During the holiday season, emergency rooms report an increase in hospitalizations, according to medical researchers at Queen’s University in Canada. This is such a common trend, in fact, that physicians often call it “the holiday surge.” From physical illness to mental health concerns to accidents or injuries, this time of year is not without its risks, especially right now in the thick of COVID-19. But the holidays are meant to be festive and enjoyable—not disrupted by an unforeseen hospital visit—so here are five suggestions to keep the whole family as safe and healthy as possible this season.
Participate in Physical Activities Together
With the colder weather, seasonal changes and less daylight, exercise and physical activities are often overlooked leading up to the holidays. Many people take the approach of “I’ll just start over” in January and have little to no physical activity for a few months. However, physical exercise can be the best medicine to ward off illness and injury, so it’s important to schedule time for it on a daily basis. No matter how hectic your calendar feels or how warm your bed is in the morning, you can still carve out at least 30 minutes to exercise or intentionally move your body– in between decorating the house, planning the holiday menu and wrapping the presents.
It can be difficult with schedule changes during the holidays and kids being out of school to have a routine but find a time that works for you and try to stick to it. It’s not to say you can’t be flexible and by all means, something is better than nothing. You can include the family in this fitness regimen too with activities such as hiking at a local nature preserve or riding bikes around the neighborhood.
Make Sure that You Have Health Insurance
You can take all the right safety measures available, but sometimes an unexpected illness or injury still occurs—and for those situations, having health insurance is a must. It’s easy to forget about it if you don’t need it in the moment but it’s extremely important to have and can save you thousands. If you need coverage as soon as possible, then consider short-term health insurance. Designed to cover emergencies, these plans are issued in less than 24 hours, and you can access coverage the next day. With an average monthly premium of $107, short-term health insurance also tends to be more affordable than other policies in the marketplace.
Keep Nutritious Foods Easily within Reach
The holiday season is notorious for large, heavy meals and treats full of sugar, cream, oil, butter, salt and other ingredients that should only be eaten in moderation. Balance is always key to staying on track with your eating habits throughout the holidays. By all means, enjoy yourself and your favorite seasonal dish, but make sure to balance the more indulgent foods with nutrient-dense options as well.
A great rule of thumb is to ensure at least half of your plate is filled with vegetables and the other half you can choose what you want. That way, at the very minimum you are still getting nutrients. Or if you know you have a large lunch planned, go lighter on your breakfast. For recipes you have control over, trying using healthy ingredient swaps—such as applesauce instead of oil, Greek yogurt instead of cream, ground oats instead of flour, and honey or maple syrup instead of white refined sugar. These small tweaks really add up and can be the difference in how you feel come January 1.
Find Outlets to Manage Your Holiday Stress
According to a survey from Healthline, more than 62 percent of respondents indicate at least some level of stress during the holidays. From tracking finances to coordinating events to adapting your traditions in the midst of this pandemic, the whole family could benefit from an extra dose of stress management. So, look for creative outlets you can all can do together to help release that buildup of tension or anxiety. Think: festive crafts, board games, puzzles, baking projects or family movie nights, for instance.
Limit Interactions Outside Your Household
In the past, this season has always been about traveling to see family members, welcoming out-of-town guests, and either hosting or attending holiday parties. This year, however, it’s much safer to remain at home with just your immediate household. Of course, it’s is not preferable, but if you can limit interactions with relatives or friends to virtual Zoom celebrations, this will protect everyone and minimize the viral spread. But if you do plan to travel as a family or interact with another household, follow these CDC precautions.
As undeniably exciting as this season is, it can also take a major toll on both physical and mental health. Add in the risk factor of COVID-19, and it’s more important than ever to prioritize your entire family’s well-being. Avoid that “holiday surge” and keep health and safety at the forefront of all celebrations this year.