'Tis the season for vibrantly-decorated sugar cookies, sparkly gifts under trees, lit up menorahs, cozy afternoons reading by the fire ... and colds, the flu, COVID, RSV, the list goes on.
It's no secret that this fall has been flat-out terrible when it comes to sicknesses, and medical experts say we're in the midst of a "tripledemic." The last thing any of us want to do is spend the holidays blowing our noses and fighting off fevers, and while some sicknesses are inevitable, there are a few things you can do to keep your immune system strong and avoid exposure to too many viruses. Here's your guide.
1. Get Enough Sleep
One of the top things that can do a number on your immune system is sleep deprivation. Studies show that people who don't get enough sleep—or don't get high-quality sleep—are more likely to get sick when they're exposed to viruses. If you're a parent, this is probably a frustrating suggestion, since it can be hard to get enough sleep and you're exposed to viruses your kids bring home from school or daycare all the time. We have more tips, luckily, so read on!
2. Load Up on Vitamin-Rich Foods
Is it a good idea to take a multivitamin? Sure. But you can also get the vast majority of the vitamins need from your diet, so load up on vitamin-rich foods. Yes, we're talking about fruits and vegetables, so make sure to get in those greens, berries, apples, cruciferous veggies (they're delicious roasted with olive oil and a little salt!), the list goes on.
3. Take a Vitamin D Supplement
In the cold winter months, we don't spend nearly as much time outside as we do in the summer. And it doesn't help that the sun sets so early! But vitamin D—also known as "the sunshine vitamin"—can play an important role in supporting the immune system, so if you're going to invest in any supplement right now, make it vitamin D.
4. Move Your Body
Do you need to run a marathon over the holidays? Absolutely not. But making time to move your body can boost your immune system and help you fight off viruses. You can do this with a daily walk (bundle up!), at-home workouts, or a trip to your local yoga studio.
Looking for ways to exercise? Try taking a winter walk with a friend.
5. Journal—and Find Other Ways to Take Care Of Your Mental Health
While the holidays can be a lot of fun, they're not exactly famous for being a time when we prioritize self-care. We're too busy entertaining, sipping holiday cocktails, buying last-minute gifts, or arguing with family members (hey, it happens). But carving out time for journaling or any other form of self-care can help us keep our mental health and stress levels under control, and when our stress levels are under control, our immune systems can function better.
6. Avoid Alcohol (Or at Least Avoid Drinking Too Much)
In December, it can seem like someone's offering a glass of wine or champagne every hour. And while many of us vow to stop drinking alcohol during Dry January, you may want to consider cutting back in December, too. Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can weaken the immune system, increasing your chances of getting sick. So work on skipping a cocktail here and there, or skip it altogether.
7. Take Precautions
If we learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, it's how to do our best to not get sick. If you've stopped wearing a mask, you might consider making an exception and wearing it in grocery stories and other public place. You should also make sure to wash your hands regularly, and if you haven't gotten your flu shot or the latest COVID booster yet, you might want to consider it.
Staying healthy hasn't exactly been easy over the past few months. And while these tips don't guarantee that you'll stay sneeze-free over the holidays, they can help. Worst case scenario: You'll know you tried!
Want more great blog posts? Give these ones a read: