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10 Tips for Happy and Healthy Holidays

Mother_holiday_shutterstock_232321366By Deirdre Imus, 12-1-2020

With COVID-19 cases surging, this year’s holiday season may be a bit different as people wrestle with travel and what is right for themselves and their families. So expect that plans may change and respect the decisions of others, because one thing that should not change is our good cheer. 

Even in a normal cold and flu season, there will always be things we cannot control that can trigger stress and anxiety, which can make us more susceptible to illness. Focus instead on the many positive actions we can take to keep us healthy and happy to protect ourselves and those we love.  Here are my top 10 tips for this holiday season. They may sound like common sense, but they can take some foresight to put into action, and they can work together to synergistic effect.
1. Expect Stress and Dial it Back. When families plan to get together, there is almost always stress.  When you see it coming, check your first instinct and choose to react calmly. Teach others to do the same. You can also get curious: Ask a question to clarify the situation. A question can also be an effective way to diffuse a brewing disagreement between others.
2. Keep it Clean. Keeping your house clean eliminates germs. Pay special attention to surfaces. Kitchen and bath counters, faucets and handles should be cleaned daily, or more often if you have guests. Also keep rugs vacuumed to remove dirt, dust, mites, pet hair and other potential allergens.
3. Air it Out.  Many homes today are so well insulated the indoor air becomes stale, especially in the colder months. Try opening your windows for 10 minutes or so after all the leaves fall to give your house a breath of fresh air.  It is also a good practice to service your furnace and replace filters in the fall, and at regular intervals.
4. Guard the Cookie Jar. Beyond the link to obesity, sugar winds up kids and can contribute to tension at family get-togethers. So replace sugary sodas with fruit infused water or 100 % fruit juice with no added sugar. Replace cookies and chips with veggies and hummus dip, tree nuts and fresh fruit. Dip sliced apples in lemon juice to keep them tart and fresh, or for a special treat, bake apple slices with a dusting of cinnamon. 
5. Eat Right. This is easy to do -- once you decide to make better choices every day.  While diets can be helpful, the word implies denying ourselves. Diets also end.  A better approach is to make healthy eating a lifestyle. I enjoy being vegetarian and all the delicious decisions I can make. You may want to try one of the vegetarian recipes from my cookbook, The Imus Ranch: Cooking for Kids & Cowboys.
6. Exercise Some. Exercise boosts your immune system. If you stopped going to the gym or don’t have an exercise regimen, make today the day you stretch and start exercising.  Don’t force yourself to do 40 sit-ups; squeeze off five or 10.  Don’t try to run a seven-minute mile; take a walk around the block.  Don’t try to be a yoga instructor; try a beginner’s yoga video. (Always consult your physician before starting an exercise program.)
7. Sleep Tight. Sticking to an appropriate bedtime schedule can help you and your entire family get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed. Research tells us that sleep also keeps your immune system in tune
8. Juice Your Immune System.  Vitamin C can also give your immune system a boost, and fresh fruits and vegetables are a great way to get it. For an instant “boost,” pour a cup of boiling water over 1/3 of a fresh squeezed lemon and sip it in the morning. 
9. Oral Hygiene. In addition to a boost from Vitamin C, try heading off the first sign of a cold by gargling for 30 seconds. Many mouthwashes kill more than 99% of bacteria, including cold viruses. Over-the-counter saline nasal sprays can also flush out germs and reduce your viral load. Update: Trials are planned to test the effectiveness of nasal irrigation using saline with baby shampoo to battle COVID-19. (We recommend waiting for the results.)
10. Shine Your Light. Perhaps because girls pay more attention to social skills growing up, women tend to set the tone for a party. Men can too, of course, but the point is a positive attitude can be contagious. So be mindful of your surroundings and shine your light around, including any dark places. An empathetic heart always sees the good in others and the truth beyond the words.
Wishing you all the best this holiday season!
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