During the holidays, things can get pretty chaotic. Between work, shopping, and running from one holiday gathering to the next, you might sacrifice taking care of yourself in order to fit in all of the merrymaking. If you're wondering how to stay healthy during the 2017 holidays so you don't end up with the unwanted gift of a nasty winter cold, these tips from health and wellness experts have go you covered.
"Most of us already have busy schedules but adding in holiday shopping, events, and travel can make it even more stressful and hectic," Dr. David Greuner, an NYC-based cardiovascular surgeon, tells Bustle. "Set aside days where you can relax and have time for yourself, and enjoy relaxing activities like yoga, reading, or a bubble bath."
A whopping 74 percent of women admitted that the put put the needs of others before their own in a survey conducted by Research Now on behalf of Fiber One. Take it from me: not taking care of yourself can land you at urgent care with an upper-respiratory infection, which is no fun. If you want to stay healthy during the holidays, here's are some ways you can maintain your mental and physical health, according to experts.
1. Get A Flu Shot
While the Mayo Clinic noted that it won't totally protect you from the flu, it is absolutely worth getting your flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season." And, even if you're not worried about getting sick, getting the flu shot keeps healthy people from spreading the disease to those who are unable to get the flu shot for medical reasons, so you're actually protecting those who are vulnerable to the flu.
2. Create A Physical Space To Unplug
According to Fiber One's survey results, "One concrete way to keep your mental health in check is to create a dedicated space (some call a She Shed as opposed to a Man Cave) to actively remove yourself from a stressful day and relax in a happy place. Most women know they need this time to unwind, but often neglect their own needs in favor of the needs of others." If you're traveling for the 2017 holidays and can't get away to your own dedicated space, make sure you take time to go for a walk, or ask your host if there is a room when you can for decompress alone for a bit.
3. Practice Yoga Or Other Exercise
Neglecting your wellness routine can break down your immune system during the holidays. Carla Christine, founder of Yoga Green Book — an online yoga community designed specifically for people of color, tells Bustle that a regular yoga practice has helped her recovery from crippling anxiety and pre-hypertension. "Exploring my posture, breath, and emotions when things get challenging on the mat, and noticing patterns, has been the key to handling challenges in my life off the yoga mat," Christine tells Bustle. "This approach along with physically releasing tension in the body (through stretching while deep breathing) has helped me handle stress better."
Additionally, the 2017 political climate has left millions of people feeling unsafe and uncertain about the future, but believe it or not, yoga can help. "While teaching yoga at a studio in Chicago, I saw the need to create a healing space for people of color to improve our physical and mental as a united community," Christine says. "With racism, trauma, mental illnesses, and diseases that disproportionally impact our community, tools like yoga are needed now more than ever."
The holidays are indeed a time of added stress, and taking time for a short yoga practice can mentally and physically equip you with the tools you need to stay calm and healthy. "November and December are busy months but it’s important to continue to exercise to stay healthy," Dr. Greuner tells Bustle. "Set aside time, choose workouts that you love and give yourself small incentives for working out." And, if you need some motivation, a new study from Fit Rate reported that people who exercise have higher self esteem and increased sexual satisfaction, which can make the holidays a whole lot more enjoyable.
4. Boost Your Immune System
Personal chef and Instagram influencer Shayna Taylor tells Bustle that one way to keep your body and immune system at peak performance is to make sure your body is alkaline enough (aka, you're not eating enough fruits and vegetables, and it's throwing your body's pH off). During the holidays you might eat foods that you normally don't, which can lead to some serious stomach upset.
"Switch to more matcha green tea with a little lemon — or matcha lattes with almond milk (or your preferred dairy free milk)," Taylor advises. "Coffee may be delicious and a great caffeine kick, but it is also extremely acidic to the body. Since most of us eat things we don’t normally eat during the holidays, it's always nice to keep your body as alkalized as possible to aid in digestion and also keep your energy up!" Additionally, Taylor suggests going for a walk after holiday meals to help digestion.
Other possible options include taking supplements that are specifically geared to boost your immune system. Look for ingredients like vitamin C, Zinc, and echinacea. While supplements aren't proven to protect you from disease, they may help prevent vitamin deficiencies that can leave you more susceptible to disease. Consult a doctor if you have concerns about your immune response.
5. Stay Hydrated
This is a big one, especially if you're drinking more alcohol than you normally do, or you're traveling. Personally, I will drink 10 times more water if I have a straw, so I always make sure I have one when I am away from home. Whatever it takes for you to make sure you're drinking enough water — do it. "Drink plenty of water throughout the day then switch between drinks and water throughout the night," Dr. Greuner says. This means that if you're drinking more alcohol than usual, make sure you're also drinking water.
If you're not sure how to tell whether or not you're becoming dehydrated, according to Everyday Health, your urine holds some clues. "If you’re well-hydrated, your urine will be mostly clear with a tinge of yellow (the color of light lemonade before it hits the bowl). Darker yellow or orange are the 'warning' colors to watch for. If you see those colors, start drinking fluids."
6. Don't Overcommit
While you might be tempted to say yes to everything during the holidays, for introverts and people who have anxiety and depression, this could leave you feeling drained and upset. "Family stressors, issues with money, unrealistic expectations, and a full social calendar can be overwhelming for most, but for those suffering already from depression, the holidays can take a real toll," Dr. Bal Nandra says in a press release sent to Bustle. She also offers suggestions for making your mental health a priority this holiday season.
"Plan ahead for self-care during this time. Acknowledge your feelings and reach out to others for reassurance and support. Set realistic expectations. Plan ahead. Make a list of your holiday obligations and set aside specific times to meet them. If an event has caused stress in the past, it will likely continue to do so. Learn to say no," Dr. Nandra says. "Continue to exercise and eat healthy throughout the holidays. Don’t abandon positive habits. [And], seek additional support if necessary."
If you've been thinking about taking up meditation, there is no better time than during the holidays. While you might not come up with the most epic soft drink campaign of all time like Don Draper on the series finale of Mad Men, you will feel a lot less stressed. I recently began a daily meditation practice, and it really helped me stay present and kept me from devolving into my usual anxiety spiral during Thanksgiving. With the December holidays looming ahead, taking just a few minutes a day to meditate can help you pause before telling your aunt what you really think of her ambrosia jello and her conservative politics.
8. Make A Plan To Stay Safe
Because overindulgence is often synonymous with the holidays, it's important to plan ahead for how you'll get home safely if you plan to drink. "If you drink, don’t drive. Leave the driving to a driving service if you can," Dr. Ian Tong, chief medical officer at Doctor On Demand, tells Bustle. So, if you haven't downloaded apps for Uber or Lyft, do that right now.
What's more, if you're newly sober, the holidays can be particularly challenging. Shatterproof, a nation nonprofit committed to reducing the stigma and secrecy associated with addiction, gave a number of tips for navigating the potential pitfalls of the holidays while staying sober.
"Practice saying no to a drink offer in advance. If you are not comfortable saying that you are in recovery, a kind but firm no thank you will always do. Plan, plan, plan," Shatterproof ambassadors tell Bustle. "You wouldn’t go on a 20-mile hike without planning for it [...] approach this the same way. If you are going to a holiday party, drive yourself so you are free to leave if you feel uncomfortable." They also suggest attending holiday parties with a sober buddy, or declining invitations you feel could threaten your recovery.
You can also get creative with mocktails. "No one said sobriety had to be boring. From DRY Sparkling to Curious Elixirs, La Croix to restaurant and bar spirit free menus, you have options well beyond water or diet soda," the Shatterproof ambassadors say. Additionally, if you start to feel uneasy, there's no need to go it alone. "Plug into your support system, whether it's your parents, kids, siblings, best friends, online and/or IRL recovery network, sponsor, therapist, yoga teacher — find your tribe."
While it might sound like staying healthy during the 2017 holidays is a lot of work, integrating these tips into your daily routine can increase the chances that you won't spend New Year's in bed with a cold, and you can head into 2018 happy and healthy. And, they'll make the holidays a lot less stressful and a whole lot more enjoyable.