Staying Healthy Through the Holidays

It’s started already … the flu has already shown itself in many areas, and we are heading into the chill of fall-to-winter weather, when it can be hard to know what to wear to be warm, but not too warm, and dry, should the weather turn wet. As well, we are working through the winter holidays – Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving, and all the parties and frantic shopping and other preparations we do for these. No one wants to get sick, especially not when there is so much to do and enjoy. Her are some tips for staying healthy through this busy time of year:

  1. Get enough sleep. While most of us know that we function better on a good night’s sleep, it is very tempting to watch one more episode of that Netflix series, or spend a few more minutes – or hours – on Facebook catching up after a long day at work. We don’t all need the same amount of sleep, but once you know how much is optimal for you, schedule that time for just sleep. Stop the screen time at least two hours before you go to bed, and use that time for reading, journaling, family, or meditating/yoga. Don’t exercise too close to bedtime, as that can make going to sleep more difficult, but do make sure you are getting regular exercise, as this helps to make you more physically tired as well as relieving stress. Which brings me to the next tip…
  2. Get regular exercise. As the weather gets colder, and in some places rainier, as well as the days getting darker earlier, it can be hard to keep up the daily walk or bike that you did in the summer. Regular exercise helps you to stay healthy, sleep well, and support your overall wellbeing, all of which help your immune system. Figure out some alternatives to outdoor activities, unless you love winter, in which case this is your season! Go to a gym, a pool, a climbing gym, or an indoor track (even a shopping mall can be a good place for a brisk walk) and plan to get at least three good sessions a week. It’s hard to get up earlier or go for a workout when it is already dark after work, but you will feel more energetic and cheerful, which can help to counter the dark-day blues.
  3. Wash your hands!! Washing your hands is essential to prevent disease transmission. Wash your hands before and after eating and using the toilet, as well as when you come home, and whenever you are touching objects in a public place – for example shopping, or using equipment at a gym. Germs get to your vulnerable organs – your nose, mouth and eyes – via your hands, so stopping them in their tracks before they get there is key.
  4. Eat well. Particularly for those working shifts and for people living on their own, it can be hard to make good food choices and maintain a healthy meal pattern, but this is important for maintaining health during flu season and year-round. Make sure you are getting at least two servings daily of good-quality protein foods – lean meat, fish, tofu, legumes, eggs or dairy – prepared without added fat or salty seasonings. Also focus on eating at least one serving of fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack. Besides avoiding the winter weight gain which plagues so many of us, this will also help you get the variety of nutrients your body needs to boost immunity and fight off infections.
  5. Find leisure activities to help you manage holiday stress. Do a craft, journal, or take an evening class in something you enjoy doing. Chronic unmanaged stress affects our hormone levels, making us more susceptible to illness.

Whatever you do, try to focus on the enjoyable aspects of the holidays – family time, time off work, fun activities to do inside and out – and avoid over-spending, over-eating and over-drinking, all of which cause stress and unpleasant consequences long after December has come and gone.