For many of us, illnesses tend to come at the absolute worst times – like a few days after we finish a major year-end project or right before the holidays.
If you’ve ever wondered why this happens, one theory is that the height of flu season occurs in late fall and early winter every year due to a combination of the cold weather, lack of vitamin D exposure, and other lifestyle changes that happen in the late fall and winter months.
So, while we can’t control the weather or the time that the sun sets each day, we can adjust our lifestyles for the better. Here are five ways that we can have a healthy holiday season this year.
5 Ways To Have A Healthy Holiday Season
1. Reduce Stress Levels Heading Into The Holidays
People often push themselves and their bodies hard right before the holidays. Between trying to complete end-of-year projects, needing to make appearances at holiday parties, and running around trying to get gifts for everyone, there’s so much to do and so little time to do it leading up to the holidays.
This type of pressure before the holidays can spike a stress hormone, cortisol, in your body. Cortisol is a natural hormone that responds to stress, and can affect your body’s immune response, which you need to fight off infection. When you’re running on empty and your immune system becomes weakened, your ability to fight colds and the flu is compromised.
So, instead of pushing yourself to the point of no return this year before the holidays, know your limits. And do everything in your power to reduce the amount of holiday stress in your life by making time for self-care. Some ways to de-stress include meditation, reading a book, watching your favorite holiday movie, taking a walk, and/or enjoying a soothing bath. Basically, anything that makes you feel happy and relaxed – do that!
2. Get Adequate Sleep
In addition to stress, lack of sleep also affects your immune system in a big way. In fact, a study found that participants who slept less than six hours a night for one week were more than four times more likely to catch a cold than people who slept more than seven hours. So, while you might be tempted to burn the midnight oil, it’s probably not in your best interest this holiday season.
3. Stay Hydrated
We all know that drinking enough water is the key to avoiding dehydration. However, in the winter months, it can be more difficult for us to realize when we need to drink more water compared to the summer months when the temperatures are hotter and we know that we need to be constantly hydrating.
Plus, drinking festive alcoholic drinks at holiday gatherings may make us need to rely on caffeine to get us through the next day, and that can cause dehydration. For those of us who will be consuming alcoholic beverages over the holidays, try to drink a glass of water in between each cocktail.
4. Maintain A Good Exercise Routine During The Holidays
It isn’t always easy to fit in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. And during the holidays, it can get even more difficult to find time for fitness.
One way to stay motivated and achieve your fitness goals during the holidays is to plan your workout regimen around your holiday schedule. This may mean breaking up your workouts. So, instead of exercising for 30 minutes all at once, you may need to do a 15-minute home workout in the morning and then go for a 15-minute walk with your family in the afternoon.
If you’re having trouble staying motivated during the holidays, try going to group fitness classes with friends and/or family members. After all, you’ll be more likely to show up if you have a workout buddy who holds you accountable. Also, you don’t always have to do high-intensity workouts during the holidays either. You can get your exercise session in by going ice skating with your family, or even playing in the snow together.
5. Eat Smart During The Holidays
One of the best things that you can do to bolster your immune system during the holidays is to eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. That’s because a healthy, balanced diet that’s high in fresh fruits and veggies nourishes your body and helps to keep your immune system healthy.
When it comes to healthy holiday eating, try to limit your portion sizes, as well as foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar. It’s also a good idea to try and de-mystify holiday food and recognize that you can eat it at any time during the year, not only during the holidays. So, if you want to have more pumpkin pie, ham, or stuffing because you think that you can only eat it during the holiday season, remember that you can actually eat those foods pretty much anytime that you want.
There are also a number of healthy food swaps that you can make during the holiday season. For example, you can replace mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower in order to eat healthier foods as part of your holiday meal. A cup of mashed cauliflower has only 27 calories per cup compared to mashed potatoes, which have 116 calories per cup.
Having healthy holiday food habits doesn’t mean that you have to deprive yourself either. It just means that you’re eating smarter and choosing healthier foods to consume. So, if you want a sweet treat, go for dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. That’s because the darker the chocolate, the less sugar and milk that it has.
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