Tips to Stay Healthy this Holiday Season

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I don’t know about you, but it seems many folks around me are SICK.  Coughing, hacking, sniveling, well, you get my drift.  For me it is almost like I can see their germs surrounding them, and I have to force myself not to physically throw my arm across my mouth and nose and run away.

As a child, and even into my adult years I would get sick either:  before Christmas, during Christmas, or right after Christmas.  I don’t know if it was all the excitement, late nights, different foods, or just more germs that did it, but I was sick of it (pun intended).  I vowed to stay healthy over the holidays, and really all through the winter season.  Lately this has led me to study and use immune boosting herbs, to wash my hands religiously, and wear a scarf so I can discreetly pull it up if people are coughing around me (especially important during air travel).

I decided to dig a little deeper and find some more tips on how to stay healthy this season.  An article by Leana Wen, M.D. caught my eye, and I share her 8 tips below with my own comments.

#1. Eat well. It’s common to pack on 5-10 pounds during the holiday season, but there are ways you can eat both healthy and well! Know which foods are high in caloric content and low in nutrition. Don’t deprive yourself of such treats, but indulge in moderation. Eat smaller meals instead of “saving yourself” for one huge buffet. Opt for healthy options at home, and when visiting others, bring a healthy dish to share. Be careful of liquid calories, including alcoholic beverages.  Whew, this one is a tough one for me.  There are certain things that scream Christmas food to me, and most aren’t especially healthy.  I try to limit those special foods to Christmas Eve and Christmas day.  Of course if the cookies make it past those days, I may a nibble a couple!

#2. Stay active. Exercise is just as important during the holidays as any other time of the year. You should be active at least four to five times a week, preferably with some aerobic exercise every day. The weather may be cold outside, but the winter offers additional fun, too! Ice skating, sledding, snow sprints — all of these can be great exercise. Enlist your loved ones to join you for quality bonding time.  I got this one.  I have always enjoyed exercising, and don’t even mind bundling up and heading outside to do it.  Working out in the morning ensures I get it done before all the chaos starts, so I recommend it.  In my book decorating counts because you are likely lugging boxes, bending, and stretching to put up the treasured holiday keepsakes.  And don’t forget dancing!

#3. Prevent illness and injuries. Colds and the flu are most prevalent in the winter. Prevent them by washing your hands regularly and urging others to do the same. Stay warm by dressing in layers. Sprinkle sand on icy patches. Watch young ones and assist the elderly, who are at increased risk of falls and other injuries during this time.  Washing hands is really key to keeping germs away.  I caution against just relying on hand sanitizer–make sure you are also going the old soap and water way too.  Be mindful of where you are walking and take precautions to prevent slips.

#4. Check your heating system. Making sure your heating works and is safe. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. Install a carbon monoxide detector and test it once a month. Keep grills and generators out of the house, and don’t run your car for long periods of time in the garage. Most residential fires also occur in the winter; never leave fireplaces, stoves, and candles unattended.  I actually just scheduled our annual furnace inspection today.  We have had instances in previous homes where our gas furnaces were leaking and had to be shut off.  Not so great in the middle of winter.  Get it checked early to avoid a really cold couple of days.  Carbon monoxide detectors aren’t expensive and are so valuable to warn you.  And we are assured of at least one story about a candle that set an apartment or house on fire this holiday season.  Be vigilant!

#5. Travel safely. Whether you are going down the block or halfway across the world, follow extra precautions. Give yourself plenty of time in the additional holiday traffic. Never drink and drive. Be on the lookout for reports of extreme weather and heed warnings. If you’re traveling away from home, make sure to pack and take your medications. Know how to contact your doctor when you are away and have a medical problem, and where the local ER is.  I think most of this is common sense, but I do like the reminder of how to contact your doctor and where the local ER is.  If you did not follow #3 and #4, you may need this information.

#6. De-stress. Holidays can be a stressful time. You may be working, and feel the stress of managing your work duties along with additional commitments to your friends and family. You may feel the financial stress of gifts and the interpersonal stress of conflicts. Try to anticipate sources of stress and develop a plan to manage them. This may involve committing to fewer get-togethers or setting a tighter budget. Don’t feel guilty; you have to take care of yourself before you can take of others.  I always say stress is a buzz kill, and no one wants that during the holiday season!    Don’t let FOMO get the best of you and over commit to holiday parties.  Have a budget.  Be gentle with yourself if you go over the budget.  More strategies for busting stress can be found in my blog here.

#7. Help others. Depression and suicidality (sic) increase during the holidays. Watch for signs of depression among your friends and family. Take an active role to support those in need. Invite those colleagues or friends who are alone over the holidays to spend them with you. Volunteer and give to those less fortunate.  Be mindful of those that seem to withdraw, or those you haven’t heard from in a while.  I know, there’s a lot going on right now, but a simple text or phone call could be the difference for those who are feeling lonely and disconnected.  Feel free to assign family members and friends to check on others – it doesn’t have to be entirely your responsibility.  In the past I have given to charities in other people’s names as gifts.  This is a great (easy, stress-free) way to shop that keeps giving.

#8. Treat yourself. The holiday spirit is about helping others around you, but you also have to make time to take care of yourself. So treat yourself with something over the holidays. It may be something as simple as sleep. Wake up late and enjoy a day of rest; you need it. How about reading that book you’ve been meaning to for a long time, or getting a manicure or massage? Take the time to do the things that make you happy.  This goes back to “you can’t pour out of an empty cup”.  Self-care is not selfish, it is necessary.  Spend some quiet time reading or relaxing without guilt.  Go to the gym.  Bless yourself with the gift of YOU time.  Need more info?  Check out my blog on Self Care in a Stressful World.

Be healthy and safe this holiday season!



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