by Leslie Horton, Director, Yavapai County Community Health Services
Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve, whatever and however you celebrate, these are supposed to be times of fun, togetherness and holiday cheer. Yet, they can bring challenges to our physical and emotional wellness. Here are eight tips for staying healthy and happy during this season of joy.
1. Eat well. It is common to pack on 5 or more 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. It is completely OK to indulge, if you follow one simple rule: 90 percent of the time, eat healthfully, and for the remaining 10 percent, go ahead and allow yourself some less healthy treats without any guilt at all. 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. Beware of liquid calories, including alcoholic beverages.
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. Sure, the days are short and the weather is chilly, but your body still needs movement to thrive. Aim for at least 30 minutes of fresh-air activity each day and don’t forget to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
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 to avoid slipping. Watch young ones and assist the elderly, who are at increased risk of falls and other injuries during this time.
4. Check your heating system. Assure that your home 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 do not run your car in the garage to warm it up. Most residential fires also occur in the winter; never leave lighted fireplaces, stoves and candles unattended.
5. Travel safely. Whether you are traveling 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 are traveling away from home, make sure to pack and take your medications. Know how to contact your doctor when you are away and be aware of where the local ER is, just in case.
6. De-stress. Holidays can be a very 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 budgeting for 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. Do not feel guilty; you have to take care of yourself before you can effectively take care of others.
7. Help others. Depression and suicidality tend to 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.
8. Do something special for yourself. The holiday spirit is about helping others around you, but you also have to make time for self-care. Perhaps most importantly, make sure you get enough rest. Proper sleep and relaxation will help keep your immune system strong, as well as relieve stress. After a long day of holiday preparations, sip herbal tea, meditate, snuggle up with a book, or watch a classic holiday movie with your family. Take the time to wind down so you can get a full eight hours of quality shut-eye. Do not feel obligated to do everything and see everyone. Choose activities that truly give you joy, and forget about obligations.