a critical part of managing stress and mental health. Practicing self-care allows you to create a healthy relationship with yourself mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. You cannot give to others what you don’t have yourself.

Stay-home options for self-care include taking a nap, reading a book, enjoying a warm bath, listening to music or catching a virtual fitness class. Think of it as a resolution for the New Year — and you have about a three-month head start on the rest of the world.

Lose the guilt

Life is meant to be celebrated and enjoyed. A day of relaxed eating doesn’t justify another Yom Kippur. So, go ahead and grab your brisket, kugel and honey cake and sit down with them mindfully. Savor them and don’t let the holiday food guilt you. That’s what your relatives are for. JN

Lauren Saks is an AFAA certified fitness instructor and program developer. She is the creator of the FitPHX Virtual Fitness Series and the owner of Energized By Exercise. To learn more, go to energizedbyexercise.com .