Life

7 Tips for Healthier Holidays

The holidays bring many joys, such as family get-togethers and gift exchanges. But this time of year is also known for the stress from deadlines, hectic shopping and disrupted schedules that can result in less exercise, unhealthy eating and mood swings.

Avoiding the pitfalls of the holidays is not easy. It is a juggling act that needs to be fine-tuned.

“It’s important to keep your focus on your health at this time because there are so many distractions,” said Maryanne Samuel, D.O., a member of the Baptist Health Medical Group whose specialty is internal medicine. “During the holidays, you need to keep healthy habits, particularly eating the right balance of foods and staying active.”

Holiday treats abound at office or private holiday parties in December. If you’re diabetic, for example, over-indulging on sweets can be dangerous. If you are overweight, you don’t have to wait until January to embark on New Year’s resolutions to begin exercising. And alcoholic consumption is always a concern at social or holiday gatherings, more so at this time of year.

“You’re things-to-do list should include time to relax and de-stress,” Dr. Samuel said. “Unresolved stress can lead to overeating, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, which can increase the risk for conditions such as heart disease.”

Covering a range of factors from dieting to budgeting, here are seven tips that can help you to have a healthier, stress-free holiday season.

Family Safety
Extra caution is necessary during the holiday period, especially when setting up lights around your house and Christmas trees inside your home to avoid injury or other accidents. For example, candles should not remain lit during the night. Remember to extinguish them before bedtime.

Exercise
Despite a busier social and shopping calendar at this time of year, exercise should remain an important part of your routine. At the very least, you should be exercising three to five days a week. Stress-relief exercises, including basic stretching or Yoga-style routines, can be especially beneficial during the holidays.

Eat and Drink in Moderation
Parties and informal get-togethers tend to overflow with rich foods and alcoholic beverages. Moderation is always important when eating and drinking, but more so during the holidays. Keep in mind that addictions to food, alcohol or gambling can masquerade as holiday cheer. Baptist Health has support services and treatments for addiction, obesity, stress and injuries.

Get Enough Sleep
Inadequate sleep can disrupt your ability to be alert and focused on your “to do list”. Even those who feel that six hours of sleep is enough are not sufficiently recharged to face physical and emotional needs.

Set Realistic Expectations
Family issues, such as any quirks or conflicts between relatives, can add to stress that’s already heightened by shopping, cooking and other demands. To borrow from real estate vernacular: accept others in “as-is” condition. The season calls for extra patience and understanding.

Unplug Gadgets
Most people are married to their smartphones and disconnecting from cell phones and other gadgets may be the most difficult lifestyle change during the holidays. However, disconnecting from cell phones, music players, iPads and larger computing devices such as video games is more important during the holidays. Instead, play old-fashion board games that include many participants — no electronics required – or take group walks with family members.

Budget Wisely: During tough economic times, it’s good to avoid the stress of further financial hardships. Set smart spending goals, and look for as many sales and special discounts as possible. Expanding your online shopping may save time, as well as money, thereby relieving the stress of holiday shopping.

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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 13 hospitals, more than 23,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 100 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.