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Deck the halls, sing, be merry—and cue the exhaustion. Ideally the holidays would be all about popping champagne and exchanging gifts while laughing with your friends. But the reality is that between family obligations, frantic shopping, and wrapping up last-minute work tasks, the holidays can be stressful and even depressing.

Luckily we’ve rounded up 17 ways to keep your energy and mood high this holiday season.

Energize During the Holidays

1. Limit sugar intake.

A box of red and green sweets may seem like a quick pick-me-up—and it is, until a few hours later, when you're face down on your keyboard at work. You probably already know this, but eating lots of sugar at once can lead to an energetic high followed by a giant crash.A high sugar content, low caffeine drink does not alleviate sleepiness but may worsen it. Anderson C, Horne JA. Human psychopharmacology, 2006, Sep.;21(5):0885-6222. If you really want something sweet, limit your portion size and the amount of sugar in the food (think: dark chocolate versus candy canes).

2. Avoid binge-eating.

Santa’s belly may fit all the cookies in the world, but ours do not. When we gobble down a big meal, blood rushes to the gut to help break down the food in your digestive system, which often leaves us feeling slow and sluggish. Avoid the food coma by sticking to a normal-sized plate at holiday dinners and eating slowly.

3. Don't eat late at night.

Holiday parties may go all night, but that's no reason to down a slice of pumpkin pie to celebrate the stroke of midnight. After all, eating late has been linked to weight gain, among other issues.Relationship between food intake and sleep pattern in healthy individuals. Crispim CA, Zimberg IZ, dos Reis BG. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2012, Apr.;7(6):1550-9397. The solution? Try eating a nutritious dinner before the party starts to avoid late-night munchies. (And remember, it's best to not go to bed either hungry or stuffed.)

Energize During the Holidays

4. Go for coffee and chocolate.

It’s no excuse to go wild, but these naturally-caffeinated products can perk us up when we’re experiencing an energy low or bad mood.Effects of caffeine on alertness. Zwyghuizen-Doorenbos A, Roehrs TA, Lipschutz L. Psychopharmacology, 1990, Feb.;100(1):0033-3158. Consumption of cocoa flavanols results in acute improvements in mood and cognitive performance during sustained mental effort. Scholey AB, French SJ, Morris PJ. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 2009, Nov.;24(10):1461-7285. Try a coffee-chocolate combo like this espresso crinkle to keep everyone awake for the festivities. Just make sure you're not indulging in caffeine too close to bedtime.

5. Complicate your carbs.

While the simple carbohydrates found in refined foods (a.k.a. holiday cookies and candy) can lead to those energy spikes and dips, complex carbohydrates can be a source of sustained energy. Opt for legumes, starchy vegetables, and whole-grain breads and cereals.

6. Sleep it off.

Sleep may be an obvious way to beat exhaustion, but it’s often the last thing we think about when the holidays hit, between last-minute shopping, cooking, and celebratory duties. Still, it’s important to stick to a regular sleep schedule, even on the weekends and during vacation.

Energize During the Holidays

7. Don't blame it on the alcohol.

Hangovers are funny when they happen on TV, but in reality, the morning-after effect can mean nausea, headaches, and fatigue. Stick to one or two drinks for the night—especially if you've got multiple parties each week! (And if you must indulge, opt for these science-backed remedies.)

8. Work it out.

During the holiday season, health can be the first thing to fall by the wayside. But fitness routines are especially important this time of year—not only does exercise help relieve the stress of holiday insanity but working out can actually give us more energy when we feel exhausted.

9. Bust out the jams.

Whether it's "Sleigh Ride" or "I Have a Little Dreidel," music can help raise our spirits when the stress of the holiday season starts bringing us down. It doesn’t have to be holiday music, either—classical tunes are often the best for reducing stress and anxiety.

Energize During the Holidays

10. Spend some time alone.

True, you may only see your relatives a few times a year, but family obligations don’t have to consume our lives during the holidays. Make a point of scheduling some alone time—whether that means window shopping, reading a book, or taking a jog around the neighborhood and checking out the holiday decor.

11. Wear an ugly sweater.

It sounds too simple, but sometimes just being cold can cause our energy levels to plummet.The human sleep-wake cycle reconsidered from a thermoregulatory point of view. Kräuchi K. Physiology & behavior, 2006, Oct.;90(2-3):0031-9384. To perk up, grab a cup of cocoa and don some festive outerwear. While we can't find a study that states the ugliness of sweater directly correlates to happiness, that's no reason not to give it a shot.

12. Go for a group sweat session.

To avoid letting family zap energy levels, brighten everyone’s spirits with a group activity like yoga (especially these poses) or meditation.

Energize During the Holidays

13. Step into the light.

It may be the season to be jolly, but winter is also the time when seasonal affective disorder strikes, sometimes causing depression, weight gain, and fatigue. And hibernating in a warm, cozy house may also mean we’re more at risk for vitamin D deficiency, which research suggests might be linked to daytime sleepiness. Beat the blues by making sure to spend some time outside (even if it isn’t sunny) or consulting a doctor to see if light therapy is the right option.

14. Stare at Santa.

Who knew the holiday people were so scientific? Research suggests looking at the color red can boost our energy levels pronto.Perception of the color red enhances the force and velocity of motor output. Elliot AJ, Aarts H. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 2011, Aug.;11(2):1931-1516. So take a stroll through a department store or just look at some red wrapping paper. Bonus points for wearing something Santa-themed: Studies have also found wearing red can make us feel more confident and may even make you appear more attractive.Psychology: red enhances human performance in contests. Hill RA, Barton RA. Nature, 2005, Jun.;435(7040):1476-4687.

Energize During the Holidays

15. Have more sex.

Here’s another reason to celebrate! If it puts you to sleep, you’ve probably got other issues, but chances are, a little romantic action will stimulate brain function and relieve stress and depression.Sex, stress, and health. Brecher J. International journal of health services : planning, administration, evaluation, 1977, Mar.;7(1):0020-7314.

16. Help out.

This holiday season remember the needy—even if it’s for partly selfish purposes. Doing volunteer work is related to significant health benefits and known to keep depression and low-energy levels at bay.

17. Learn to say no.

The only thing more tempting than a tray of Christmas cookies is saying “yes” to all the parties that offer them. But spending the weekend dashing from one festive occasion to the next is a surefire way to stop feeling jolly. Avoid crashing by being realistic and declining some responsibilities and social obligations.

Originally published December 2012. Updated November 2015.

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