The holiday season isn’t exactly notorious for healthy habits. Many people use this time of year to eat, drink, and be merry. While there’s nothing wrong with “letting loose” and enjoying some festivities, your celebrations and indulgences shouldn’t come at the expense of your health.
The holidays can actually be a perfect time of year to reflect on where you are and where you want to be. You can think about health goals and how you might want to change things around in the upcoming year.
The good news, though? You don’t need to wait for a new year or make a resolution to get your health together. By committing to a healthy holiday season now, you can start getting in shape – mentally and physically – so you can enjoy your celebrations and time with friends and family.
We’ve got some helpful tips that can make it easier to make your health your top priority.
Reduce Your Risk of Illness
The holidays looked different last year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, thanks to the vaccination rollout, more people will be getting back to normal when it comes to their traditions.
But, if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s the importance of keeping things safe and clean. COVID-19 is still out there, of course, but it’s also cold and flu season. The last thing you want is to start sneezing before your grandmother’s famous turkey dinner. So, start forming healthy, hygienic habits now that will protect you and those around you, like:
- Frequent hand-washing
- Socially distancing yourself in public
- Getting a flu shot
- Practicing food safety in the kitchen (foodborne illnesses are just as serious!)
It’s also a good time of year to visit your doctor. Ask your healthcare provider about any exams or screenings you might be due for, especially if you’ve been dealing with specific ailments or issues. By being proactive about your health, you’re less likely to get others sick and more likely to stay ahead of whatever treatment you might need.
You Are What You Eat
There’s no doubt that the holiday season and eating go hand-in-hand. From holiday ham to cookies galore, it can sometimes seem like the snacking never stops.
While it’s okay to indulge a little this time of year, your diet can have a huge impact on your overall health.
One of the easiest ways to enjoy the things you want while staying healthy is to make some simple swaps with your food choices. Instead of green bean casserole, have fresh green beans. Instead of mashed potatoes, have a roasted sweet potato. Determine one or two indulgences you really want to have and eat them! But, balance them out with healthy options, and always stop eating when you’re full.
It’s unlikely that every day will include a party or celebration. So, use those “off” days to focus on healthy eating, including focusing on a diet that targets any issues you might be facing. For example, there are foods you can eat specifically for more energy, for high blood pressure, or even for joint health (spoiler alert – the lists almost always include green leafy vegetables!).
Balance out your food choices with plenty of daily activity and by drinking more water. Create a plan of action between your diet and activity levels that will allow you to stay on track. But, don’t give in to “quick fixes” or believe myths about your overall health. Weight loss fads rarely work, styling your hair a certain way won’t cause it to fall out, and face exercises aren’t going to reduce wrinkles. Your focus should be on how you feel this season, not how you look. By focusing on your health instead of your appearance, you’re less likely to fall for trends and myths, especially with your diet.
Manage Your Mental Health
The holiday season can be stressful. Between parties and family gatherings, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and spending more money than you usually do, it’s a lot for your brain to handle. Taking care of your mental health this time of year is more important than ever.
That can start with something as simple as positive thinking. It’s easy to admit that this season is beautiful. Lights are everywhere, most stores are playing familiar music, and even those not in the holiday spirit can’t deny there’s something different in the air. Focusing on those positive things can make a big difference in your mental wellness.
In addition to managing your thinking, you should be making self-care a priority. Not sure how to do that with such a busy holiday schedule? Try things every day like:
- Cooking a healthy meal
- Taking a long, warm bath
Self-care is different for everyone, so find something that relaxes you, even if you only have a few minutes each day to do it.
Finally, take care of your mental health when you’re dealing with others. Whether you’re gathering with friends, family members, or co-workers, it’s okay to set boundaries and maintain your personal space. Learn how to say “no” to things without the fear of hurting others. Be assertive (and kind) with your boundaries, and most people will respect them. Maintaining your space can keep you from burning out and feeling overwhelmed.
There are so many things to think about when it comes to holiday health. Use these tips to start focusing on your well-being now, and take them with you into the new year so you can form healthy habits that will make you feel great well beyond the holiday season.