By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse
Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing (Isaac Watts)
It is Advent and a time of preparation. We look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus. We also may be preparing for family gatherings, choir concerts, cookie exchanges, volunteer opportunities (Red Kettle campaign, anyone?), exchanging gifts, and lots (and lots) of food. How can I stay healthy during this joyous time of the year with so much going on? Here are some tips for you to consider:
- Defeat germs! (They are lurking everywhere!)
- Get your flu shot.
- Wipe off the handles of those shopping carts at the grocery store or department store with a disinfecting wipe.
- Traveling by plane? Bring a packet of disinfecting wipes with you and wipe off anything you may be touching—armrests, tray table, and seat belt.
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer. Cold viruses tend to spread from hand-to-mouth contact making mall doors, escalator rails, elevator buttons, and ATM touch screens a virus wonderland.
- Watch your intake of treats (They also are lurking everywhere!)
I know that the likelihood that we will avoid treats completely during this season is practically nil. The key thing is to think “moderation”.
- Avoid food kiosks and stands when shopping at the mall. You may burn calories while you are walking around shopping, but you would have to walk for about six hours to burn off a Cinnabon cinnamon roll!
- Pack some healthy snacks to avoid the temptation of a treat. Some examples of packables: a piece of fruit, low-fat string cheese, an ounce of nuts, low-fat Greek yogurt, or a healthy granola bar (check the sugar content on the label).
- Control what you can—keep treats out of your house.
- Have one cookie instead of six.
- Reduce your stress level
- Reducing stress is another way to avoid getting ill. Give yourself a break when you are feeling stressed—watch a Christmas movie, sit in front of the fireplace and read, relax and have a conversation with friends and family.
- When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, take five minutes to take some deep breaths and relax your muscles. Close your eyes and breathe in through your nose to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of two, breathe out through your mouth for a count of four, and repeat.
- Get some sleep
- If you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you risk getting ill just because you’ve worn down your body’s defenses. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who slept at least eight hours nightly were about three times less likely to catch a cold than those who slept for less than seven. (Oh my, I am in trouble!)
- Avoid overeating (Food is lurking everywhere!)
- It is inevitable; we tend to eat more between Thanksgiving and the New Year. The key is to not overeat. Slow down while you are eating. Give your stomach a chance to communicate with your brain about how full it is. Try eating each meal to 80% full, instead of feeling miserable after eating to 100% full.
- Avoid going back for seconds.
- Look for the healthy options at gatherings and parties. Look for fruits and vegetables, whole grain crackers, hummus. But be careful, dips and sauces can turn a healthy option into an unhealthy one.
- Invited to a potluck? Bring a healthy option.
- Cheers—have alcohol in moderation (Alcohol is also lurking everywhere!)
- If you are at a gathering where alcohol is being served, try to limit yourself to two beverages and alternate them with glasses of water or better yet, stick to sparkling water.
- Don’t stop your exercise routine
It is tempting to skip exercise this time of the year because of cold weather and time constraints.
- Do fun things as a family to get your exercise. Dust off those ice skates, skis, snowshoes, and toboggan and get out there and have some fun!
- Take the stairs whenever you can and if you are able.
- Spend time with those you love
- Reconnect with friends
- Go caroling. Avoid taking a vehicle—the walk is good for you.
- Go to church and other events with family during Advent
- Take turns reading the Christmas story, Luke 2: 1-20, at home with the whole family.
I wish you and your family peace, love, and joy this Christmas season. Kathy