I was looking through old pictures from last year and came across this one where I look like a reindeer in headlights. I was dealing with a severe cold, my daughter had just had her hair ripped out by a runaway vacuum (yep, it really happened), and both boys got a stomach bug. We’d hardly started the holidays and I could barely keep up. This year, I’m hoping things go more smoothly, so I turned to Deanna Ford, a registered dietitian and nutritionist at Resilient Health, to get her secrets for staying healthy and sane through the holiday season.
I’ve been working with Deanna for almost a year after experiencing intense brain fog and even some dizzy spells in 2018. Although I didn’t have any celiac factors, the folks at Resilient Health tested my DNA and found out I had a malabsorption of trace minerals. They convinced me to go gluten free, even though I was resistant (I didn’t want to give up beer!), and it’s been a game changer. Within six weeks of making the change, my brain fog was gone. The results were so shocking, I couldn’t ignore it. So I knew that Deanna would be the perfect expert to share her tips on how to stay well over the holidays.
Read on to find Deanna’s strategies, and then let me know: What are your tips and tricks for staying healthy and happy through the holiday madness?
Boost your immune system
It’s not just the holiday season, it’s also cold and flu season, so focus on keeping you and your family healthy. How do you do that? The big three are getting enough sleep, reducing stress and washing your hands. (The first two are easier said than done, I know!) I also recommend keeping sweets in check, since sugar decreases the immune system, and having elderberry syrup or gummies on hand. The berry is believed to boost the immune system, fight viruses, and reduce inflammation. Take a dose at the first sign of a cold, runny nose, or sore throat.
The holidays are absolutely the time to eat cookies, drink eggnog, and go out for celebratory meals. Just be smart about your diet the rest of the time. Choose an egg scramble with lots of veggies every morning to set the stage for the day. For snacks, make sure you always have healthy protein- and veggie-rich foods on hand. I like hard-boiled eggs, almonds, and hummus and baby carrots or green pepper strips. And when you are at a party or holiday dinner, pick just one treat to indulge with. Enjoy it and get back to your healthy routine.
Sneak in exercise
When your schedule is jam packed, the first thing to go it usually exercise. If you can’t make it to the gym or spare an hour for a spin class, focus on getting your steps in. Set a minimum goal of 4,000 steps each day—and yes, pounding the pavement while shopping definitely counts!
Make time for self care
Attending parties, decorating and cleaning the house, buying and wrapping presents, packing for travel: It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with everything you have to do this time of year. But you’re not going to stay healthy if you don’t make the time to decompress every day. Force yourself to spend 30 minutes every night on you. Take a hot bath, listening to calming music, or read a good book. Your body and mind will thank you.
Ask for help
Women do so much of the heavy lifting during the holidays, but that makes it easy to get burnt out. Instead of taking on everything in a limited amount of time, figure out some ways to buy yourself some time. Assign a few tasks to your partner. Hire a babysitter for an afternoon. Or send the kids to a neighbor so you can get things done (and then return the favor).
Just say no
Remember: You don’t have to attend every ugly sweater party, cookie swap, and coworker party that you are invited to. Turn down any invite that you’re not that excited about. If you’re really overwhelmed, pick just one or two events to attend. And when you’re there, kick up your heels and have fun!
Hi Gen!! Another awesome post! Thank you! Yes, this is a crazy month and it’s such a great reminder to take care of ourselves. I’m gluten free too and have also had amazing benefits. I used to get chronic migraines and gluten was the culprit. My life completely changed. I’m a big believer in Elderberry extract, it really does work, I’ve taken it for years and it’s kept me virus free many times. These suggestions will be my top priorities this month and next year. It’s hard to say “no” but I’m getting much better at it and had to do it many times this year to save me from being overwhelmed. I just love your blog and am so thankful for it! It’s one of my saving graces! Thank you Gen! Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Merry Christmas Gen 🙂 I am so excited about the christmas break. I don’t finish teaching until the 20th. I am aiming to get through sick free and this advice is awesome. I have not heard of elderberry syrup, so I am going to have a look into that. I am childless not through choice but I still like to do traditions and films etc with my family. I have to say Gen it is down to you that I take my nieces and nephews on a monthly date they love their aunty kk time. I wouldn’t have known to do that if I hadn’t read about your dates with tom, shep and odette. I hope you all stay flu free and have a wonderful family christmas. Lots of love to you and your family xxx
Hi Gen, I hope you have a much better holiday this year.
I haven’t had a cold for years, not sure of any secret just sensible lifestyle choices and a healthy dose of optimism.
Merry Christmas to the whole family! I love these tips. I’ll definitely try the eldeberry. Any time I feel a cold coming on I drink warm tea with honey, or sometimes just take a spoonful of it plain. Drink lots of water. I also start hosing the house down with a vinegar and lemon oil mix of all communal areas – door knobs, countertops, phones if you still use a landline, and tv remotes. Coconut oil also has antibacterial properties and since my skin is pretty dry in the winter months, I’m always slathered up with that. And switch out your toothbrush regularly! I don’t have littles anymore, but I sure do remember them bringing home colds all the time. Hope everyone gets through the season without one!
Taking time for yourself during the holiday season helps. I love your blog.
This post is like a reminder. I try to reduce the overwhelming activities around this time. Like school, then baking, and having kids at home kinda makes you crave for some quiet time. But what got my attention was, when you said ‘brain fog’. I didn’t know how to describe the feeling and I was going through it around the same year. My physician would do blood work and everytime there’s always a micro nutrient deficiency. I am not sure if you take requests, but I would love for you post about it. If it’s smth personal you can’t share I understand. But it’s so nice to read smth I can relate personally when no one understands.
I’m also crossing my fingers for a illness free holiday break. Have a wonderful time with your family!
The holiday “fun” can be exhausting. Excellent suggestions to relieve the stress and avoid illness. I would add one more, please everyone get a flu shot!!! You will help protect yourself, family & those who do not qualify for vaccination. Happy Holidays!!!
Anything for awful headaches and a hurting throat?
Drink lots of water to stay hydrated and cayenne pepper helps to soothe sore throat. Sounds weird, but it works! Either gargle with some in water or eat some buffalo wings 🙂
Elderberry soup? Hmmmm, that sounds very interesting. Think I’ll try to find a recipe. I wonder if I can find elderberries up here in Quebec in the wintertime?