The holidays are a time of happiness, love and cheer, but they can also be a time of sniffles, sneezes and tummy aches. Staying healthy during this time of cold weather, flu bugs and sugary snacks can be a tall order. Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to improve your chances of keeping your family (and yourself) healthy this holiday season.
Wipe down germy surfaces
The best offense is a good defense when it comes to cold and flu bugs during the holiday season. Disinfecting wipes will become your best friend. Wipe down grocery cart handles, bathroom stall locks, even the seats and trays on the airplane you take to see family. You'll be surprised by how many germs can be found on the most mundane of surfaces including common areas at work such as office break rooms or kitchens.
If you or your family develop a cold or flu or if one of your visitors seems under the weather, do everything you can to disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, remote controls and sink handles.
If your children end up getting sick, keep them home to avoid spreading germs, and make an appointment with their doctor if they aren't recovering.
Cut down on stress
With the worries and flurry of activities the holidays bring, stress could quickly become a major factor in maintaining your health. According to Stephen Fritsch, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist in TriHealth’s Department of Behavioral Health, stress is normal and expected, but could become “dis-stress.” Signs of distress (poorly managed stress) can include physical changes such as elevated heart rate and blood pressure, altered immune function, fatigue, insomnia and changes in appetite; and emotional reactions such as anxiety, irritability and/or depression.
Dr. Fritsch recommends the following for limiting the effects of holiday stress:
- Be proactive and plan ahead: Anticipate stress and demands. It helps to be organized and make the best use of limited time during this busy season.
- Manage your perceptions and expectations: Dr. Fritsch recommends keeping a positive outlook and viewing stressors as a challenge rather than a threat. Be realistic and not perfectionistic. No gift, gathering, meal or event will be Norman Rockwell perfect.
- Take care of yourself: Make time for relaxation and renewal: engage in activities such as yoga or meditation; savor positive experiences (a meal, time with loved ones, music, a walk, etc.). Have fun! Engage in enjoyable activities, not just obligations. Carve out some quiet time to rest, meditate or, perhaps, reflect on the spiritual aspects of the holiday season (if that is meaningful to you).
- Make room for some unpleasant feelings – they, too, are normal. It is not unusual to have some “blue feelings” during the holidays. We may miss a loved one no longer with us or find ourselves just not as “jolly” as we expect. When aware of such feelings, try to accept them in the moment and make some space for them. Most often, such feelings will pass.
- Talk about it and connect with others: Share your joys. If you’re feeling the effects of stress or less positive feelings, share those experiences as well. If physical or emotional symptoms intensify, seem to be unmanageable or persist, Dr. Fritsch suggests making an appointment to talk about your options with your primary care doctor who may refer you to a specialist or may have a behavioral health consultant in the office.