This holiday season, you may be looking forward to family gatherings, shopping, cooking, and celebrations with friends. And while the end of the year can be filled with many merry moments, there can also be some challenges — including the increased risk of exposure to illness-causing germs while traveling, financial and emotional stress, and more.

Different illnesses tend to spike during the winter and holiday season. Rather than getting into the festive spirit, you could end up on your couch nursing a stuffy nose, cough, and body aches.

And in the final dash to the end of the year, the holidays can bring on feelings of emotional and financial stress, fatigue, and mental exhaustion.

The best way to keep your holidays merry and bright is to prioritize your health and well-being. With some simple steps, you can ensure you enjoy the season while taking care of yourself (and protecting others).

Our holiday survival kit is your guide for navigating the challenges of the holiday season – from financial and emotional stress to staving off sickness — so you can enjoy a peaceful, healthy holiday season.

How to Prevent Getting Sick and Avoid Germ Exposure

You may not see them, but germs are everywhere. The risk of encountering these germs during the holidays increases with parties, traveling, and family gatherings.

That doesn’t mean you have to stay locked up at home. The CDC has recently updated their guidelines for celebrations during the holidays, knowing that this year families and friends are eager to get together.

Exposure to germs throughout the holiday season may be inevitable. While wearing a mask continues to be one of the best ways to keep yourself safe, there are plenty of other ways to reduce your risk of illness this holiday season, including:

Wash Your Hands Frequently

  • Some germs can survive on surfaces for hours, and direct contact with them can lead to illnesses like the flu, cold, and COVID-19.
  • To prevent the spread of germs, spend at least 20 seconds washing your hands with antibacterial soap and use hand sanitizer between washings.

Keep Surfaces Disinfected

  • Routinely cleaning countertops, bathrooms, doorknobs, and other commonly used surfaces is key to keeping germ exposure to a minimum.
  • Having antiseptic wipes on hand can also help you be more vigilant with wiping down surfaces when you’re out at the grocery store, gym, or the office. These are especially good to have with you when traveling, too!

Avoiding Overcrowded, Poorly Ventilated Spaces

  • While nearly 60% of Americans have been vaccinated, keeping gatherings small and air moving is still important. Staying away from busy restaurants or bars is a safer option.
  • When in your or someone else’s home, turn the fan or an air purifier on. For added ventilation, open some windows to pull fresh air in.

Boost Your Immune System

It can be easy to relax when you’re with family and friends and forget to take important precautions. But not letting your guard down this holiday season is especially important — show your love by not spreading germs to those you love!

Indulging While Not Overdoing It

The holiday season is all about celebrating and enjoying yourself. But sometimes, overdoing it with too much food (and too much drinking) can make you feel less than jolly.

A busy social calendar can throw you off your usual diet or exercise regimen. But going into the holidays with a plan for how to navigate overindulging will lead to a healthier holiday and post-holiday season.

Cut Yourself Some Slack!

  • First and foremost, offering yourself grace and flexibility will allow you to enjoy yourself without guilt.
  • Exercisers who show themselves self-compassion after an interruption to routine are often the ones who are able to get back on track the quickest.
  • Even if you over-do it at a party, you can always balance out your diet and exercise routine the next day.

Enjoy in Moderation

  • There’s nothing wrong with partaking in treats, sweets, and drinks during the holidays. But between office parties and get-togethers with friends, overdoing it with too many holiday cocktails can lead to a rough morning the next day.
  • According to Dr. Beth Frates, clinical assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School, “If you do drink alcohol, stick to the American Heart Association guidelines,” says Dr. Frates.” When you have too many beverages, you lose track of your drive to fuel your body with nutritious and delicious food.”
  • So make sure you eat a healthy, nutrient-rich meal before drinking so your body better absorbs the alcohol. And remember to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Stay Active

  • This is a busy time of the year, making it more difficult to stay active.
  • Aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day can help you manage stress and enjoy those feel-good endorphins.
  • Take your dog for a walk, squeeze in a yoga video during your lunch break, or even just dance it out to your favorite song if you’re only got a few minutes to spare.

Try Some Healthy Winter Recipes

  • When visions of sugarplums start dancing around in your head, opt for a more heart-healthy dish.
  • By cutting out some of the excessive saturated fats, sodium, and sugar, you can indulge while still getting the vitamins and nutrients you need to stay fueled and stress-free.
  • Savor each moment and each dish, stay hydrated, and be kind to yourself as you navigate your holiday health.

Coping with the Holiday Blues

This time of the year isn’t always filled with joy and cheer for everyone. The holiday season is a time when many Americans report feeling increased levels of stress and depression.

Whether it’s loneliness, the recent loss of a loved one, financial stress, trauma, or anxiety, holiday depression and stress can look different for everyone who experiences it.

Jennifer Casarella, MD notes:  “Balancing the demands of shopping, parties, family obligations, and your guests may contribute to feelings of being overwhelmed and increased tension.”

On top of that, Seasonal Affective Disorder may make you feel less than festive this time of year. According to Psychology Today, “Seasonal affective disorder is estimated to affect 10 million Americans.”

Here are some tips for ways to find relief from holiday stress this year:

Journal Your Thoughts

  • Keeping a journal as a safe space for your thoughts and feelings can be helpful in processing seasonal depression.
  • According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, journaling helps you prioritize your problems, fears, and concerns.
  • It also is good for “tracking any symptoms day-to-day so that you can recognize triggers and learn ways to better control them.”
  • Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can start to work to resolve the problems that cause you tension.
  • Journaling also acts as an opportunity for positive self-talk.

Prioritize Movement (and Rest)

  • Working out is important for your physical health, but is also a great way to feel more grounded and less stressed.
  • Activities like yoga are excellent for experiencing meditation, stretching, and exercise all at the same time. YouTube is a great place for finding yoga exercises of all levels.
  • Be sure you balance your activity with plenty of downtime and rest. Taking a rest also gives your mind a break. Use that time for friends and family, or a hobby.
  • Finding balance between staying active, rest, and all areas of your life will give you recovery and a higher sense of well-being.

Ask for Support

  • If you carry a lot of stress or depression around the holidays, talking to someone you love and trust about your struggles can help offer relief and support.
  • Depression and anxiety can be complicated to navigate. Seeking professional help is a powerful way to get the support you deserve during the holiday season

Fight Financial Stress

All those holiday sales can bring on the urge to splurge on gifts. Spending more during the holiday months is common, but it can bring on financial stress later.

Being realistic about your holiday budget, sticking to it, and finding creative and innovative ways to enjoy the holidays will help you remain free from the stresses finances can bring.

Prioritize Bills

  • As tempting as it may be to push a payment up to the next month, this can hurt you in the long run.
  • Not only will you likely be hit with a late fee, but missing even one month can impact your credit score or lower chances for new credit lines.

Set a Spending Limit

  • Whether it’s $20 or $100, you should figure out in advance how much you want to spend on your loved ones.
  • If you’re unsure of what your budget should look like, try out a holiday budget planner.
  • As long as you know this number and stick to it, you can set yourself up for holiday finance success!

Create a Gift List

  • By planning out exactly what you want to give to each of your loved ones, you can avoid last minute impulse buys.

Make Some DIY Gifts

  • You don’t have to be a world class artist — friends and family love homemade gifts.
  • Whether you create something by hand, bake something delicious, or create their newest favorite playlist, gifts that are made by you will always be unique and from the heart (while saving money).

Being honest with yourself about what you can feasibly spend on gifts will help lessen your financial stress, and ensure you have a more peaceful, relaxing holiday season this year.

Travel Safe this Holiday Season

For some, the holidays can be a mixed bag. While the holidays are meant to be a time of joy and celebration, they can also come with a fair share of stress.

But being prepared with a game plan to navigate your mental, physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing can help you have a peaceful, healthy holiday season.

If you do plan on traveling this holiday season, there are extra steps you and your family can take to ensure you stay safe from both COVID and cold and flu germs.

How to Prep for Safe Travel This Holiday Season >

This article is not intended as medical advice. Always check with your doctor before embarking on a health and wellness plan.

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