A Healthy Holiday Season

The holiday season is a joyous time for family and festivities, but keeping your family healthy can be challenging. The good news is that you can still enjoy family gatherings while protecting your health. Covenant Health Fort Sanders Regional and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) share some healthy ways to celebrate the holidays:

  • Get vaccinated. The best way to minimize your risk of getting COVID-19,
    flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is to get vaccinated. Vaccination
    helps protect both you and those who are not yet eligible for the vaccine,
    such as young children.
  • Mask up. If you are not fully vaccinated or sick, wear a mask that covers
    your nose and mouth if you are in public indoor settings.
  • Get tested. If you have symptoms of a respiratory virus or come in close
    contact with someone who has symptoms, get tested.
  • Minimize spread. If you are sick or have symptoms of a respiratory virus
    or other contagious illnesses, don’t host or attend a gathering.
  • Travel smarter.
    » CDC recommends that you are up to date on routine vaccines before
    traveling, including COVID-19, flu and RSV.
    » Check your destination’s current travel health information, or visit CDC’s
    website for updates related to travel: https://www.cdc/gov
    » Do not travel if you are sick or you test positive for flu, Covid-19 or
    a respiratory illness.

Maintain, Don’t Gain

One of the biggest challenges we have during the holidays is healthy eating. The average American gains 1-2 pounds between Halloween and New Year’s Day.

It’s not just holiday meals that cause problems, but also holiday celebrations in homes and at work, along with the treats and snacks that are shared at the office. Even if you know that most of these treats are bad for your cholesterol, blood pressure and waistline, it’s hard to turn them down.

It’s essential to have a plan of action to prevent holiday weight gain:

  • Share lighter fare. Offer to bring a fruit or veggie tray with low-fat dip to family gatherings.
  • Try healthier recipes. Now is the time to try some new heart-healthy recipes for your holiday meal. Many times you can modify your own traditional holiday recipes to make them healthier by making simple ingredient substitutions.
  • No food gifts, please. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask family and close friends not to give you food gifts during the holiday season.

Studies show that significant weight loss can greatly reduce or eliminate obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. If you are struggling to lose weight, Fort Sanders offers surgical and non-surgical options that can also provide benefits to overall health. Our staff will help you determine which weight-loss option is right for you and your goals.

The “Holiday Blues”

Finding the spirit of the season despite sadness or loss

Just because we expect this time of year to be filled with an abundance of joy and good cheer, the season doesn’t automatically bring us happy holidays – and it certainly doesn’t eliminate reasons for feeling lonely or sad. In fact, it may increase the likelihood of negative feelings or emotions.

Death, divorce and even events in the world around us can cause a deep sense of sadness and loss during the holidays. Relationships, finances, time pressure and the physical exertion of the season can all play havoc with your life. Learn how to anticipate and circumvent the pitfalls of the “holiday blues:

  • Reach out. Spend time with your significant “other or a close friend who accepts you as you are. Look for opportunities to socialize and enjoy the company of others.
  • Let the past stay in the past. Don’t let perceived past failures get you down. Leave the past where it is and set aside worries about the future as well. Live in the present, especially if thoughts of the past or future cause you sadness, guilt or anxiety.
  • Be who you are. Sometimes when we are with family we tend to fall into preconceived roles. We may be the baby of the family or the one who doesn’t follow the traditional life path. Keep a sense of who you really are. Don’t be brought down by negative comments or the opinions of others, no matter how close they are to you.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat healthy foods, get plenty of rest, don’t drink too much and don’t overindulge in sweets and goodies.
  • Lighten your heart. A light holiday book or movie can lift your spirits and give you a break from your to-do list or other holiday stressors.
  • Make time to experience the spirit of the season. Religious services and rituals often bring a sense of peace and purpose to an otherwise frantic time of year.
  • Help others. Sometimes a good response to the blues is to move from self-focused to other-focused. Contribute to a meaningful charity or reach out to help others in a tangible way. Sometimes the gift of your time is as important – or more important – than a gift of money.

During winter months some individuals experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), brought on by decreased exposure to sunlight. Others experience holiday blues that last a few days. But sometimes our feelings go beyond the blues or SAD, and are serious signs of depression. If you or a loved one have holiday blues that seem to be lingering, watch for the following signs:

  • Constant sadness or irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of interest in pleasures once enjoyed
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Changes in weight, appetite or sleeping habits
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Thoughts of suicide or death

If you are aware of any of the above signs or symptoms, please seek professional help. Contact Peninsula Behavioral Health, a member of Covenant Health, at 865-970-9800.

For more tips on navigating the holiday season, visit: https://www.covenanthealth.com/peninsula/2023-holiday-survival-guide/.

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