You’ve made it – it’s finally the end of the year and the holidays are upon us. It’s time to celebrate! But before you deck the halls and bake the cookies, let’s do a little planning so you can keep your family healthy and safe this holiday season.
First…Take a Deep Breath
It is easy to get overwhelmed in the last six weeks of the year. Between shopping, decorating, traveling and entertaining, it is easy to get stressed out. That’s to be expected.
“The key is to manage that stress the right way,” says Dr. Isaac Watemberg, a family medicine physician in Fort Worth. “Because if you don’t, it’s easier to get sick or hurt.”
So, before you get too deep into the holidays, take a deep breath or two and set some guardrails for yourself on the front end. Make a plan now to minimize your stress, protect your health and keep everyone safe.
Do those things and you’ll be much more likely to enjoy the holidays the way you want to.
Protect Yourself from Illness
The holidays coincide with the winter cold and flu season. On top of that, COVID-19 is still around. Protect yourself from these bugs by taking a few easy steps.
|Sleep. You should get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.||Sleep helps protect you from getting sick and manages stress. Sleep helps your body repair itself.|
|Get vaccinated. Everyone six months and older need to get this year’s flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine. If you are 60 or older, you should also receive the new RSV vaccine. Read more here.||The holidays are in the middle of flu and RSV season and COVID is still with us. Give your family the best defense against these illnesses by getting vaccinated.|
|Wash your hands. Avoid touching your face and wash your hands frequently with soap and water – wash for at least 20 seconds. Keep hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol content) available for times when it is not possible to wash your hands.||One of the most common ways we get sick is when we touch a dirty, germy surface – like a doorknob or shopping cart – and then put our hands to our faces. Handwashing is important year-round, but it’s especially needed in the winter months when cold and flu viruses are more prevalent.|
Manage Your Stress
You can’t do it all, and that’s OK. Set some parameters when it comes to shopping and socializing and make time for yourself.
|Set deadlines. Set a deadline for completing your holiday shopping.||Schedules and organization help mitigate stress. By avoiding last-minute running around, you’ll eliminate some stress and enjoy your holidays more.|
|Make a budget. Set a realistic budget for shopping, decorating and entertaining and stick to it.||Money – or feeling like we don’t have enough of it – can stress us out year-round. This can be exacerbated around the holidays due to all the things you can spend your money on: Gifts! Decorations! Parties! Travel! Set a budget and stick to it. This is a great way to eliminate a common source of holiday stress.|
|Pace yourself. Set a maximum number of holiday parties and dinners you will attend. Send your regrets to the rest.||You can’t do it all! Don’t run yourself ragged running all over town. This will also help in the food and alcohol departments (more on that below).|
|Do something for yourself. Make time for yourself to read, watch a movie, etc.||You do a lot for the benefit of others around the holidays. Do something nice for yourself – it will help you relax and reduce stress.|
Combat the Calories
Contrary to popular belief, the average American does not gain five pounds over the holiday season. Average weight gain is typically a pound or less. No problem, then, right?
Actually, it is still a problem, because data also indicate that the pound typically doesn’t come off after the new year. “Cumulative weight gain over the course of our lives is a concern, as being overweight can contribute to many chronic health conditions,” explains Dr. Lindsay Brooks, an internal medicine physician in Fort Worth.
|Leave some space on your plate. Maybe skip the bread and butter. Or perhaps just get a half-scoop of mashed potatoes, not a full one. It’s not necessary to fill every square inch of your plate to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner or another holiday meal.||It’s easy to overeat during the holidays, when rich foods are plentiful. By exercising a little restraint, you can keep your calorie intake more or less in line with what it normally is.|
|Limit alcohol. Set a limit on how much alcohol (if any) you will drink at parties and holiday meals – and stick to it. Never drive after drinking.||This helps you limit your calorie consumption and avoid becoming inebriated. It is recommended that men not drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day and women should not have more than one. Tragically, drunk driving deaths and injuries increase around the holidays. Don’t let yourself be part of that trend.|
|Exercise. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week. Strength exercises, mixed with cardio, such as brisk walking, do the trick.||Exercise is good for your heart health and it’s important to keep up with it year-round. Don’t take the holiday season off. It’s especially important this time of year, as it helps to counter those extra calories and relieve stress.|
Nothing can mar your holiday celebrations like a trip to the emergency room or an injury that could have been avoided. Keep in mind these important safety tips for your holidays:
|Minimize tree hazards. If you put up a live Christmas tree, always keep the tree’s water basin full.||If the tree dries out, it becomes a fire hazard. Be sure to position your tree away from fireplaces and other heat sources.|
|Inspect your lights. A lot of us like to put up lights around the holidays, inside and out. Be sure to inspect them first to make sure the wires are not damaged in any way. Throw them out if they are.||Damaged, cut or frayed wires are a fire and electrocution hazard.|
|Hire a pro for outdoor lights. Putting up outside lights? Hire a professional to put them up.||Falling off a ladder is one of the most common household injuries. Don’t chance it.|
|Be careful with small & breakable ornaments. Keep small and breakable ornaments out of reach of young children.||Small objects, including ornaments, are a choking hazard for young children. Glass ornaments can shatter and cut someone.|
Make the Most of this Holiday Season
The holiday season should be about spending time with your family and friends – cherishing the time together and making new memories. It’s easy to get sidetracked from that simple goal with all the hustle and bustle this time of year.
You can gain the upper hand on the chaos of the holiday season by making a plan and sticking to it. We hope this guide helps you do just that – and your holidays are healthy and safe for you and your entire family.