The holidays are fast approaching. As a working mom with four busy kids, I’m certainly a work in progress when it comes to navigating this time of year with grace.
The onset of winter — with its increased darkness and lower temperatures combined with the increased obligations associated with holiday festivities (spending and traveling to name a few) — can certainly put stress on our minds and bodies, especially our immune systems.
But it’s not too early to be proactive when it comes to maintaining, or maybe even developing, habits that will contribute to your family’s well-being throughout the fullness of the holiday season.
Join me in my efforts to stay healthy and grounded with these recommendations:
Wash your hands. It may sound like a no-brainer, but in family life sometimes you need to hold each other (both kids and grown-ups) accountable.
Washing your hands with regular soap and running water is a highly effective way to stop the spread of germs and bacteria. It helps you stay healthy, but it also helps others, especially those with weakened or compromised immune systems who may come in contact with germs YOU may be spreading if you don’t wash them off.
Keep sanitizer (ideally with at least 60% alcohol) available for when you’re on the go. Pack a small bottle in your purse, in the car and stash some in your child’s backpack. And be sure to also wash your hands when you eventually gain access to soap and water.
Stay hydrated. My athlete daughter is my role model for this one. I’m better at drinking coffee. I also have a bad, but often necessary, habit of limiting my fluid intake due to limited opportunities for bathroom breaks in my profession as a kindergarten teacher. But I’m trying to make drinking water more of a priority for my personal health. Staying hydrated helps our bodies naturally eliminate toxins and waste materials. Drinking water also helps our immune systems fight infection.
Get enough sleep. This can be difficult with busy schedules, sporting events, programs and holiday parties. Dr. Eric J. Olson, an M.D. from the Mayo Clinic, points out that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus.
Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick. The optimal amount of sleep recommended by the Mayo Clinic is 7–8 hours for most adults, 9–10 hours for teenagers and 10 or more hours for school-aged children.
Eat fruits and vegetables. The holiday season often provides much temptation and opportunity to overindulge on rich or carbohydrate-loaded treats. Make a point to incorporate colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet to boost your immunity with nature-made nutrients. Discover a variety of seasonal produce ideas for November.
Exercise. Find something that gets every individual in your family moving, ideally for a total of 60 minutes each day. It could be a structured activity like sports or a fitness class or something as simple as taking the dog for a walk or playing outside. Physical activity is crucially important for your family’s health and wellness. Find more winter-survival tips.
Have realistic expectations. Chances are slim that we’re all going to experience Hallmark-quality holidays. During the holidays, there’s always the potential for family drama and tension, stomach bugs and sniffles, stress and disappointment.
If you set the bar too high, you may be setting yourself up for frustration and you might miss out on the joy associated with the season. Keep your expectations in line with reality and control what you can control. A great place to start is to take proactive measures with your family’s physical and mental health. This can help you feel your best so you can enjoy your holiday experiences and make the positive memories that we all desire.
Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher who lives with her husband and four school-age children in Northeastern Minnesota. Follow her blog — Kids, Lakes, Loons and Pines.