5 Ways to Stay Healthy For the Holidays
Mom's in stress meltdown, the kids are fighting over the last cupcake, Uncle Bob is coughing up a lung as he carves the turkey, and your best friend just got text-dumped. Hello, holiday memories!
'Tis the season to beat sickness (not to mention tiredness, stress, or other holiday downers). Fortunately, you can stay well and have a good time even if everyone else is falling apart.
Follow these 5 tips to boost your body's defenses:
- Fend off germs. Family gatherings, airports and travel stops, shopping malls, even the library during finals week — they're all places germs like to mingle. So protect yourself: Get a flu vaccine and wash your hands a lot. The holidays are all about sharing, but some things you'll want to keep to yourself: forks, spoons, and drinking utensils. People can be contagious before they know they're sick, so even just a sip from someone's drink puts his or her germs in your body.
- Eat healthy and be merry. Holiday foods can be high in calories and low on the nutrition you need to battle germs and boost energy. Make it a priority to eat five or more fruits and vegetables a day (choose the whole fruit instead of juice so you feel full longer and avoid added sugar). Carry an apple or a bag of baby carrots so you always have a healthy snack available. And don't give your exercise routine a holiday. Exercise gives you energy in addition to burning calories.
- Chill. "Can I afford it?" "Will it be perfect?" Even things we look forward to, like parties or gifts, can come with worries attached. If you feel stressed out, stop what you're doing for just a moment. Take five deep breaths — all-the-way-down-to-your-belly deep. Concentrate on each breath as you inhale and exhale. Walk over to a window and look out at the sky. Then go back to what you were doing, realizing that holiday drama will happen. Just hope it leaves you with some great stories to tell.
- Beat the blues. Holiday depression doesn't just happen in songs. For some people, it's seasonal, brought on by shorter days, longer nights, and colder weather. Other people are going through difficult life events like a breakup or a move. If you feel down, go outside, even if it's cold where you live. Sunlight and exercise are great mood lifters. Try a seasonal activity to put you in the holiday spirit, like ice skating or neighborhood carol singing. And don't hesitate to talk to someone you trust, like a parent or teacher, about how you're feeling.
- Get some Z's. Getting 81/2 to 9 hours of sleep a night during the holidays can help strengthen your immune system, give you more energy, and make you less vulnerable to stress.
One of the top things to do for your health is to get out and have fun. Forget about the tough stuff for a while (except for your safety, of course — be sure someone knows where you are and watch out for drunk drivers).
Laugh and enjoy yourself — the holidays only come once a year.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: December 2010
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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