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Got the holiday blues? Power up your body, and your mind will follow

woman stretching on a Pilates ballIf you’re feeling like the most wonderful time of year won’t come until after everyone stops singing about it, don’t go into hibernation just yet. Remember, you can summon some cheer by focusing on your physical well-being and workouts. (Which is especially key if your shrink also happens to be on vacation.)

“Your body is an expression of your life,” says yogi Stephanie Marango, MD, who just opened a mind-body medicine practice in Union Square. “It’s the physical embodiment of your thoughts, emotions, sensations, and spirit.”

So while psychological stressors—like loneliness or financial woes—can push you towards depression, you may be able to better fight back if your body is ready to jump in the ring.

Stephanie Marango
Stephanie Marango, the yogi-MD

Why? Because physical energy raises your self-esteem and allows you to feel in control, says Marango, which will in turn help ward off anxiety. And don’t under estimate the power of workout endorphins to lift your spirits.

“If you’ve got a case of the holiday blues, make a list of activities that you know energize you and commit to doing them regularly,” she says.

Here are a few simple ones that Marango recommends:

1. Eat for energy. “Instead of the ‘If I starve myself now, I can eat candy canes later’ mentality, keep to regularly timed meals and snacks to help maintain normal blood sugar levels throughout the day,” suggests Marango. You don’t want to deprive yourself of holiday treats. Just balance them with energy-packed foods like whole grains, vegetables, and light proteins. You’ll feel more stable if your day isn’t full of ups and downs.

2. Pencil in regular cardio. Even if you’re a slow-flow yogi or a body builder, your body needs aerobic exercise this time of year. “The key here is frequency,” says Marango. So no matter how little time you have, get your heart rate up a few times a week. Your mind will thank you.

3. Breathe—really deeply. “A few minutes of invigorating belly breath will go a long way toward lifting your mood and delivering much-needed oxygen to your cells,” Marango explains. Set your cell-phone alarm for 5 minutes in the morning before you leave and practice Yogic Skull Shining Breath, a technique known as the “cleansing breath” because of it’s effectiveness at dispelling stress and negative emotions. (Here’s how to do it.) Yes, the name sounds loopy, but it will seriously help, says Marango. —Lisa Elaine Held

How do you stay happy and healthy over the holidays? Share your tips (and good fortune) in the Comments, below!