We’ve all been there: The kids are out of school, you’re running around trying to find that last-minute gift, and then it hits you. You forgot to defrost the turkey. Oh, and on top of it all, you’re starting to feel a familiar tickle in your throat.
The holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year. But they are also a peak season for illness, overeating, stress and generally not feeling like yourself, and this was even true even before the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Our diets and routines tend to change a lot at this time of the year, which can make it difficult to stick to our usual habits like working out and prepping for healthy meals. Seasonal stress can creep up on us, affecting our moods during the day as well as the way we sleep at night. On top of all that, the weather changes and we typically begin spending much more time indoors. With colder temperatures arrive seasonal illnesses like colds and the flu which can throw the best of us off our game.
Instead of closing out the year feeling exhausted and worn out, try to envision the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day as a marathon instead of a race to the finish line. By pacing yourself between the peaks and valleys of the holidays, you can sustain a level of energy and enthusiasm for all activities and obligations no matter how tiring they are.
Set yourself up for success this season with our five time-tested strategies for staying happy and healthy. These suggestions are applicable at all times of the year, and you can practice them safely while being mindful of the coronavirus outbreak.
Be Proactive in Preventing Colds and the Flu
Cold and flu season goes hand in hand with the holiday season. Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds and keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer in your pocket when you’re on the go can help prevent the spread of germs. You should also protect yourself and your loved ones by getting a flu shot.
Flu Season Is Here. Visit any Ochsner Urgent Care or schedule a virtual visit if you have the flu. Learn more.
Eat with Intention
The holidays often involve overindulging in heavy foods and rich beverages. To avoid feeling bloated and sluggish afterward, we recommend a couple of strategies:
- Don’t deprive yourself of your favorite foods, even if your goal is to avoid temptation. Treat yourself to your favorites, but don’t feel obligated to try every cookie or holiday cocktail.
- If your holiday dinner is structured as a buffet, try to move the pre-dinner conversation away from the kitchen or wherever your food is staged in order to avoid grazing.
- If you do overindulge, just focus on getting back on track as soon as possible. Don’t let yourself slip into the “my healthy eating is over” mindset or tell yourself that you need to wait until the new year to eat mindfully again.
Create A New Healthy Tradition
Challenge yourself to come up with some new, healthy holiday traditions for your whole family to enjoy.
- Toss a football around after Thanksgiving lunch instead of binge-watching every NFL game on TV.
- Take a walk around the neighborhood to check out holiday decorations from the sidewalk. For more ideas on how to support social distancing during the pandemic, check out these tips from my colleague Sandra Kemmerly, MD.
- Substitute a less healthy holiday appetizer or side dish for one of these healthy food swaps. It may become a new annual tradition!
- If you're looking for an alternative way to celebrate New Year's Eve, here are some custom suggestions for how to ring in next year in style while remaining safe.
With so much going on during the last months of the year, working out is not at the top of most people’s to-do list. It’s easy to let your exercise routine slide during the holidays, but it’s still important to keep moving. Regular exercise improves our mood, boosts energy and promotes better sleep. These three benefits will leave you feeling energized in the morning instead of sapped, and you may find you get even more done during your weekday.
With more at-home workout options than ever, you can break a sweat in as little as 10-20 minutes without even leaving your home. Add some variety by mixing in cardio, Pilates, yoga, and strength training or simply stretch it out — some form of exercise is going to beat not working out no matter how long you can commit to it.
Make Time for Self-Care
Don’t let seasonal stress overwhelm you! Make sure you carve out some time to recharge your batteries. This includes making time for the things you enjoy, getting plenty of rest and using time off from work or school to catch up on health exams or doctors’ appointments.
Here are 8 very inexpensive or free stress-relieving techniques that can help reset your stress reaction cycle and relieve tension so you can get back to enjoying yourself.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Nov. 18, 2019.