Thanksgiving is a week away! It won’t be long before Christmas and other winter holidays arrive. In all the hustle and bustle, it’s easy to neglect your health. Unfortunately, this is the worst time of year to not be at your best. Changing weather, winter viruses, and busy days can strain your body. The last thing anyone wants is to be sick over the holidays.
So how do you keep your health on track with a to-do list longer than Santa’s naughty list? Here are five tips for feeling your best for the rest of 2022.
1. Get Your ZZZs
It’s too easy to stay up late trying to finish frosting cookies or putting in extra hours for some holiday cash, but getting adequate sleep is the most important thing you can do for your health. Sleep detoxes the brain, strengthens immunity, consolidates memory, lowers blood pressure, and speeds healing. But to reap these benefits, you have to give your body time to cycle through all the stages of sleep, including deep, dreamless sleep–called stage three NREM sleep and, of course, the REM phase.
During a healthy night of sleep, a person will complete the four stages of sleep four to six times. You’ll feel fatigued, stressed, and scattered if you don’t get enough sleep. When you are sleep deprived for several nights, your immune system weakens, your cortisol levels stay elevated, and you may experience mood problems, anxiety, and other distressing symptoms. Sleep deprivation can even trigger heart attacks.
Now that we’ve established how vital a good night’s sleep is, how do you get one? A good place to start is by improving your sleep hygiene (the technical term for your bedtime routine.) This means avoiding screens for at least an hour before bed, setting a reasonable bedtime for yourself that allows between 7 to 10 hours of sleep before your alarm goes off, sleeping in a dark room, and doing the same “getting ready for bed” tasks around the same time each night.
Once your body is used to a set routine, it will begin producing melatonin– the sleep-inducing hormone– at bedtime. Blue light from devices or a room that’s not dark can disrupt your body’s melatonin production. The light tells your brain that it’s daytime and it should be awake. Even if you manage to get to sleep, your excited brain will keep you from reaching the deepest, most beneficial stages of sleep.
Talk to a healthcare provider if you still have significant trouble sleeping after trying a healthy bedtime routine for several weeks. Physical and mental health problems can cause sleep disturbances. Treating them will significantly improve your overall health.
2. Practice Good Hygiene
Avoiding sick people (especially if you’re a parent) is not always possible, but you can take simple steps to protect yourself. Frequent hand washing might be your best tool in the fight against winter germs. We all know we should wash our hands after using the bathroom and before eating, but washing them after returning home from school, work or errands can prevent the flu from coming home with you. Of course, it’s also a good idea to wash your hands regularly throughout the work or school day and avoid touching your face.
Ventilation is an often underutilized tactic for preventing the spread of airborne illnesses like flu, RSV, and Covid19. Winter is a hotbed for viral activity because people gather in enclosed spaces where germs circulate easily. Cracking a couple of windows in the area where guests are gathered can lower the chances of a virus spreading through the air.
Don’t forget about good food handling practices. Food poisoning cases always rise during the holidays. To prevent becoming a victim, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold and never let raw meat come into contact with anything else. Use disinfectants on surfaces that have touched raw meat. An important note: while natural cleaners are great for some things, you’ll need to break out the heavy-duty stuff for this–think Clorox or Five Star San. And, of course, wash your hands thoroughly after handling meat and before you cook. If you see a dish you aren’t sure about at a potluck, don’t be afraid to skip it.
3. See Your Chiropractor
Viruses aren’t the only threats to your health this time of year. Cold temperatures and less exercise can make aches and pains flair up. Don’t hesitate to see your chiropractor if you struggle with back, neck, or joint pain. He can set up a treatment plan for you that will get you feeling better for the holidays and the new year ahead.
Chiropractic care also has holistic benefits. Since chiropractors treat the nervous system, an adjustment can improve sleep, lower stress, and improve immunity. A healthy musculoskeletal system is also less prone to injury. So don’t wait until you hurt to see your chiropractor; preventative care can save you pain and hassle down the road.
4. Stress Less
The holidays can be great fun, but they can also be stressful. For many of us, work and family responsibilities don’t slow down to accommodate the extra tasks we take on this time of year. This can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Stress interferes with sleep, lowers immunity, and makes you irritable. Not your best look for the holidays.
A tried and true way to reduce stress during the holidays is to think about your favorite activities and hone in on them rather than trying to do it all. Don’t be afraid to delegate if you are hosting a party or even buy some dishes instead of making them from scratch.
Remember to keep up with the stress-busting activities you do during the rest of the year. Carve out time to exercise, journal, make art, or meditate. You’ll enjoy the holidays more if you feel grounded and relaxed.
5. Maintain a Healthy Diet
Eating vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins may not be as fun as eating pie, but it will be better for you. That doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in holiday treats, but try to keep your daily diet well-rounded. Healthy food supports immunity, a healthy inflammatory response, and energy levels.
Eating small meals that include protein and whole grains before a holiday party can keep your blood sugar balanced and prevent you from overeating at the event. To keep from overdoing it at Thanksgiving and other holiday meals, it can help to eat only the dishes that bring you joy and that you don’t eat the rest of the year.
Don’t get too hung up on calories, though. It’s healthier to focus on eating a well-rounded diet of high-quality foods and exercising to make up for extra calorie intake. Just remember that foods high in sugar or white flour can lower immunity for several hours after you eat them. This includes things like soda, donuts, and other uber-sweet treats.
Holistic Healthcare in Kentucky
At All Star Chiropractic, we offer our patients chiropractic care, nutrition, and lifestyle advice. Schedule a consultation today to see how we can keep you healthy and pain-free this holiday season.