Holiday stress tipsThe holiday season between November and December means that the average American will gain between five and ten pounds of weight. When you include the effects of increased alcohol consumption, skipped workouts so you can make time for shopping and visiting family – the holidays can be a challenge to anyone’s health.

But, there are ways to avoid the worst of it.

The holidays aren’t the time to lose weight, but it doesn’t have to be an excuse to ruin your health. The trick is to go into this time of year with a plan. Here are eleven ways to maintain your health through the unavoidable get-togethers, parties, and family functions.

#1 Don’t Get Sick

Winter is cold and flu season. Avoid infection by regularly washing your hands and urging others you work or live with to do the same. Keep warm by layering clothes so you can quickly take a layer off when indoors to avoid over-heating. Use salt or grit liberally on any icy patches. Keep a close eye on little ones and the elderly, who are at higher risk of falls during this time.

#2 Avoid Excess Stress

The holiday months are a necessarily stressful time. You’re managing work responsibilities along with added commitments to friends and family. The stress of paying for gifts and emotional strain of dealing with difficult family members can be overwhelming. Anticipate these sources of stress and prepare for them. This could mean committing to fewer social gatherings or sticking to a strict budget.

#3 Don’t Think that this is the Most Depressing time of Year

Holiday Depression is fakeYour mental outlook has a strong influence on your health. Keep a positive attitude, and many potential crises will turn out to be only inconveniences. In fact, depression isn’t more common during the holidays, and suicide rates in the United States are lowest in December. Enjoy the season, but don’t over-think things like party invitations, absent loved ones, and unexpected problems.

#4 Take Your Vitamins

While it’s not exactly a happy pill, some supplements may elevate your mood. Some studies show that consuming omega-3 fatty acids could help relieve depression; other research has concluded that increased vitamin D intake may improve mood. Consider adding a daily omega-3 or vitamin D supplement to your diet. You can also just increase your intake of foods rich in omega-3s, such as fish, flaxseed, and walnuts and drinking more vitamin D fortified milk.

#5 Don’t Obsess over Social Media

This is the time of year when people are posting to social media to show off the trips, gifts, and holiday bonuses they’re enjoying. Take it all with a grain of salt – much posted to social media is exaggerated or utterly false. Even when someone’s impressive holiday posts are true; remember that you’re not the only one who didn’t spend New Year’s Eve in Bali.

#6 Try to Catch-up during Weekends

There is a lot going on, and it can be difficult to catch up on sleep and household chores. Use your days off to try and catch up on all of it. With a little planning in advance, you should be able to schedule eight hours of sleep, putting the house in order, shopping, and anything else that has to be done. The most important thing is to get some quality sack time – sleep deprivation could cause all sorts of health problems, and chronic sleep deprivation has been identified as a risk factor for diabetes and weight gain.

#7 Moderate Your Alcohol Consumption

Moderate alcohol consumptionDrinking too much could result in a severe hangover, but that isn’t all you need to worry about. This is the time of year that doctors also report observing a significant spike in erratic heartbeats also called holiday heart syndrome. It’s more prevalent in people who aren’t usually heavy drinkers but drink a lot for a short time. Doctors believe that past a certain amount, alcohol could be toxic enough to cardiac cells that it disrupts the normal heart rate.

Try these ways to keep holiday drinks from impacting your health:

  • Put ice in your drinks. The ice will melt, dilute the strength of the drink and reduce your alcohol (and calorie) intake
  • Stop drinking at least a couple of hours before going to sleep. Metabolizing alcohol will disrupt sleep patterns, cause you to wake frequently, and keeps you from getting the full restorative benefits of sleep.
  • Just say no. It isn’t rude to politely refuse a drink when you don’t want one.

#8 Travel Safely

Make sure that you’re in good condition to drive before getting in the car. If you’re tired or have had a couple of drinks too many – don’t get behind the wheel. Never be in such a rush that seatbelts and child car seats are being used correctly. A car accident may ruin some other family’s holidays as well as yours.

#9 Make Time for Exercise

While fitting in time for everybody and everything else, don’t forget to make time to take care of yourself. As difficult as it may seem, keep to your fitness routine (if you have one). If you don’t exercise regularly, there’s no reason not to start now. If you join a gym this is the emptiest time of year – there’ll always be a treadmill or exercise bike available!

#10 Stock the Fridge with Healthy Eating Options

From the office to your Aunt’s living room; there’s going to be sweets, pastries, and cakes everywhere. Take care of your health by stocking your refrigerator with healthy foods. Keep a ready supply of fruit juices, vegetables, lean meats, dairy, and nuts to get the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and essential fats that can help undo some of the damage from the six donuts you had at work today.

#11 Politely Refuse More Often Than Not

politely refuse foodAs difficult as it may be, sometimes it’s best to politely decline that extra slice of pie and risk offending somebody. The weight gain people typically experience over the holidays is strictly the result of over-eating. Minimize the damage from eating way more than you do the rest of the year by learning to refuse offered food.

I know, it’s your mom or grandmother’s traditional holiday cookies or cakes, and it can seem rude or hurtful to refuse – but if you want to keep your holiday weight gain to a minimum; it’s the only way to go.

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George Citroner

GW Citroner is a Hudson Valley, NY based writer whose work has appeared in over 20 publications and on an incredible range of Health & Wellness topics.

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