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4 Top Ways To Stay Healthy This Holiday Season

Flu? Family stress? Sketchy eggnog? How to dodge the season’s dangers.

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by Sarah Mahoney

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The holiday season doesn’t just generate crowds down at the mall, it also increases foot traffic at your doctor’s office. Here’s how to make sure you aren’t among them.

“As much as possible, it’s important to stick to your routine,” says Wanda D. Filer, M.D., president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “If you’re trying to get enough sleep, eat a well balanced diet, and taking some time out each day to decompress, even if it’s just for a few minutes, you’ll be much better off.”

Here are four other key steps you can take to stay healthy and happy.

1. Lace up your walking shoes. “Walking 30 minutes a day doesn’t just keep you in shape, it clears your head, and lowers stress levels. Especially during such a busy time, that helps us stay healthy,” Filer says. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, she suggests heading to the mall during early opening hours, so you can walk and avoid the crowds.

2. Ask Santa for a meat thermometer. Food poisoning is a big problem during the holiday season, with more cases coming from home-cooked meals than commercial kitchens. The best protection is cooking meat to the right temperature, and being careful about cross-contamination from raw and cooked preparation surfaces. 

3. Fight the flu. Besides getting a flu vaccine, be extra attentive about handwashing during the holiday season: “It’s the most effective way to decrease the transmission of colds and flu.”

4. Stay alert for seasonal blues. Family doctors see an increase of people with mild depression during the holidays. “It’s a time when lots of people feel losses, even old ones, very strongly,” she says. “There’s a lot more financial stress. And it can bring up plenty of family conflict.” So if you feel low or aren't sleeping well, talk to your doctor about treatment options.