8 Stay-Healthy Strategies for the Holidays

You’ve shopped, cooked, trimmed the tree, decked the halls, and shopped some more. Now don’t let a cold, flu, or careless strain or sprain derail all the holiday plans you’ve so carefully laid out for this most festive time of the year. Here are some tips:

  1. Stop germs in their tracks. To help prevent colds and flu, wash your hands frequently, especially after being out and about — but make sure to do so the right way: Scrub for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. Traveling? Run disinfectant wipes over the train armrests, the seatbelt buckle on a plane, and the tray table on a plane. Pack an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your purse and use it. And consider using a disinfectant wipe on shopping cart handles at the supermarket.

  2. Sneeze the right way. Next time you feel that anticipatory tickle in your nose, resist the urge to sneeze into your hands. Instead, turn slightly away from the people around you and sneeze into your upper sleeve or the crook of your elbow.

  3. Stay active. Dr. Agatston recommends that you get at least 20 minutes of exercise a day on most days of the week. Even if you can’t carve out the time for an aerobics class or a long walk, find an easier way to get moving. Dance to your favorite holiday music. Build a snowman with your child, take your dog for a brisk walk, or organize a neighborhood caroling party.

  4. Warm up. When you go out, keep warm. Dress in several layers of tightly woven but loosely fitting clothing. And stay dry.

  5. Reduce the risk of injury. If you’re determined to put a star on the top of your Christmas tree or hang decorations outside, use a ladder, and always have someone with you who can hold the ladder steady. And before you go to bed, make it a point to put away things that might be littering the floors during the holidays, when there is often a lot of extra paraphernalia everywhere. Leave a light on near the stairs, and put nightlights in the bathrooms and halls for house guests who don’t know their way around your house.

  6. Prevent fires. If you burn candles, keep a watchful eye on them and never leave them (or a fireplace) unattended. Check the lights for your Christmas tree and only use those that are in good working order. Since LED lights stay cooler, these decrease the risk of fire. And be faithful about watering your Christmas tree so that it doesn’t dry out.

  7. Turn in earlier than usual. Get 8 hours of sleep — even if it means leaving a late-going holiday party a little earlier than you usually would. One study showed that individuals who slept at least 8 hours a night on a regular basis were three times less likely to catch a cold as those who got fewer than 7 hours.

  8. Manage stress. Find the time to sit quietly even if it is just for 10 minutes, and engage in deep breathing. Sit comfortably in a chair and position one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and make sure that your diaphragm inflates enough to really stretch your lungs. Then, exhale fully through your mouth, almost as if you were whistling. Take anywhere from 6 to 10 breaths per minute using this method, and repeat up to 10 times daily.

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