Richard: Healthy Holidays to you!

Published 12:03 am Saturday, November 13, 2021

For nearly two years, we’ve focused on our health or at least on trying to protect our health. This time last year, we eagerly anticipated approval of a COVID vaccine and ringing in a new year. Alas, neither met the high expectations.

With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays just around the corner, let’s toast to health once again. But keep in mind that staying healthy—physically and mentally—depends on a balance of good nutrition, regular exercise, sound medicine and wise lifestyle choices.


Following the guidelines

Many of us will remain in a small bubble of close family and friends this holiday season. Others may feel comfortable traveling and socializing in large crowds. Whatever the choice, try to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The best protection against the deadly virus remains the COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC recommends a third “booster” shot after six months for people 65 and older and residents of long-term care facilities. Anyone 18 or older with underlying medical conditions or at high risk due to their occupations should also consider the booster.

Discuss any concerns about side effects or safety of the vaccines with your doctor.


Protecting against the flu

Holiday season means flu season. Health experts predict a worse flu outbreak this year because fewer people than normal had the flu last winter.

Other things to remember for protecting your immune system include:

  • Ideally get a flu shot in early fall
  • Peak flu season is December through February
  • Discuss the timing of flu and COVID vaccines with your healthcare provider
  • Stay home if you are sick

Influenza and COVID share most of the same symptoms except for loss of taste and smell. Check the CDC website for flu symptoms. A separate COVID-19 symptoms section includes a self-check chat box.


Monitoring what you eat and drink

Most of us tend to over-indulge at the holidays. Try maintaining regular eating and drinking habits this season, rather than “waiting until the new year.”

Consider these tips:

  • Enjoy favorite holiday foods but limit your portions; resist second servings and get up from the table when finished.
  • Have a healthy snack before going to a party, then limit yourself to three or four “polite” bites and sips while there.
  • Drink water frequently to curb hunger and offset alcohol consumption.


Managing other health conditions

If you have diabetes, hypertension, heart disease or other chronic conditions, keep to your routine, monitor vital signs and take prescribed medications on schedule.

  • Eat close to regular meal-time to maintain blood sugar levels.
  • Bring a healthy dish to holiday gatherings.
  • If you can’t resist sweet treats, cut back on other carbs.
  • Don’t skip meals to save up for the feast.
  • If you slip up, get back on track at the next meal, not next year.
  • Keep up regular physical activity – aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.


Taking away the holiday blues

Nearly two years of quarantining, social isolation and health fears, layered over normal seasonal stressors and added anxiety from a brutal hurricane, do not necessarily make us want to “deck the halls.”

If visions of twinkling lights trigger your anxiety, close your eyes and breathe. Stress also impacts immunity. Consider ways to de-stress and de-compress:

  • Avoid crowds by shopping online, using curbside pickup or going to stores during off times.
  • Make manageable lists and check off what you don’t have time to do.
  • Set a gift budget and stick to it.
  • Skip cooking multi-course feasts; one-pot meals are part of our Louisiana culture.
  • Get plenty of sleep.

Many of us have experienced loss over the past couple of years. Acknowledge those feelings rather than bottling them up or trying to mask them with food or alcohol. Reach out to others who may also be grieving or feeling lonely. Your compassion and companionship may be the best holiday cheer they receive.


Katie Richard, MA, BSN, RN, is an education and training coordinator for Thibodaux Regional Wellness Education Center. For more information on health and wellness services, call 985-493-4765.