Nobody wants to get sick during the holidays, but why does it happen so often? It could be because the great habits that you have worked so hard to keep up during the year get thrown out during the ‘silly season’ – and this ends up compromising your immune system. And then – guess what – you end up feeling unwell and need to spend some of your well-earned holiday break nursing yourself back to health.
I don’t want that for you – and I bet you don’t either, so let’s look at some key habits that you really, really, really want to keep doing over the Christmas break so you can remain as healthy as possible.
Habit #1 Keep Up Your Exercise Regime
Most of us admit to chucking our running shoes to the back of the wardrobe and letting dust settle on our gym membership card over the Chrissy break – I understand it – you’ve earned yourself a nice, long, relaxing break – so who wants to keep hitting the pavement or grunt and groan at the gym when you could enjoy long sleeps-in and lazing by the pool.
But… there are two things that may want you to think twice about binning the active wear over Christmas…
Firstly, exercise improves your immune system – and let’s face it – with Christmas pudding, free-flowing alcohol, late nights, parties and pavlova – your immune system is going to get banged around – and hard! So, why not give it the best chance of recovering quickly and responding to all this Christmas onslaught by committing to a regimen of some daily exercise. Maybe you’ll go for an early morning run today, and then an hour or so hitting the waves at the beach tomorrow, followed by a 30 min gym session the next day – but whatever you do – make sure you keep up some form of exercise, however reduced that may be – over the holidays. Your immune system will thank you – and you’ll thank yourself for being such a super hero because you may just find yourself a lot healthier than last Christmas.
Secondly, and I hate to say it – but – most of us put on weight over Christmas… I know it’s terrible to think about it – but eating all that yummy food makes us chubbier than we want to be. And let’s be honest – really honest – doesn’t feeling great about how you look ‘taste’ soooo much better than some dry, cold sausage roll?
And while exercise does not have well documented success as a single intervention strategy for weight loss – it does have very, very good scientific support as a means for keeping oneself trim. You see, exercise does a whole heap of things: it disciplines us (so before you eat that third Tim Tam, you’ll say to yourself – uggghh, I’ve gotta do another 20 minutes exercise just to burn that bickie off!); it motivates us to stay ‘good’ (how proud of yourself do you feel once you’ve hit the gym and know that you’ve done well?); and it increases our metabolic rate (the speed at which your body burns food for fuel).
So, the bottom line is – if you want to stay health (and trim) over the holidays – make sure you keep up your habit of daily exercise!
Habit #2 Appropriate Sun Exposure
We all know that sunlight somehow helps to activate Vitamin D in our bodies, a vitamin necessary for our bone health and regulation of a healthier immune system.
So, getting the right amount of sunshine is important to staying healthy over Christmas.
But, just like Aunty Jane’s delicious five layered tiramisu trifle – too much of a good thing can be bad…
So be aware that too much sun over summer can lead to sunburn, dehydration, heat stroke, premature skin aging, and even skin cancer. To make sure you keep up your great habit of bare skin sun exposure – but don’t overdo it – let’s look at some important facts:
- If you want to get some sunlight without sunscreen to activate your vitamin D, do it before 10 am and limit exposure to 25 minutes. To make the most of this time, expose as much of your skin (legally!!!) as you can – and enjoy your body’s efforts to convert sunlight into Vitamin D, which powerfully boosts your immune system.
- Schedule most of your outdoor activities earlier than 10 am or after 5 pm, which are times when sun exposure is less severe.
- When you do hit the beach or park during the day, choose a sunscreen that doesn’t contain the chemicals oxybenzone, octinoxate, retinyl palmitate, homosalate, octocrylene and paraben preservatives. These chemicals may create hormonal imbalances that could eventually end up affecting your endocrine system. So always check the product label. To read more about these 6 scary sunscreen ingredients click HERE
- Slip, slop, slap and wear sunglasses so you don’t get sunburnt and risk premature aging of your skin or skin cancer.
- Make sure you drink eight glasses of water (or even more depending on your activities). Drink even when you’re not thirsty to prevent dehydration and overheating.
The next habit that is making you sick during the holiday season is the way you stress yourself out.
Habit #3 Relax, Relax, Relax
With Christmas parties, presents to buy, family members to care for and everyone’s feelings to take into account – the holidays can be a real time of stress and worry and upset (and loneliness for many people too).
Stress and worry can powerfully and negatively impact on your immune system and make you vulnerable to illness – and we don’t want that over the holidays do we?
So let’s first look at what’s happening in your life to stress you out…
One of the most common stressors is your hectic schedule. Work, shopping, Christmas presents, Christmas dinner, Christmas day, inviting family and friends over, attending all those Christmas parties, fighting through traffic, trying to find a park at the shopping centre in the middle of the day when you’ve only got an hour to grab all those presents…. Phew, it makes me worn out just thinking about it all. It’s all a bit overwhelming isn’t it?
Another holiday immune killer is worry over money… You want to buy those special prezzies for your family and friends – but they all cost sooooo much. And you want to throw a great party for the family gathering. All of this can place pressure on you, stress you out – and impact directly on your health. So, relax a little – and take a breath. Sit down and think things through. Is that costly iPad really going to make the difference to your daughter – or would she rather have something else that won’t stress the family budget as much? I know she loves you and wants the best for you – so don’t put yourself under tremendous financial pressure over Christmas – being together is much more important than some trinket.
So set an appropriate budget and stick to it. Always ask yourself if you really need it. For Christmas presents, allocate a fixed amount and divide that figure equally among everyone. Stop the habit of buying expensive gifts for everyone you know. Make your parties fun and simple rather than complicated and expensive. Your guests will enjoy them so much more – and so will you (and your bank balance!).
Lastly, make sure you build in time for you to do nothing – just rest. This will help reduce your stress response and prevent your immune system from being compromised.
Habit #4 Make Sure You Don’t Run Out Of Medication And Supplements
Did you know that on average, 6 out of 10 people miss their prescription medications for several days during the holiday season sometimes resulting in trips to the emergency room? Having something like this happen to you could be devastating – especially if it happens during that well-earned (and expensive) overseas holiday that you’ve been saving for over the past three years!
Some medical emergencies I’ve seen during the holidays include asthma attacks because people didn’t have their puffers with them, hospital admissions due to people not taking their heart medications, and diabetics needing ambulances because they’ve not maintained their insulin dosages.
To avoid any of this happening to you, just make it a priority to get your scripts filled so that you won’t run out over the holiday season. Check the run out date on your medication and make an appointment to see your practitioner soon – before they go on holidays themselves – so that you have sufficient medication to last you over the entire holiday period.
Habit #5 Eat Well… And Smart
This silly season, try to balance your eating ‘naughtiness’ with a little ‘goodness’. Plan and make a conscious decision when and how you’ll eat celebration food – and then how you’ll ensure that you don’t overdo it.
Say, for example, you have a party at a friend’s to go to. You know that their food is amazing, so you want to really enjoy yourself. Plan for it – look at your day – and make sure you eat sensibly and lightly before you go (think salads or light vegetable soups). Then look at the day following the party – and make sure you eat sensibly and lightly to balance the indulgence of the night before (again think salads and light vegetable soups).
If you apply this approach, then you can ‘have your cake and eat it too’ without putting on too much weight or making yourself sick. It may take some discipline, and you may end up needing to be careful about which parties you go to and what you eat at them (and before and after) – but it will mean that you will have the chance to enjoy the really good food – and pass on the stuff that isn’t that great. Let’s face it – who needs a dry mini meat pie or greasy snag tonight, when you can enjoy the salad and then really plan for the amazing meal tomorrow night?
If you’ve got medical conditions that are food-related (such as diabetes or food allergies) you’ll need to be extra careful and follow the advice of your health practitioner. If you need to discuss with them what the best approach is for your individual situation, make an appointment and take time to discuss your plans and get their thoughts. It could make a real difference to your health – and life…
Well, there you go – five amazing habits that you’ve been applying wonderfully all year that often go out the window when the curtain comes down on the working year and you head for sun, sand, relaxation and Christmas pudding.
This year, let’s be different… Let’s work together this holiday season – I promise to keep up these five important habits – and you promise me that you’ll do the same. Then, when we meet up again in the new year, we’ll be trim, healthy and well – something that I think we can all agree on is worth more than just about anything – except maybe Aunty Jane’s five tiered tiramisu trifle!!!
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