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How to Stay Healthy This Holiday Season

‘Tis the Season

The Holiday Season is a joyful, loving time spent with family, friends and colleagues. It is also one of the busiest and most stressful times of the year as we expend more energy than we renew, which can leave us feeling depleted. We run here and there, with tight schedules and loads to do. And while we love the holidays, we may also dread them- mainly because of the stress. It is that stress that can lead to a compromised immune system and the potential for illness to set in, making our holidays less cheerful and bright.

To understand how stressed we can become during the holidays, let’s start with shopping. The other day was Black Friday and although I didn’t participate in it, I did have to return a laptop to a well-known electronics store. When I walked through the doors, I could feel the frenzied energy of the store. It was uncomfortable. In fact, it was almost suffocating as people filled the aisles and pushed past each other to get to the shelves. But, shopping is just one of many stressors we can experience during the holidays.

The gift list can be stressful as we spend a lot of time and energy figuring out what gifts to buy our partner, kids, boss and book club pals. We have to work out how much to spend on each person (which is typically based on a guessing game of how much we think they are going to spend on us) and where we can get the best deals. This is energy expended and none renewed.

After all of the gift buying is done, the gift wrapping begins, followed by the delivery of the gifts. We then watch to see if the gift we give the recipient is a “winner”, or not. More energy expended- none renewed.

More stress is added with holiday obligations – parties we throw and parties we attend – the year-end wrap-up at work and the less-than-healthy food choices we are presented with. The culmination of all the holiday activities is often loads of anxiety, less sleep than usual and a lack of sustainable nutrition. The holiday season is definitely a time of year when we can expend our energy, physically and emotionally, to the point of exhaustion.

Speaking of ‘Tis the Season, this is also the cold and flu season. The shopping, parties and family gatherings can mean a higher than usual opportunity for us to come into contact with viruses. That, along with the fact that we are probably already run down due to the stress of the holiday season, can make for the perfect storm for colds and flus.

The Holiday Season is a time when we want to be healthy and full of energy, not sick, trying to make it through the day. Is there anything we can do or do we just have to cross our fingers and hope for the best? There is always something we can do. We can be healthy throughout the holidays and experience true joy and peace, as it is meant to be experienced. We just have to make a few adjustments.

More Water, Less Sugar

Want to make it to January 2nd without feeling beat up, wiped out and unwell? It’s easy to do if you follow these two simple steps:

  1. Drink more water.
  2. Eat less sugar.

That may seem like a tall order during a season of alcohol-filled drinks and sugary treats at every turn, but these are two of the easiest things we can do to stay healthy during the holidays. That doesn’t mean we can’t have any treats, but we tend to use the holidays as an excuse to overindulge, which might not be such a big deal, except that, as a society, we tend to overindulge on a regular basis. And being dehydrated and full of sugar can lead to a compromised immune system, allowing bacteria and viruses to thrive.

Dehydration can be responsible for many headaches, sluggishness, loss of muscle strength and a lack of endurance. When the body experiences a fluid loss of just 5%, increased heart rate, nausea, extreme fatigue and muscle cramps can occur. This doesn’t sound like anything that would make our holiday bright and fun. Here is an idea to help you increase the amount of water in your diet each day: every time you have a cup of coffee, a cocktail or a soda, have a glass of water with it. Drinking one for one can help you stay ahead of dehydration and provide the much-needed energy to keep you going during the holidays.

Eating less sugar might not seem possible during the holiday season, but it is; we just have to change our habits with relation to sugary foods. Instead of eating loads of health zapping, energy-depleting treats during the holidays, why not scale back? Have a small piece of cake instead of one that fills a large dinner plate or have two cookies instead of six. Each time we eat less sugar, our body has a fighting chance at protecting us from those nasty bugs that none of us wants. Remember that pasta, bread and other white flours turn to sugar, so keep those to a minimum or leave them out of your diet completely. You will be glad you did.

More Ideas on Staying Healthy

In order to stay healthy and energetic this season, here are some other suggestions you may be able to work into your holiday schedule.

  1. Many people give up their exercise routine or decide they are going to start exercising and get healthy after the holidays. But, this can be backward thinking. We need to exercise during the holidays to relieve stress thereby allowing all of our internal systems to work optimally on our behalf.
  2. Wash your hands .¨ a lot. One of the reasons this is a season of colds and flus is due to the germs we leave for each other on door handles, paperwork, gifts and on each other. Since the cold virus is spread from hand-to-mouth contact, make sure to cough and sneeze in the crook of your elbow instead of in your hands. And remember to wash your hands often.
  3. Go get a massage even if it’s only for 30 minutes. It relieves tension and lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol and boosts several types of white blood cells, which protect the body against germs.
  4. Get more rest than usual. You probably think I’m nuts for saying that, but when do we need more sleep? When we are stressed, tired and not eating well. This describes most of us during the holidays. So, say “No” to some parties and go home early from the others. Get a good night’s sleep so your body can heal from the day. Your immune system will benefit to no end.
  5. Don’t overeat. This may also seem silly to say, but it is important for overall health. Try this trick: pop some gum into your mouth 15-20 minutes before eating. This makes your brain think you have already begun eating and will tell you that you are full sooner rather than later.and later could mean the dreaded food coma, which leaves us lethargic and open to illness.

It is not easy to make changes during the holiday season, but it is also not impossible for us either. By make some small adjustments this holiday season, we can have plenty of energy to enjoy our loved ones and stay healthy. We deserve that!

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