Unless you have a perfect immune system, it’s pretty likely that you understand the distress of falling ill during the holidays. If you are travelling, your sleep schedule is often disrupted, you encounter strange foods, and you are exerting a lot more energy participating in holiday events- and I don’t even want to get started on plane germs. Even if you’re staying in your hometown, the stress and pressure of the holiday season can be overwhelming to the point of exhaustion for some.
Lucky for you, I have some tips to help you take care of yourself, so that you can truly enjoy what is supposed to be a wonderful, celebratory season.
In general, you should aim to consume most vitamins and nutrients through your diet.* Doing so will give you a strong immune system to start with, which means you won’t have to worry so much about avoiding illness when you’re on the road. The trick is to figure out what specific nutrients your body is most in need of, and what imbalances you need to keep in check in order to maintain your health.
For me, too much sugar inevitably makes me sick, especially combined with too much gluten (which I have a sensitivity to). Knowing this, I try to limit my sugar intake throughout the holidays and make sure I’m getting plenty of Vitamin C and D to support my immune system. Now, I’m no nutritionist, but this has worked for me so I am sticking to it! Though I do take these vitamins in capsule form a few times a week, I also try to eat plenty of kiwis and bell peppers, foods that I know are high in vitamin C. I also add supplements to smoothies or coffee for my overall health, like spirulina, chlorella or maca powder. If I’m starting to feel sick, I use my friend’s home remedy- a spoonful of chopped up garlic wrapped in raw honey, taken at last once daily. It doesn’t taste good, but it usually works! I recommend experimenting with your diet to see what works best for you. I eat a lot of cooked greens but not a lot of raw salad- raw salad in the winter makes me feel rough and chilly, whereas cooked greens, preferably with garlic and lemon juice, make me feel nourished and strong.
If you’re unable to pinpoint a specific area that makes you feel better or worse, simply focus on making sure you are getting enough vegetables and not too much sugar. This is more important than usual during the holidays because you’re likely already consuming a lot of delicious, but not super healthy desserts. Keeping your immune system strong by supporting it with healthy nutrients will ensure that you can enjoy your holidays without compromising your health.
There’s also the travel factor. Are you flying somewhere for the holidays? Bring some turmeric or mint tea with you on the plane (bring the tea bags and ask your flight attendant for hot water). Both are anti-inflammatory, and mint will help calm your stomach. Drink TONS of water. Bring papaya capsules or evening primrose oil to help offset an upset stomach after a large holiday meal.
At the end of the day, listen to your body. That’s the best way to figure out what it needs!
The first thing you should do if you are feeling fatigued or wiped out is to get some sleep. Seriously. You will feel so much better if you do.
If you really, really can’t sleep, or if you have slept and it isn’t doing anything for you, get yourself some iron. In capsule form, red meat or leafy greens, whichever you prefer. As a female athlete, so much of any fatigue I’ve ever had has been cured almost instantly by supplying my body with more iron.
You can also start adding chia seeds to everything you eat for a little superfood boost. These guys work well in pastas, salads, smoothies, oatmeal… seriously, almost everything.
Finally, take some time out for yourself. Really rest. Turn off your phone. Go for a walk. Take a hot bath. Go to your local market and pick out some fancy chocolate, a great bottle of wine or a selection of fresh pears. You will be amazed at how much taking a little time away from it all can re-energize you. If you can, take some time off an go for an all-out vacation! I’m going to Paris for a week next month and although I’m excited because, well, PARIS, I’m also looking forward to just spending a relaxing week in one of my favorite cities in the world.
For skin and hair:
Wake up and splash your face with cold water. Not only will it help wake you up, but it will also tighten your pores and make your skin look fresh and gorgeous. Don’t use soap! In order to keep your skin supple, only wash it with soap at the end of the day. Too much scrubbing or washing will dry out your skin, causing it to produce excess oil and giving you a splotchy complexion. I always use Acure’s Brilliantly Brightening Glowing Serum. This is probably the priciest product I use but it is SOO worth it. Failing that, I use plain old argan oil.
In order to keep my hair hydrated, I avoid shampoo year-round. As an added boost in the winter, I use a deep root conditioner every other week (Acure Deep Root Conditioner and Giovanni 2Chic Soothing Hair Mask with Cherry Blossom and Rose Petals are my favorites). As my hair dries I massage coconut oil into the ends and spray on some Acure Leave-In Conditioner.
One last tip for a winter glow: shower less! It dries out your skin. You aren’t sweating that much in these temperatures, anyway.
Depression, SAD, the blues… We know it by many names, but many of us understand that feeling of sadness during the holidays for one reason or another. If you are suffering from depression or are unable to get out of a dark mood, please seek out medical care from a licensed professional.* However, if you just need to get out of a rough patch, here are some things that have worked for me.
Get outside. Take a walk, even if it’s cold- especially if it’s cold.
Meditate! There are so many options on Youtube (so, free!) for guided meditation. I love the Headspace app, though at the moment I can’t afford it. However, you can also just sit in silence and meditate alone for 5 minutes a day. I used to not believe in meditation until I started having stress-related breathing issues last year, and learned that it was mostly in my head. Meditating a few minuets a day, a few times a week got rid of that issue, as well as taught me to approach things in my life with a more balanced mindset.
Read a book. My winter recommendations are here.
Go to a yoga class, stretch out at home, or just move your body in a way that reminds you how good it feels to inhabit it.
How are you staying healthy this holiday season?