The holiday season is meant to be a joyous occasion, but this time of year can also bring added emotional and physical stress. Joseph T. Cooke, MD, chairman, Department of Medicine for NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, suggests the following strategies to enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season.
“This festive time of year can be a lot of fun, but may also hurt our mental and physical health,” said Dr. Joseph T. Cooke, chairman of NewYork-Presbyterian Queens’ Department of Medicine. “When we’re stressed or in a rush, it’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves. To have a happy and healthy holiday season, we should all take a few moments to pause, and be mindful of what our body and mind are telling us.”
- Set realistic expectations. There are so many social activities, chores, and events during the holiday season. You simply can’t do all of it. Keep your expectations reasonable and set realistic goals about what you can and cannot accomplish. Say “no” when you need to; your priority is you, your family, and your health.
- Remember to sanitize. The germs on your hands are the single biggest threat to your health, any time of year. Cold viruses tend to spread more from hand-to-mouth contact than through other methods of infections. While holiday shopping, keep in mind that mall doors, escalator rails, elevator buttons, and ATM touch screens are hotspots for bacteria. Keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you or wash your hands with warm soap and water frequently to help you to stay healthy.
- Focus on loved ones. Schedule time with family and friends who may need you the most this holiday season, or those you most want to see. By scheduling ahead, you can make sure that you make time for what matters most to you. Our bodies and brains respond positively to time spent connecting with people who are close to us.
- Drink more water. Dehydration can increase our body’s levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, leading to feelings of anxiety, exhaustion, and irritability. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that women have 2.7 liters of water per day and men have 3.7 liters of water per day from foods and beverages.
- Resist the urge to hibernate. Even though the days are getting shorter and its cold outside, it’s important to stay active. Aim for at least thirty minutes of fresh-air activity every day. Whether you go for a run, take a walk with your family to see the holiday lights in town, or go ice skating with your friends, winter outdoor activities are a great way to stay in shape.
- Indulge in moderation. During the holidays, we are surrounded by comfort foods and sweet treats. It’s great to indulge sometimes, but try to maintain a healthful diet for most of your meals. Listen to your body, and only eat and drink what you truly enjoy so that you can avoid overeating.
- Choose healthful snacks. It’s easy to forget to nourish ourselves when we are rushing around, preparing for the holidays. Stay properly fueled each day by stocking up on healthful snacks like fresh fruits and vegetables. Snacks like these will help you stay energized to check off your next holiday to-do list item.
- Practice gratitude. Take time to say “thank you” this giving season. In addition to thanking loved ones for gifts, be grateful for being surrounded by friends and family. Expressing gratitude can improve feelings of positivity, fight depression, and strengthen relationships.
- Rest and relax. After a long day of holiday preparation, your body needs sleep and relaxation to keep your immune system strong, and relieve stress. Try herbal tea, meditation, or reading a new book to wind down. If possible, try to get a full eight hours of sleep.
- Be careful when you shovel snow. If you have to clear snow from your property, take your time and be careful. Pace yourself and try to shovel your snow in light, manageable loads. If you’re not feeling well, have another family member, friend, or neighbor handle the shoveling for you.