The holiday season is here, and while many of us look forward to this special time of year, it can also take a toll on our health. Don't let health issues get in the way of feeling your best this winter. Follow these 5 tips and tricks to take control of your physical and mental health and fuel your mind and body all year long.
- Doctor Knows Best: Make an appointment with your family practitioner before sickness strikes. Check-ups, up to date vaccinations and addressing your health concerns with your doctor is the best way to ward off unwanted winter ailments that can escalate into serious illness and the most dreaded contagious flu virus. Certain types of the flu cause an estimated 100,000 deaths annually. During the pandemic of 1918, the flu caused more than 5 million deaths, many of which were healthy before contracting the virus. Getting vaccinated every year should be at the top of your to-do list. Physicians also suggest regular hand-washing and minimizing direct, close contact of kissing and hugs.
- Train Your Brain to Enjoy Exercising: A 2002 study by New Mexico State University found that people who had developed regular exercise habits depended on specific cues, such as running at the same time each day, and rewards, such as their sense of accomplishment or the release of endorphins. However, those who are just establishing an exercise routine may want to implement a more tangible reward system by treating themselves to a small indulgence or treat (such as a piece of chocolate, suggests researchers) until the inherent benefits of regular work-outs become effective. Using this simple method will train your brain to expect a desirable outcome and encourage healthy exercise habits that keep you physically fit and combat stress and fatigue.
- Mental Fitness Matters: Often we work towards maintaining physical fitness, but neglect the importance of our mental fitness. The holiday season can conjure up a variety of emotions, including those arising from the loss of loved ones and unmet expectations. Even those things that we should enjoy...holiday parties, gift-giving (and shopping) and family get-togethers can add stress and induce exhaustion that negatively affects our mental wellness. In addition, the dark winter days aren't always merry and bright. Give yourself permission to feel, and cry, if needed, throughout the season. Research shows that tears produce the stress hormone known as cortisol, which can be damaging if not released, so don't hold back tears. It's okay to say no when saying yes becomes too overwhelming. Seek professional counseling services if you find yourself struggling with seasonal depression, grief, or anxiety. The holidays can be difficult, but pay attention to your thoughts and feelings, and ask for the help that you need, so when the snow melts and the season is over, you will emerge healthy and whole.
- You are What you Eat: Even the most healthy eaters face challenges during the holiday season. The calorie-filled (often delicious) menu of holiday parties, the rush of an over-packed schedule and traveling can make healthy eating harder than usual. Planning ahead and avoiding ravishing hunger upon arrival or while on the road can help tremendously. Research indicates that 70% of travelers gain weight on the road. However, choosing restaurants that offer healthy menu options, holding yourself accountable and keeping nutritious snacks on hand will help you maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. Avoid holiday weight "hangovers" by being proactive and not allowing the holidays to steer you off-course.
- Get Outside of Yourself: Sometimes, the best remedy to the holiday blues can be to focus on helping others. If you are one of the millions who find themselves falling prey to the trap of self-pity, volunteering your time and resources can be the solution to your holiday-induced angst. This is the perfect time of year to teach your family the joy of giving, especially when that green-eyed monster rears its ugly head and has everyone adding more and more to their Christmas wish lists. In some states, half or more of single mothers and their young children are living in poverty. The gift of giving is often overlooked but can be the most valuable gift of the season. By choosing to help others, you may find yourself on the receiving end.