How to Keep Your Holidays Healthy

You can still find joy this time of year while keeping your holidays healthy.

The holiday season is in full swing.  This year brings different challenges for many of us.  Maybe you’re not celebrating with your family.  Or perhaps you’re stressed about money due to job uncertainty.  But you don’t have to let the typical holiday stress, lack of sleep, and overeating take their toll.  You can still find joy this time of year without letting go of your health.  We’ll show you how.

  • Everything in Moderation – you’re not going to gain 10 pounds by enjoying a few cookies.  The average person only gains roughly one pound between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  That doesn’t mean go wild and stuff yourself every chance you get but adopting an “everything in moderation” mantra can help.  According to a studypublished in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, people who had an attitude of forgiveness and self-compassion after one high-calorie setback were less likely to give up and keep binging.  So, if you find yourself eating an entire plate of chocolate fudge brownies, forgive yourself, but don’t think, “Well, I’ve already blown it, might as well move onto the cake.” 
  • Drink Responsibly – you know drinking too much is likely to leave you with a nasty hangover the next day, but did you know you could also be damaging your heart?  During the holiday season, doctors report seeing a spike in erratic heartbeats – called, “holiday heart syndrome.”  Holiday heart syndrome is a heartbeat that’s unusually chaotic, irregular and faster than your normal heartbeat.  The most common abnormal heart rhythm, atrial fibrillation, occurs when the upper heart chambers quiver instead of contracting regularly, allowing blood to pool inside the heart. In a healthy person who has a few too many drinks, the fibrillation is usually fleeting. But if it persists, it can lead to congestive heart failure or stroke.  If your heart starts racing or beating irregularly, stop drinking and sit down.  Try to cough or drink some cold water as that can actually reset the heart rhythm.  But if the feeling persists for five minutes or you have chest pain and shortness of breath, seek medical attention.
  • Get Enough Sleep – You have some time off and you’re catching up with family and friends via Zoom and Facetime.  Some of those online hangouts are lasting into the wee hours as we’ve missed each other so much this year. But don’t let that get in the way of a good night’s sleep.  Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain and it doesn’t take long for it to happen.  If you pull one all-nighter or miss a few hours each night during the course of a week, your body releases hormones that prompt eating and weight gain.  Honor your sleep needs by setting and keeping a reasonable sleep schedule especially throughout the holiday season. That may mean excusing yourself from some activities early to ensure you get the rest you need.
  • Avoid the Blues – We’re supposed to be enjoying the holiday season, right?  But this year more than others, many of us are dealing with feelings of sadness and depression. In normal years, this would be called, “The Holiday Blues.” Symptoms can include headaches, insomnia, uneasiness, anxiety, sadness, intestinal problems, and unnecessary conflict with family and friends. You may be missing your friends and family or stressed-out by your in-laws. The demands of the season are many: shopping, cooking, virtual office parties, virtual family gatherings and virtual happy hours with friends. Overdrinking, overeating, and fatigue can also get you down. Take some time for yourself during this busy season and focus on the things that you can control and that matter most to you.

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