Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's -- these are supposed to be times of celebration, togetherness, and happiness. Yet, they can bring challenges to our physical and emotional health. Here are eight tips for staying healthy and happy during this season of joy.
#1. Eat well. It's common to pack on 5-10 pounds during the holiday season, but there are ways you can eat both healthy and well! Know which foods are high in caloric content and low in nutrition. Don't deprive yourself of such treats, but indulge in moderation. Eat smaller meals instead of "saving yourself" for one huge buffet. Opt for healthy options at home, and when visiting others, bring a healthy dish to share. Be careful of liquid calories, including alcoholic beverages.
#2. Stay active. Exercise is just as important during the holidays as any other time of the year. You should be active at least four to five times a week, preferably with some aerobic exercise every day. The weather may be cold outside, but the winter offers additional fun, too! Ice skating, sledding, snow sprints -- all of these can be great exercise. Enlist your loved ones to join you for quality bonding time.
#3. Prevent illness and injuries. Colds and the flu are most prevalent in the winter. Prevent them by washing your hands regularly and urging others to do the same. Stay warm by dressing in layers. Sprinkle sand on icy patches. Watch young ones and assist the elderly, who are at increased risk of falls and other injuries during this time.
#4. Check your heating system. Making sure your heating works and is safe. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. Install a carbon monoxide detector and test it once a month. Keep grills and generators out of the house, and don't run your car for long periods of time in the garage. Most residential fires also occur in the winter; never leave fireplaces, stoves, and candles unattended.
#5. Travel safely. Whether you are going down the block or halfway across the world, follow extra precautions. Give yourself plenty of time in the additional holiday traffic. Never drink and drive. Be on the lookout for reports of extreme weather and heed warnings. If you're traveling away from home, make sure to pack and take your medications. Know how to contact your doctor when you are away and have a medical problem, and where the local ER is.
#6. De-stress. Holidays can be a stressful time. You may be working, and feel the stress of managing your work duties along with additional commitments to your friends and family. You may feel the financial stress of gifts and the interpersonal stress of conflicts. Try to anticipate sources of stress and develop a plan to manage them. This may involve committing to fewer get-togethers or setting a tighter budget. Don't feel guilty; you have to take care of yourself before you can take of others.
#7. Help others. Depression and suicidality increase during the holidays. Watch for signs of depression among your friends and family. Take an active role to support those in need. Invite those colleagues or friends who are alone over the holidays to spend them with you. Volunteer and give to those less fortunate.
#8. Treat yourself. The holiday spirit is about helping others around you, but you also have to make time to take care of yourself. So treat yourself with something over the holidays. It may be something as simple as sleep. Wake up late and enjoy a day of rest; you need it. How about reading that book you've been meaning to for a long time, or getting a manicure or massage? Take the time to do the things that make you happy.
I hope these tips have been helpful! Do you have other tips to share? I welcome your thoughts, and happy holidays!
For more by Leana Wen, M.D., click here.