The holidays are generally not associated with good health. They often end up being the season of deferred workouts, excuses, overindulgence and pushing healthy habits into the new year. One of the reasons for this is that we feel OK to overindulge if everyone else is doing it. We are also following traditions from previous years that generally don’t include healthy eating or living.
The holidays are also very stressful for many of us, and stress can lead to a variety of health problems, especially in combination with other bad health habits.
CenCal Health has collected a list of healthy tips that will make the holidays healthier:
» Start a new healthy tradition. Integrate an easy and healthy daily physical activity into your holiday routine. A brisk daily walk or hike, weather permitting, is ideal. Involve friends or family or make it an individual ritual to reflect on the meaning of the holidays.
» Know and manage your holiday stress points. Minimize contact with family members or friends who bring conflict and stress. If avoiding them is not possible, find creative ways to divert conflict such as pre-set sitting arrangements and minimizing access to alcohol. If there are holiday events or traditions that upset you, gracefully bow out of them. Don’t feel like you need to do everything.
» Learn to relax your body and mind. When you are more relaxed, you sometimes get more done — and feel better doing it. When you feel wound up or overwhelmed, take five minutes to breathe deeply. Stress decreases your immune system.
» Practice healthy nutrition. Focus more on giving your body what it needs (such as fruits and vegetables) and less on trying to avoid certain foods. Eat sweets in moderation. Eat healthy food before going to a party to minimize temptations.
» Eat breakfast. On major eating holidays, many people fast all day to prepare for the big meal. Not only does this promote binging once you finally sit down to eat after starving yourself all day, but it’s also been proven that eating breakfast kick-starts your metabolism. Eating something light in the morning will help you burn more calories throughout the day, and eat less at the dinner table.
» Know how alcohol affects your health. Alcohol use has been associated with an increased risk for many health problems. If you drink, do so in moderation. Before a social event, plan ahead for what and how much you’ll drink. Alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
» Get the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine minimizes your risk of flu and your risk of spreading flu to others.
» Stay healthy in the air. Low humidity at high altitudes makes plane cabin air dry — and our airways more vulnerable to viruses and bacteria. Staying well-hydrated keeps those mucous membranes moist so they can better keep bugs out of our systems. Drink 8 ounces of water for every hour you're in the air.
» Be aware of your hands. Be mindful of what you touch in public. Things such as the backs of movie seats, arm rests, escalator rails, drinking fountains, elevator buttons and ATM screens are easy transfer points for viruses. Pack an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wipes in your pocket or purse, and use them regularly. Germs on your hands are the single biggest threat to your health, any time of year.
» Just say “no” to treats. Don't fall into the "I deserve this treat!" trap. Packing healthy snacks in your backpack or bag helps you fight temptation. A piece of fruit, low-fat string cheese, an ounce of nuts or a granola bar are the perfect snacks to stave off temptation.
» Stay in, rest up. If you run yourself ragged and don't get a good night's sleep, you risk getting ill just because you've worn down your body's defenses. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who slept at least eight hours nightly were about three times less likely to catch a cold than those who sleep for less than seven.
» Not up for it? Skip it. You're not being a Grinch by skipping a party when you feel worn down; you're being smart. Think of it as preventive medicine — both for you and your loved ones who you might infect.
— Kelly Kapaun is a publicist representing CenCal Health.