7 Holiday Health Tips to Keep You Happy and Well
The holiday season can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a time when you are least likely to take good care of yourself. Too much to do, too little time leaves some folks putting themselves last on their list of priorities, which can lead to a whole host of health, immunity, and hormone issues, not to mention emotional struggles. Who needs that during the “most wonderful time of the year”?! So, I put together this list of holiday health tips to keep you happy and well this holiday season. (By the way, these tips can be used all year round!) They are simple but powerful, so give them a try and make this the healthiest season of all!
Tip #1: Drink water. 6-8 8-oz glasses per day
What does it help? Energy crashes, a few too many rum toddies, dry skin, constipation
During the holiday season, it’s easy to become dehydrated. For those of you who, by your own admittance, already don’t drink a lot of water throughout the day, this time of year becomes particularly challenging.
Shopping, planning, stressing . . . simply adding more stuff to an already booked calendar . . . means less time to think about what’s good for you. Not only that but for many of us, the holidays are cold! I don’t know about you, but I’m less likely to grab a glass of water when it’s cold outside than I am when it’s warm and I have a thirst that needs quenching.
Water, as simple as it is, is one of those things that you need to stay healthy and happy. Believe me when I tell you that adequate water “fixes” a lot more than what’s listed above. So keep it flowing during the holidays and I think you’ll notice a positive difference in the way you feel!
Tip #2: Take probiotics: Daily, upon waking, with an 8-ounce glass of water
What does it help? A few too many rum toddies, overdoing the desserts, germs gone viral, sleep, digestion
Despite my best effort to avoid it, somewhere around mid-November each year, I feel like I’m surrounded by all things sweet! Gifts of baked goods and seasonal celebrations with sugary treats and alcohol threaten to send my body into sugar overload. Spikes and plunges of blood sugar throw every function of the body, including digestion and hormone production, into a tailspin. And it’s not just the obvious stuff like candy that will cause the problem. It’s bread, pasta, cookies, cake, soda and . . . alcohol – all of the treats that turn into sugar once inside your body that become more of the “hidden” problem.
Sugar gets in the way of our immune function, digestion, liver function, energy, hormones, and stress handling. It’s bad stuff and about as addictive as heroin, due in part to its ability to soothe stress for a short time. But don’t be fooled by the initial heavenly feeling of contentment. When you eat sugar, you are more prone to viruses and nasty bacteria. This has much to do with the fact that an overabundance of sugar in the digestive tract contributes to an overgrowth of bad gut bacteria, causing a significant imbalance. The bad bacteria overrun the good bacteria, and that compromises our ability to fend off all of the germs sneaking around those holiday gatherings!
If you do end up overdoing the sweet stuff over the holidays, don’t stress out. Instead, take a high quality probiotic (I like Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra) daily upon rising in the morning with an 8-ounce glass of water (there you go – you can check off one glass of water even before starting your day!) This will help balance out your gut bacteria, ward off any candida (yeast) that may tend to overgrow during bouts of high sugar intake, and strengthen your immune system (because so much of that system resides in and around the gut!)
Tip #3: Power up with protein and fat.
What does it help? Energy, hormone balance, sugar overload, brain power
Making sure you eat a serving of protein along with some fat at each meal will assure that your blood sugar levels won’t plummet in between those meals. During the holiday season when you’re likely running to and fro to get all of your shopping and prep work done, carry a small bag with some nuts and seeds or a snack bar like a Larabar in your purse so your energy doesn’t crash and burn. A teaspoon of some almond butter is also a helpful go-to if you like that.
Pay special attention to fat and protein intake at breakfast time so that you have the physical and mental endurance you need to keep up your pace throughout the day. Organic, free-range eggs, and bacon cooked in real, organic butter or coconut oil is one example of a high-powered way to start the day.
Tip #4: Breathe.
What does it help? Everything, starting with stress.
Although breathing is a necessity because if we don’t do it we die, most of us aren’t good at it. Seriously! It’s important to be deliberate as you breathe in and breathe out, timing each so that you are not rushed and so each breath is deep, not shallow.
Chances are, throughout a typical day you lose track of your breathing. In fact, you may go several seconds without breathing, time and again. When this happens, you don’t get enough oxygen into your blood and tissue, which prevents your cells from making energy. Even when you are actively breathing but doing so in a shallow, quick manner, you’re not oxygenating the cells of your body effectively.
So aside from energizing your cells with oxygen, deep breathing also triggers a relaxation response. This means that, no matter what is going on in your life at that moment in time, your body CANNOT be stressed. Let’s look at a holiday example: You are attending a family gathering that includes your sister-in-law Jane, with whom you don’t get along. Every time you are in her presence you feel your entire body tighten up and your jaw clench. The most helpful thing you can do for your mind and body both in advance and at that moment is to breathe deeply. As a result, you will stop the stress response in its tracks and your body will return to parasympathetic mode when relaxation, restoration, and healing take place. So will Jane still bother you? Maybe. But your health won’t be compromised by your feelings.
Tip #5: Redefine your expectations.
What does it help? Immunity, stress, energy, outlook, depression, anxiety
If you feel stressed out by the holiday season, why is that? Based on my experience, it seems as though people’s expectations create the biggest holiday stressor. It’s common to want “the most wonderful time of the year” to be the portrait of perfection, am I right? A fairy-tale holiday with all the trimmings. But life is a moving target and, with everything changing day after day – mood, energy, environment, weather – the “perfect day” just may not happen on the right day!
It’s important to find perfection in what is. It may not have a Hallmark movie ending, but your holiday season is YOUR holiday season, along with its flops and blunders and family grudges and misunderstandings and disorganization. It’s not about the end product of one day or one event. Instead, look between the lines for the joy in the journey, the love that you put into your cooking and shopping; the memories that are being made from the interactions between you and the ones you love. See the good in all of that because the memories will be your only way to relive those moments.
So this year I challenge you to expect imperfection and welcome it with open arms. The cool thing is, that’s when everything ends up seeming perfect!
Tip #6: Move. Shoot for 8,000-10,000 steps per day
What does it help? Overeating, depression, anxiety, energy, digestion, immunity
Once again, so much is going on throughout the holiday season that it can be easy to make excuses as to why you’re not exercising. I actually think it’s fine to take a vacation from the gym for a few weeks. Instead, opt for the fresh, crisp outdoor air and go for a walk each day. If you can’t do a “scheduled” walk, then make note of how much walking you’re doing at work, doing chores, or shopping. Park the car just a little bit further from the store during this season (actually, you might be forced to do that anyway!) so you get a few more steps in. Buy yourself a Fitbit or other activity tracker to get a feel for how much you’re moving, and then try to increase that slightly.
By assuring movement is a part of your daily life throughout this busy time of year, you’ll avoid the extra pounds that sometimes come with the season, allow your body to process stress in a healthy manner, experience some “you” time which may otherwise be hard to come by, and you’ll just plain feel better because everything inside you will be in motion.
Tip #7: Sleep. Try to get 7 or 8 hours per night
What does it help? Detoxification, rejuvenation, hormones, weight, immunity
Your body has a lot of work to do while you sleep – work that is done most efficiently and effectively during this time when you aren’t expending extra energy. Detoxification of accumulated “junk” is a big part of this work. By the way, this “accumulated junk” includes toxic by-products of normal metabolism. So even if you maintain a pristine lifestyle and healthy eating habits, your body still fills up with waste products that your liver must filter out, and the best time to do this is while you sleep!
In addition to detoxification, sleep helps to promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria and a healthy weight. Digestion improves with more sleep, immune function improves with more sleep, and your mind gets some much needed down time. So although you might be tempted by the thought of binge-watching Hallmark Christmas movies well into the night, think twice and choose sleep instead! You’ll feel much better for it.
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