People want their Christmas holidays to be joyful, but while gathering with family and friends can be uplifting, it can also be a time of stress, loneliness, and exhaustion. Maintaining high spirits and good health depends on how we treat ourselves.
It’s easy to get caught up in the celebrations and forget to take care of our own health, but the reality is, we all want to get through the holiday season stress-free and healthy. Check out the healthy holiday tips here and you will stand a good chance of having a season that is truly jolly and bright.
Healthy holiday eating tips
Few people will deny that part of the holiday allure is food – delicious and sometimes heavy, calorie-ridden food. It’s not just the supersized Christmas dinner that pushes our digestive systems over the limit, it is the multiple gatherings leading up to the big day that tempt our palettes and often include a lot of sugary treats. When we consume a lot of sugar, we are risking obesity, high blood pressure, and inflammation. It may be true that natural sugars we find in fruits and vegetables are good for us, but consuming too much added sugar is a whole different story.
- Prevent weight gain by avoiding seconds when it comes to dessert.
- Go light on sauces, including gravies and cranberry sauces.
- Skip store-bought desserts and save calories for special homemade treats when gathering with family and friends.
- Use ingredients with natural sugars and swap ingredients to lessen the sugar.
- Fill up on lean protein, whole grains, and vegetables before desserts get to the table, so you won’t be tempted to overindulge in sweets.
- Don’t skip meals, as this will only increase your appetite, making you eat more than you normally would
- Avoid mixing drinks, as this can lead to the addition of loads of sugar and calories
- Stay hydrated by drinking eight to 10 glasses of water per day. This will also help your kidneys deal with the excess salt content that is common with holiday meals
- Reduce your salt intake
- Stop eating when you are satisfied and eat in smaller portions
- During an outing, take a small snack to curb your hunger and avoid purchasing unhealthy festive foods
- When visiting the mall for some last-minute shopping, try to park further away so you can burn some calories walking to and from your car
- Purchasing a pedometer or calorie counter can be a great motivator for increasing your physical activity
- Get plenty of sleep, as sleep deprivation can lead to the elevation of stress hormones in the body that stimulate appetite and hunger. It is recommended to get around six to eight hours of shut-eye each night
Tips for avoiding holiday depression
Not everyone has someone to be with on the holidays and not everyone wants to celebrate. For instance, imagine a husband or wife spending their first Christmas without their spouse who has recently passed away. Yes, the holidays are supposed to be about togetherness, but not everyone is in a sociable or party mood. Some studies show that just over 40 percent of seniors who live alone feel lonely and depressed. It’s not just seniors though. People of all ages can suffer from depression and loneliness during holidays. Something we have to think about is that people who are alone and depressed tend to have more health problems. Below are some tips to deal with the problem of loneliness and depression during the holiday season.
- Try to reach out to your community. This could mean religious organizations or a seniors’ center.
- Volunteer in your neighborhood. It is a great way to meet people and build self-confidence.
- Talk to your doctor about how you are feeling. They can guide you on how to cope with your loneliness and depression.
- If you know a senior, don’t forget to call them or visit with them during the holiday season.
Tips to avoid stress and anxiety
Trying to keep up with the many demands of the holidays can be difficult for all of us. There is the shopping, decorating, baking, and endless social events to attend. All of this can add up to a lot of stress and anxiety.
Related: Blue Christmas: Depression in elderly during cold winter holidays
Here are some general suggestions on how to handle stress at this time of year:
- Create a budget and stick with it.
- Know that it is okay to say “no” to parties and other get-togethers. As long as you decline politely, any reasonable person will understand.
- Take time for yourself. Read a book, take a walk, have a bubble bath, or listen to music.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Try to maintain your exercise routine.
Holiday travel tips for healthy holidays
For those brave enough to choose to travel by land, sea, or air this holiday season, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind.
- Avoid setting your bag down in the public restroom
- Wash your hands regularly (make sure the kids do as well) to reduce the spread of cold-causing germs
- Stock up on water when traveling by car or public transportation to stay hydrated. Water helps flush out toxins, boost energy, and ease congestion
- Watch your sugar intake, as too much can weaken your white blood cells
- Avoid alcohol, as it can hamper your immune system and increase nutritional deficiency
- Stay at least six feet away from ill appearing individuals, as this will increase the chances of avoiding germ-filled coughs and sneezes
- Bring your own pillow when flying or on public transportation to ensure someone who was sick didn’t use it before you
- Don’t use the backseat pocket during flights, as this part of the seat is seldom cleaned and may carry cold-causing viruses or other harmful germs
- Wiping down your phone routinely is a good idea, as it can harbor germs spread by constantly touching it
Tips to avoid sleep deprivation during the holidays
The holidays are a time of togetherness and festivity. But unfortunately, this often comes at the cost of restful sleep as you get caught up with all your distant family member and friends you don’t see often. This is a mistake, as your sleep should be a priority. While it may not be easy to remove yourself from the conversation, there is no substitute for a good night’s sleep. The following are some tips to help you feel well rested throughout this holiday season.
- Be aware of hidden caffeine: While you may long to have a hot cup of cocoa in the evening, you should rethink that, as chocolate (even the powdered kind), contains caffeine. Some over-the-counter medicines for headaches, such as Excedrin, also contain caffeine. It is also important to keep in mind that despite saying “de-caffeinated,” that product still as minute amounts of caffeine remaining.
- Avoid foods high in fat or protein: These foods are harder for your body to process, especially at night. A good rule of thumb is to be aware of the time when you choose to eat, as breaking down hamburgers in your stomach may hamper the quality of your sleep.
Other tips for healthy holidays
It’s no surprise that one of the biggest regrets people have following the holidays is that they didn’t take better care of themselves. Many people complain that they had a cold or flu right in the middle of the holidays or that they gained way too much weight. Maintaining your regular routine, including eating healthy foods, exercising, drinking water, and getting a decent amount of sleep can help you avoid the holiday flu.
When it comes to those extra pounds, just keep in mind that according to one U.S. study, the average American gains over one pound during the Christmas holiday and the majority are unlikely to lose the added weight in the new year. Staying active and not using the holiday as an excuse to overindulge is important for your health. It’s not just about food though. A lot of people enjoy alcoholic beverages during the holiday season, but alcohol contains a lot of calories. A glass of white wine can have about 89 calories, while a pint of stout beer has 170 and a shot of vodka about 55 calories. Sticking with one drink might be a better idea.
People who have managed to maintain good health over the holidays say that they have learned to enjoy a drink and a few sweet treats. When they are tempted, they try to distract themselves with activities such as skating, skiing, wrapping gifts, making homemade decorations, or tackling a chore in the house that they have been putting off.
Despite all the unhealthy temptations, the holidays can be a great time of year if we put careful thought into it. Staying active, not overindulging, and remembering to take time to relax and smell the evergreen can help us maintain good health.