The holidays are a time of connection, relaxation and fun - but they can also bring pitfalls for people dealing with heart health issues. Between the traditional foods that aren't ideal for a heart-healthy diet, the temptation to stay on the couch when it’s cold outside and the possibility of holiday stress, people who need to watch their heart health can easily feel overwhelmed. It doesn't have to be this way, though - you can take some time off, relax, enjoy your family and care for your health too. Here are a few ways to do just that.

Manage stress wisely

The holidays come with stress for a lot of people. Even if you're not dealing with family members who drive you crazy or financial worries about all the gifts you need to buy, you're still likely to have a lot on your plate. Even positive things can stress you out if your calendar is too full of them. For your heart's health, you need to get very good at managing your stress. This may be especially true during the holidays, when all the things that are giving you stress also rob you of your precious alone time.

Before the deluge of holiday events and obligations gets you down, take some time to think about the best way to stay at least reasonably relaxed. Do you have a favorite hobby you can make time for? What about taking a walk after dinner by yourself to decompress after an evening full of family togetherness? If you have a list in mind of what works for you, it's easier to think of something to do to handle your stress as it's happening in the moment. You can also suggest new traditions that are less hectic - maybe you can go on a walk with your family instead of digging into another pie.

Eat with your heart in mind

Speaking of cookies, there are going to be a lot of opportunities for you to indulge over the holiday season. You do need to take care of your heart, of course, but don't deprive yourself of everything you like. Take a moment to decide what your absolute favorite holiday treats are, and decide you will settle for nothing less. If you're not that interested in your grandma's peppermint bark, pass it up to make room for the pie that you really love.

Even foods that aren't sweets can be unhealthy for you. There is nothing wrong with taking a few small portions of them, but make sure there is plenty for you to eat that is low in fat and sodium. If you're hosting, make a few heart-healthy dishes that you and others can enjoy together - there are plenty of recipes here on Heart Connect and other places online. If you are going to be a guest for a holiday meal, ask whether the host will let you bringing a dish or two that is in line with your own dietary needs.

If you keep these tips in mind - and if you make time to find mental balance and physical activity throughout the season - you can have great holidays and a healthy heart.

For more on staying heart-healthy:

Holiday Time! What are you Saying “Yes!” To?
How About a Drink? Before You Pour, Consider Your Wellness!
Honey for Heart Health?