The older we get, the more intense the holiday season seems to become, with an increasing number of responsibilities. There are parties to attend, relatives to visit, dinners to cook, gifts to buy and wrap — all within the span of just a few weeks. While these activities serve a greater purpose in celebrating with others, they still can be taxing on the body and mind.
One of the primary reasons for this is that it’s more difficult to balance the rigorous holiday schedule with our own, and as a result, our health tends to go on the back burner.
The consequences of pushing ourselves to “do it all” during the holidays can become more severe with age. Without taking the proper precautions, seniors can experience everything from mental exhaustion to physical illness. Fortunately, there are steps that they can take to preserve their health and ensure their holiday season is full of comfort and joy.
• Dress appropriately: Even if it’s for less than five minutes, having protection against even mild cold temperatures is imperative. Seniors should wear layers of light, warm clothing, along with gloves, scarves, and hats. In extreme cold, seniors should avoid going outside altogether.
• Combat germs and the flu: It isn’t just the holiday season; influenza gets the spotlight this time of year as well. To help reduce the risk of getting the flu, seniors should wash their hands frequently throughout the day, with soap and warm water (for at least 20 seconds) and use hand sanitizer while in public. Although the best time to get a flu vaccine is in mid-October, getting one in November and December can still help with risk reduction.
• Stay active: If the summer sun inspires us to get out and exert energy, the gray overcast skies and snow do the exact opposite. Keeping a consistent workout schedule can be difficult during the holidays, but dedicating at least 30 minutes to moderate physical activity (with physician approval) can help keep the immune system strong.
• Eat wisely: What goes better with good company than good food? There’s always plenty of rich foods and snacks to enjoy at holiday parties. However, seniors — especially those with existing health conditions — may want to think twice before overindulging so as not to create or worsen any short-term or long-term health problems. Seniors should opt for healthier options whenever possible, even if it’s just taking from the veggie tray instead of the bowl of chips.
• Get plenty of rest: With the holiday season representing such a unique opportunity to spend time with loved ones, there’s an ever-present temptation to do everything and soak up as much of the time as possible. However, it’s just as important that the time that is spent together is high-quality time, and to that end, seniors should make sure they are well-rested. They should maintain a consistent sleep schedule (allowing for eight or more hours) and take breaks throughout the day.
• Keep the immune system strong before flying: The last thing anyone wants to do before a flight is more prep work. That being said, giving the immune system a little boost before flying can help reduce the risk of illness and exhaustion. In the days leading up to air travel, seniors should do whatever they can do de-stress, even if it’s just practicing meditation or taking soothing baths. This will add extra protection against the plethora of germs from fellow passengers.