For most of us, the holidays are a time that we look forward to – spending time with family and friends, travel, eating really good food, relaxing, and enjoying all the traditions associated with this time of year. And, for many people, this can also be a time that you are prone to getting sick. There are several possible reasons why this is so:
• Many people work harder just before a holiday to meet deadlines, and this brings stress, which can compromise your immune system. When you are finally able to relax, the stress hormones that have been in your system leave you open to infection and illness
• Too much rich food and sweets can create an environment in your body so that it is not functioning optimally
• Lack of sleep, not enough exercise also causes lowered immunity
• Holiday shopping can leave us exposed to more germs and viruses from other people
• Dry air and staying indoors more can expose us to more germs, especially when traveling by airplane, and being exposed to recirculated air
• Some may experience loneliness, sadness, or depression if they are not able to be with loved ones over the holidays. These emotions can lower your immune defenses.
• Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that is caused by lack of exposure to sunlight during the shorter days of fall and winter. This disorder may also depress the immune system
What can increase your chances of being able to enjoy the holiday season without getting sick?
• Get plenty of sleep. This is one of the most important ways you can help your immune system.
• Gentle exercise, such as walking, yoga, and tai chi are great immune boosters
• Drink plenty of water, preferably warm or room temperature. Chinese people tend to drink hot water with meals, especially in the wintertime. This allows your body to not have to expend too much Qi (life force energy) to maintain health. It’s also great for a healthy digestive system, which is important for immune health
• If possible, get some acupuncture, massage, or other healing treatments. Be gentle with yourself
• Eat a healthy diet, including plenty of vegetables (preferably lightly cooked).
• Avoid sugar! Sugar is a big problem for the immune system. It can weaken it considerably even hours after sugar is consumed.
• Keep stress as low as possible. Try some relaxation techniques, such as meditation or deep, slow diaphragmatic breathing
• Certain supplements have been shown to help your immune system to be more effective: Vitamin C, Zinc, Echinacea, and Vitamin D are all good choices. When in doubt, check with your doctor
• Spend some quality time with family, friends, and even pets. You can even join a club if your family or friends don’t live close by. The possibilities are endless. Social support is strongly correlated with a healthier immune system.
By following the guidelines above, you will have a much greater chance to enjoy the holidays in a healthy way.