Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and the holiday season is officially upon us. Christmas trees are going up, holiday music is blasting in stores and Santa is making his rounds in malls around the country. The madness of the holidays, mixed with the cold weather, make it a prime season to get sick. Here are some tips for staying healthy over the holidays.
Between days off of work, holiday parties and other schedule disruptions, it can be easy to fall off the exercise bandwagon. Not only does regular exercise have positive impacts on your long-term health, lowering your risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease, it’s also good for your short-term health. Exercise boosts your immune system and makes it easier for your body to fight simple infections and colds. Create a schedule and stick to it as closely as possible. Even a brisk walk, a snowball fight or game of touch football with the family works!
Get Enough Sleep
When your schedule is disrupted, or you just have a lot to do, sleep can take a backseat to other plans and activities. Getting enough sleep is crucial for your immune system to function properly. People who sleep less than seven hours are three times more likely to catch a cold than people who get a full eight hours. Lack of sleep can also lead to weight gain and poor decision-making.
People have a tendency to completely ditch their diets over the holidays. While average holiday weight gain is only one pound, it could add up year after year. Parties, dinners and delicious holiday treats make sticking to a healthy diet a lot more difficult. Limit the number of desserts you eat, sticking to the ones that are truly special. Use smaller plates, and reach for the fruits and veggies before moving on to other options. If you suspect you’ll be at a party with few healthy foods, eat a small salad or meal beforehand. Keep an eye on your alcohol intake, as well. Mixed drinks can be full of sugar, and the calories add up fast. Drink a glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage.
Wash Your Hands
This should be a given, but during the holidays you may need to wash more than usual. Shaking hands with lots of people at parties and dinners increases your risk of contracting an illness. Traveling also has a tendency to make people sick, especially air travel. Being stuck in a long metal tube in the sky with hundreds of other people mean that viruses can spread quickly to other passengers. If you can’t always get to a sink, carry some hand sanitizer with you.
Something about the cold weather leads to more colds and flu cases than at other times of the year. Keep the chill away by wearing warm clothing and layering so you’re comfortable inside or outside. Use the heater when necessary, and keep your extremities, like hands and feet, covered.
Lots of people stress over the holidays—the days away from the office, the time crunch, the added financial strain. Too much stress can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. Take time for yourself and do things that help you relax. Remember that the holidays are about celebrating and spending time with people you love.