Give Yourself the Gift of Self Care
It’s the most “germiful” time of the year. It always seems somebody is sick during the holidays. And, it’s no wonder. Poor nutrition, lack of sleep, and stress – be it about time, finances, family – the holidays are a magnet for germs. And with all of the aforementioned problems, our immune systems take a hit.
One of the best gifts you can give yourself this season is the gift of self-care.
Here are 5 ways to keep your immune system strong under the barrage of bad weather and holiday stress:
- Recognize your triggers. Holidays can be really hard. While it seems like everybody is jingle-belling, many people feel a heavy sadness or anxiety. Recognize what causes you stress. If you hate long lines, try online shopping. If you feel pressured into cooking big meals or baking all week, consider a potluck, a cookie swap, or simplifying – baking a favorite batch of cookies and calling it a day. Money can be a huge stressor during the holidays. Be honest about your limitations and stick to them. Finally, say, “no.” It’s okay to not attend every holiday invitation you’re extended. Stay at home watching bad movies, sipping a hot cup of vegetable turkey soup, and relaxing.
- Get your zzzzs! Visions of sugarplums should be a priority every single night. Getting a good night’s sleep goes hand-in-hand with health, reducing stress, and fending off sickness. How we eat affects how we sleep. So developing a healthy sleep hygiene will make a big difference in our everyday life. Try high-potassium foods like bananas or sweet potatoes for an evening snack. They’re natural muscle relaxers. Steer away from high-sugar breakfasts. They can set our bodies up for a rollercoaster ride. Eat smaller portions, steer clear of alcohol a few hours before bed, and consider cutting out caffeine in the afternoons. These small changes can make a big difference in your sleep habits. And for those whose brains go into high-gear as soon as your heads hit the pillow: try writing down a list of things to do the following day. This will give you release and allow you the rest you need.
- Eat well!Vitamin pills and supplements don’t have near the impact on immunity as good, regular nourishment. Scientists have proven that people who are malnourished are more prone to infectious disease. During the holidays, we tend to eat more irregularly, indulge more in high-sugar, high-salt, high-fat foods, as well as drink more alcohol. I think we should indulge, as long as we’re taking care to continue with healthy eating habits. Every bite counts! There are foods that can give us an extra boost we need, in particular:
- Instead of reaching for the Vitamin C (most people overdose, which is unnecessary), look for foods high in antioxidants that are high in free radicals that protect the body from aging and protect cells from damage by free agents. These foods, too, usually have a higher amount of fiber to keep your gut healthy.
- Increase your fruit and vegetable intake to help boost your immune system. Think in-season! Winter squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, red and green peppers, kale, and dark leafy vegetables all have high levels of antioxidants. Make winter salads with walnuts and roasted chicken to give you the healthy antioxidant boost your body can use!
- Kefir, Kombucha, and yogurt can give your gut a much-needed boost. Gut health is mental health and body health.
- Exercise … enough. Stay active, warm, and fit during winter months. Moderate exercise boosts immunity, as opposed to high-intensity exercise that can lower it. Bundle up and walk (to the store, the park, around museums and more). Try an indoor activity like salsa dancing or Zumba. Instead of watching TV, play board games, do a puzzle together as a family … because when our brains are active, we’re active.
- People over 60, toddlers, and pregnant women … take care. If this is you, you’re more vulnerable and have a weaker immune system. Be aware and take extra steps to stay healthy.
This is a demanding season for many reasons. By maintaining an active lifestyle, eating well (don’t fall into the supplement trap), getting enough sleep, and keeping stress levels as low as possible (I know that’s a tall order), you’ll keep your immunity up.
Happiest of happy holiday seasons to you!