11 Ways to Stay Healthy During the Holiday Season

For many people, 2020 has been the worst year of their lives. Especially those who became ill from the coronavirus.

Even those who have avoided getting sick so far know someone who wasn’t so lucky. Or perhaps they lost their job or had their hours cut due to the pandemic.

Those fortunate enough to have escaped all that have, at the very least, seen their lives affected in one way or another. Including an inability to connect as closely with loved ones as they used to.

The last thing any of us needs as we enter the final two weeks of this unprecedented year is to get a cold or the flu. Or succumb to COVID-19.

Hygiene and behaviors are the keys

It’s likely many of us will spend time with friends and family members who don’t live with us before year’s end.

Today I want to give you 11 suggestions for how to stay healthy during the remainder of the holiday season. And hopefully well beyond that.

Some of these recommendations are ones you’ve heard often before. But perhaps a reminder during a critical time in our lives won’t hurt.

Other ideas might be new to you and worth trying. The bottom line is, we’ll enjoy the holidays a lot more if we’re healthy.

Wash your hands often. Wet your hands with clean, running water, then turn off the tap and apply soap. Lather your hands by rubbing them together, including the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your fingernails. Do this for at least 20 seconds. Rinse your hands well. Use paper towels rather than sharing cloth towels. If soap and water are unavailable, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Apply the gel to the palm of one hand and rub your hands together. Do this until your hands and fingers are dry.

Consider staying home. This might not be realistic for you. On the other hand, it might not be safe to ignore this advice. Host a small gathering of family members rather than traveling to see them. Or think about having a Zoom holiday gathering. No, it’s not the same as an in-person party. But even if your computer has a virus, it won’t give you one. If you must travel, a car is safer than public transportation.

Stay out of stores. Purchase as many holiday gifts as possible online in order to avoid crowded stores. If you have to enter a store, go during off-hours. The same with grocery shopping. You can get just about anything you want delivered in a timely fashion with no outside contact.

Prepare food safely. Food is a big part of the holidays. And a lot of that food is prepared in advance of meals and gatherings. Examine expiration dates carefully. Wash your hands immediately before and after food preparation. Do the same with cutting boards and other food preparation surfaces. Keep meat separate from other foods. Cook foods to proper temperatures. Make sure your refrigerator is set at the right temperature. And that leftovers are refrigerated promptly.

Eat healthy foods. Many holiday foods are loaded with sugar. Limit your portion sizes of those foods. Make sure you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables during this season. Maintaining a healthy diet is important year ‘round, but it’s especially crucial at a time when you’re more active and engaged with others. Regardless of what you’re eating, don’t share food and beverages with others. And consider a post-meal walk if the weather allows.

Practice protocols. Depending on how many people attend a holiday gathering and what their risk levels are, give serious consideration to wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Nobody likes to do this during family gatherings. Including me. But I’ve talked with people who’ve been sick with COVID and almost all of them wish they’d been more careful.

Entertain outside. If you live in the northern half of the country, this is probably not an option for you. But if you’re in the southern half, this might be the year to conduct your holiday gatherings on the patio or in the backyard. Either way, heat lamps and a fire pit could provide the warmth you need.

Limit your alcohol intake. Too much alcohol can lower your immune system’s responses to germs. It can also lower inhibitions about getting too close to others. And it goes without saying that if you’re going to imbibe at a holiday party, don’t get behind the wheel.

Practice fire safety. Many people love to light candles during the holiday season. Both for the glow and aroma they offer. If that’s you, don’t leave those candles unattended for even a few minutes. It’s better to blow them out when you leave a room and re-light them when you return a few minutes later than to walk back into a fire. Also keep a close eye on fireplaces and space heaters.

Stay active. As colder weather sets in, it’s a lot easier to forego that brisk, 15 to 30-minute daily walk. But the fresh air will do you good and the walk will be even more beneficial. If it’s too cold, raining or snowing, do your exercising and stretching indoors. Your body will thank you. 

Manage your stress. This is something that’s far easier for some people than for others. Being stressed out clearly affects your emotional state. Lesser known is that it negatively affects your physical health. Getting plenty of sleep can help keep you in a better, more positive mood.

The healthier we stay this holiday season – and beyond – the better the chances of having a “normal” holiday season next year.

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