The holidays aren’t just the best time of the year; they are also the busiest. All that stress can put a strain on our immune systems and make us more likely to get sick and miss out on all the holiday fun. Here are five things you can do to keep yourself and your family well this holiday season.
1.Watch your Diet
Holiday get-togethers often include foods that are high in sugar and saturated fats. Most adults also drink more alcohol than usual this time of year. All of those things can put a strain on your immune system.
Sugar has a dramatic impact on your immunity. Drinking just two sodas can hinder the immune cells in your body that attack viruses and bacteria, lowering your immune response for several hours. Sugary foods can be part of the holiday fun, but make sure to consume them in moderation. Keep in mind that adult women should have no more than seven teaspoons of added sugar a day and men should have nine or less. Children should eat fewer than six. (to find how many teaspoons of sugar are in a food, divide the number of grams by 4).
Moderation is the keyword when it comes to fatty foods and alcoholic beverages, as well. During times of stress, your body needs more nutrients than usual to keep your immune system in tip-top shape. Eating three to five servings of fruits and vegetables daily is a great way to make sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs.
Chances are that if you live in snowy climes, you aren’t getting enough vitamin D. Research has shown that taking a vitamin D supplement can increase immunity over winter months. You should also add vitamin D rich foods like egg yolk, oily fish, and mushrooms to your diet.
It can be hard to find a minute for yourself during this busy season, but taking just twenty minutes out of your day every day to exercise can keep your immune system happy. Moderate exercise strengthens immunity by reducing stress and improving circulation.
Exercise is an essential part of immune health for people of all ages, so make sure your kids don’t spend their whole holiday in front of a video game. Get outside as a family and walk or play in the snow. If the weather is keeping you indoors, consider playing an active game together. Dancing around the house does count as exercise. Of course, if all else fails, you can always watch your favorite show while jogging on your treadmill.
It doesn’t matter how you get your exercise as long as you get at least twenty minutes every day.
3.Get enough Sleep
Lack of sleep has an immediate and long term impact on your immune health. Even sleeping for six hours instead of the recommended eight, puts you at higher risk for a whole host of health problems, including the dreaded flu.
The holidays can throw our regular routines into chaos, making it hard to get to sleep when we should. Try to stick to your normal bedtime routine as much as possible during this busy time and aim to get at least 7.5 hours of sleep. Practicing good sleep hygiene, like avoiding electronics for an hour before bedtime and sleeping in a dark, cool room, can help improve your sleep quality.
Our sleep in the winter can also be affected by the aches and pains that sometimes flare up in cold weather. If pain is keeping you awake at night, consider seeing a chiropractor or massage therapist. Chiropractic adjustments and massages can help ease your pain, lower stress levels, and increase circulation. All of these things are great for your immune system, and the extra sleep you’ll be getting will improve your chances of staying healthy.
4.Take Preventative Measures
You may have heard that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When it comes to flu season, this is definitely the case. In addition to following the healthy lifestyle tips above, there are some simple steps you can take to prevent the flu from spreading:
Wash Your Hands: This might be the easiest and best way to prevent disease. Scrub your hands with soap and warm water. You don’t have to use antibacterial soap. Friction actually kills more germs than the soap will, so make sure to scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Wash your hands after using the bathroom, smoking, or coming home from a public place.
Get a Flu Shot: Getting a flu shot is the best way to prevent getting sick. If you do catch the flu, your symptoms will be milder, and you will have a much lower chance of having to go to the hospital.
Avoid Sick People: This is easier said than done, but it might be a good idea to make a pact with your family and friends that no one will bring their sick kids (or sick selves) to holiday gatherings. If you or your children do get sick, stay home, and don’t spread the flu to others.
Experts recommend these tips to lower your stress levels this holiday season:
Let Go of Perfection: Remind yourself that your family and friends are attending your get together to spend time with you, not to make sure that your house looks like a magazine cover or that your Christmas Cake is up to Martha Stewart’s standards. Things don’t have to be perfect to be enjoyable.
Simplify: Does the mess after the big family dinner stress you out? Consider using fancy-looking plastic plates instead of real ones. Buy some of your side dishes or desserts or ask people to bring them. Consider having a dessert bar at this year’s party instead of a sit-down dinner. Look for ways to simplify your holiday traditions so you can spend more time enjoying them and less time stressing over them.
Slow Down: Do you really need to go to three different dinners on Christmas Day, or can you arrange to take turns on different years or visit people on other days? Keep relaxation in mind as a priority for your holidays and try to make arrangements accordingly.
Focus on the Positive: If you can’t stand Uncle Richard, make it a point to exchange basic pleasantries and then talk to other people for the rest of the event. If you are feeling crunched for money, remind yourself that memorable holidays aren’t just about what’s under the tree. Count your blessings and try to give back to less fortunate people. Everyone’s holiday will be brighter for it.