With the holiday season upon us, many people’s schedules are hectic once again. There are social events and family gatherings to attend, shopping ventures to make, and decorating to be done. While fun, the holiday season can be a time of added pressure, which leads to stress and other unhealthy situations.
At a time when you want to be at your best, stress can affect your physical well-being. The American Psychological Association says the hustle and bustle of the holidays has psychological consequences for some people. More people are inclined to feel that their stress increases, rather than decreases, around the holidays. The National Institute of Mental Health says chronic stress can lower immunity and cause excretory, digestive and reproductive systems to stop working properly. Stress also may cause you to eat unhealthy snacks to cope, and that can lead to unwanted weight gain.
Stress is not the only potential health hazard that can arise around the holidays. A greater number of parties expose you to an abundance of foods and drinks you may not consume on a regular basis, and that can lead to a lot of mindless eating. Weight gained during this time of year can be difficult to shed come January, when colder temperatures challenge many peoples’ motivation to exercise. Also, social settings put you in close contact with a greater number of people, potentially increasing your exposure to germs.
You can still feel your best during the holidays. Follow these tips for maintaining a healthy mind and body.
- Get the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine can protect you against various strains of the flu. Get a flu shot before the holidays so you are ready for cold and flu season.
- Carry disinfecting wipes. Germs can linger on surfaces long after an infected person has come and gone. Studies from researchers at the University of Arizona in Tucson have found the flu virus and even the antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA on airline tray tables. Buses, trains and doors all may be harboring germs. Wipe down surfaces with disinfecting wipes and allow them to airdry before touching them. This can help you avoid coming into contact with germs.
- Keep up an exercise routine. Don’t stray too far from your exercise schedule. You may have to move workout times to free up other time later in the day for shopping or parties. Early morning is a good time to exercise because it gets you moving first thing in the morning and might even encourage you to hit the sack a little earlier each night, ensuring you get all the sleep you need. Exercise also can improve energy levels and relieve stress.
- Don’t focus on food. Focus more on enjoyable activities that keep you moving rather than always being seated around the table for a big meal. Save indulgences for one or two treats on the holidays and eat sensibly otherwise.
- Talk to someone. If the holidays have you feeling blue, talk to a friend or family member. If you need more professional support, find a social worker or psychologist that can help you work through stress and other feelings. @metro