No matter how or where you celebrate it, the holiday season often brings a lot of tension and other negative effects to one’s health. Read on for our tips to enjoy the season and start next year on a healthy and positive note.
Dr. Reintine Han, a Summit Health family medicine doctor, says that while the holidays reconnect us with loved ones, they're also fraught with complex friends and family dynamics, money worries, and the endless preparation of food. "Remember to make time for yourself," she recommends. "It's okay to say no to things you don't want or don’t have time to do. Decide what matters most and do things that truly bring you joy."
Summit Health family medicine physician Dr. Eleanora Yeiser agrees that self-care is important. "Plan ahead and set boundaries for your time," she says. "Do what you can ahead of time. Shopping in bulk, meal prepping, and freezing meals can save time, save money, and reduce unhealthy meal choices."
This time of year triggers depression for a variety of reasons. "Don't be embarrassed to ask for help—talk to your doctor about counseling and medicine for depression," Dr. Han says. "Reach out to those who are without family and friends during this time of the year. Holidays are especially difficult for those who are alone."
If you haven't received your flu vaccine yet, it's not too late, says City MD urgent care physician and a CityMD Medical Director Dr. Janette Nesheiwat. "While the CDC recommends getting a flu shot by the end of October, most of the flu cases I see are in December, January, and February," she emphasizes. "So go to your local pharmacy or doctor for your flu shot, which is free or very low cost."
Also, book a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot as well if you haven't already. This is also a good opportunity to review any other vaccinations you may be due for.
Manage Your Hand Hygiene
Good hand hygiene is even more imperative than usual during the winter months when colds and flu abound. Dr. Yeiser calls it "a tried-and-true method to prevent the spread and risk of viral and bacterial illness."
Dr. Han agrees. "Wash your hands after coughing or sneezing, when caring for the sick, after using the toilet, before eating, after touching common surfaces such as doorknobs or handles, and after you come home from visiting a public space," she suggests. "Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you can't use soap and water."
Schedule your annual physical to address any health concerns you have and take preventative action. Millions of Americans suffer from diseases like diabetes and hypertension without knowing it. To that end, Dr. Nesheiwat says that physicians like to "ensure you are up to date with age-appropriate screenings such as your mammogram, colonoscopy, and cholesterol check. In addition, make sure you have scheduled your preventive health visit to review your risk factors, measure your blood pressure, check basic routine blood work, and review your wellness plan. Early detection of underlying disease can sometimes result in better prognosis and better outcomes."
Dr. Yeiser adds that it's also an important time to review and update personal and family history, especially if you see numerous providers.
Manage Your Wellness Routine
Don't give up on your diet and workout plans, especially if you already have chronic health conditions. For instance, Dr. Han warns that those with heart conditions may be at greater risk for heart attacks during the holidays.
"Have a healthy snack before holiday meals so you don't overindulge on sweets," she advises. "Keep a regular sleep, meal, and exercise schedule. Limit alcohol intake or make sure to have a designated driver, taxi, or ride-sharing service to take you home."
Dr. Nesheiwat also recommends keeping hydrated, staying warm or dressing in layers, and eating a well-balanced diet. "Fruit and veggies are still important, especially if indulging in that slice of pumpkin pie," she adds.
Manage Accident Risks
Reduce the possibility of becoming a holiday statistic. The most common injuries Dr. Nesheiwat sees during the cold winter months are slip-and-falls, resulting in broken wrists and ankles. "Wear proper clothing and shoes, and be extra careful—snow and ice are dangerous," she says.
When you're shoveling snow, Dr. Yeiser says that "proper lifting technique (i.e. bending the hips and knees to squat down as opposed to lifting by bending forward) can help prevent injuries such as back strain and spasm."
Decorating your home? "Always check your ladder for broken hinges or loose screws," Dr. Han advises. "Wear proper footwear and make sure shoelaces are tied securely."
Dr. Nesheiwat also cautions against trying to do things too quickly in the kitchen. "In urgent care, I see a lot of lacerations from people slicing frozen bagels, de-pitting avocados, and using mandolin slicers."
And finally, Dr. Han adds, beware of anything hot or heavy. "To avoid burns, make sure to have plenty of oven mitts nearby and avoid carrying heavy trays or platters without any help."