Nourish, Exercise, Sleep, Spread Joy...

words | Medical Expert Dr. Karen K. Prentice D.O. F.A.A.P. | @anappleadaythedoctorsway

Have you ever felt like you were riding a Tsunami from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day and barely getting by?

We run ourselves ragged “enjoying” the holidays-- running errands, buying the perfect gift, gift wrapping, parties, volunteer work, oh, and don’t forget finals, school work, work, and extracurricular activities. At some point, our health seems to take last place. How in the world can we break this cycle when we have so much to do?

Take a breath and remember the reason you are “celebrating.” Most of us are celebrating either our faith, cultural traditions, or just the pure fun of getting together with family and friends. Whatever the reason, here are a few things you can do to stay healthy and truly enjoy the holidays.

Tip #1 Take Care of Yourself: I’ve found in my day to day work as a doctor, if I take good care of myself, I do a much better job of caring for others.

Tip #2 Nourish: The goal of eating is not only to nourish our body but to nourish our mind and spirit. Beyond sustaining us, food has great cultural, religious, and social importance. So eat!!! It’s ok to have Aunt Megan’s amazing apple pie at Thanksgiving, Aunt Iris’s potato latkes at Hanukkah, or Grandma Sharlene’s famous Christmas cookies in December. However, make sure you add in some nourishing food like fruits, vegetables, and healthy carbohydrates such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole grain pastas; healthy protein and fatty foods like eggs, turkey, tofu and nut butters; and plenty of water. As you run your errands be sure to pack healthy snacks like nuts, cheese, and whole grain crackers, or sliced apples, peanut butter, and water. When you go to a party, be intentional about what you put in your mouth. Drink plenty of water, and make sure you load your plate with salad, vegetables, fruit, cheese, nuts, whole grains, and any other “healthy” option you see. Then grab a dessert or two, but don’t overdo it! By making good choices, you will feel better and suffer from fewer colds and flus.

You will also feel better and stay healthy if you balance your “input” (calories eaten) with your “output” (calories burned). This leads us to my next tip.

Tip #3 Exercise: My motto has always been, “the more I exercise, the more I can eat” and boy can I eat! Seriously though, I could talk all day about the benefits of exercise which include: stress relief, maintaining a healthy weight, keeping your body strong, and improving your immune system. Find something you enjoy doing that involves exercise and try to do it every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes in the morning and 20 or 30 minutes at night. Over the years, I’ve found running to be a cheap, easy exercise that I can squeeze in at different times of the day depending on my schedule. I’m not particularly good at it, calling myself a “slogger” or slow jogger, but I enjoy it and it makes me feel strong and healthy. The most important thing is to do what you love and try to do it daily.

Tip #4 Sleep: This one is a little tougher during the holidays. Did you know that as we sleep our brain gets rid of toxins that if left to build up can cause anxiety, depression, and a poor immune system which then leads to infections and illness? Cold and flu season peaks during the holidays, so make sure you get at least eight hours a night.

Tip #5 Be Present in the Moment: Make sure to be “present” in the world around you. Say hello to people, open the door for someone with lots of packages, stop and chat with your neighbor even if it’s only for a few minutes. Even though your head is filled with all the things you need to get done, put down your list, put down your phone, and look your friends and family in the eye. Listen to what they are saying to you. A few minutes of intentional listening is a great way to say, “I care about you and I love you.” It’s a perfect way to spread the joy and love of the season!

 47967113 - cozy winter still life: mug of hot tea and warm woolen knitting on vintage windowsill against snow landscape from outside.