5 easy health hacks to keep you and your family feeling merry and bright
There is something magical about the transition from fall to winter. Despite the bare trees, the doom-and-gloom skies, and the short days, the world feels very much alive with festive tidings galore and a spirit that’s undeniably contagious. We welcome the holiday season with an unparalleled zest for life, and although stress remains, we find it easier to power through with a sustained level of merriment that rivals Buddy the Elf. That is until the cold and flu season gets the best of us and “Scrooges” us out of all of the holiday fun. Like I said, the holiday season is quite literally contagious, and if you’re like me, you’ll do just about anything to keep yourself healthy so that you can continue doing all of the things you love about the holidays. After all, the most wonderful time of the year is upon us with a jam-packed schedule full of ice skating outings, gingerbread house construction, cocoa sipping, gift shopping, and ugly sweater partying.
See below for 5 easy health hacks to keep you and your family feeling merry and bright the whole season.
- Sleep is key. Instead of dreading the cold, embrace hygge (pronounced hue-guh) this holiday season. Hygge is the Danish word to describe the idea of coziness—think: fuzzy slippers, mittens, warm sweaters, a cup of tea by the fireplace; you get the gist. Use the principles of hygge to wind down in the evening and inspire good sleep hygiene. In the hours leading up to bed, avoid looking at screens and instead opt for a book, listen to some soft music, and cozy up with a cup of chamomile. Optimizing your sleep patterns through good sleep hygiene can keep you healthier. According to the Mayo Clinic, during sleep, your body releases immune cells called cytokines, which help fight inflammation and infection. Lack of sleep can impair production of these microscopic soldiers, increasing your risk of getting sick from exposure to viruses, which are lurking on every corner this time of year.
- Manage Stress. Along with all of the seasonal traditions and joyful festivities, the holiday season also brings a great deal of stress thanks to long, expensive gift lists, money, family tension, and holiday hosting. Regardless of the source, stress can put a strain on your immune system, making you more vulnerable to illness. It is important to address the source and manage the symptoms of stress. Find a strategy that works for you. Try deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or a bundle up for a brisk walk at lunchtime to reduce the effects of stress. Such techniques will keep stress at bay, your spirits bright, and your immune system in working order.
- Eat Right. Good nutrition is crucial when it comes to staying well, but around the holidays eating healthy is no small feat. Don’t worry, I won’t get all Grinch Who Stole Christmas on you—food traditions are important and it’s perfectly okay to indulge occasionally, but, for the sake of your immune system it may be worth balancing out your favorite holiday treats with these simple nutrition tricks. For instance, adequate protein from high-quality sources can promote healthy “cell replication and synthesis of immune cells.” Though most people eat their highest protein meal in the evening, the key is to spread it out evenly throughout the day. In addition to protein, sneak in some seasonally-hued red and green produce to really make your meals come to life. In between all of the pie and cookies, five servings of colorful produce each day will keep you feeling your best and come January, you might not feel the need to “detox.” For an added challenge this holiday season, add some food with culture to your grocery list and I don’t mean ethnic foods.
- Moderate the Festivities. Ringing in the holiday seasons calls for lots of celebration and frankly, a big part of that involves alcohol. Weekends can be packed with booze-filled holiday festivities of all kinds: work parties, family gatherings, and ugly sweater bar crawls. Participating in the merriment with one or two drinks is perfectly acceptable and actually has been shown to have some positive effects on health. However, excessive drinking can hinder the production of cytokines and thus impair our immune system’s defenses. To keep yourself feeling healthy, avoid hangovers, and probably spare yourself some drunken embarrassment, switch to seltzer with a splash of cranberry for a festive (and hydrating) alcohol alternative.
- Immune Support.The holiday season is full of wonderful traditions, festive celebrations, family activities, and delicious food, but it can also be challenging for your stress levels, your sleep patterns, your sanity, your diet, and your immune system. Just as you may lean on friends and family for assistance this time of year, it may be wise to consider a little help for your immune system. Wellmune’s versatility and clinically demonstrated results offer that added support to help prime your immune system for battle. Daily intake of Wellmune can help you and your family be well and stay well so that the most wonderful time of year, remains truly wonderful.
Jenna Mills, MS, RD
Jenna is a Registered Dietitian and received her master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Teacher’s College of Columbia University. She has experience in food industry, marketing, corporate wellness, and nutrition education and is currently a Marketing Communications and Customer Engagement Specialist for Kerry’s Beverage Systems Team.