The holidays can be challenging for numerous reasons, not the least of which is trying to stay well. Office and family gatherings, traveling, eating more non-nutritional foods, and exercising less can all contribute to weaker immune systems. In short, the holidays can create the perfect breeding ground for every opportunistic germ that comes within hailing distance. For your holidays, here is a list of the top 14 clinically-based, grandmother-proven, and holistically-practiced ways to stay healthy.

The travel petri dish

Last year 112.5 million Americans1 took to trains, planes and automobiles to visit friends and families over the holidays. That’s a lot of people crammed into small spaces while traveling. If you are traveling over Christmas and New Year’s this year, here are some tips that may help you and your family to avoid getting sick.

1. Wash your hands. It can’t be repeated enough; the most effective way to stop the spread of illness and disease is to wash your hands. You pick up germs from every surface you touch over the course of a day: railings, door handles, elevator buttons, point of purchase keys, and other people’s hands. If you touch your eyes, ears, nose or mouth without washing your hands, those germs can enter your body. However, washing your hands with hand sanitizer can prevent that from happening. Carry pocket sanitizers with you and make sure you and your family members use them frequently.

2. Don’t share. We are all taught it is nice to share but refrain from doing so while you travel. Buy separate drinks and food for everyone and make sure each person has their own travel-size tissues. The more things you don’t share, the more germs you don’t share and the healthier you may remain while traveling.

3. Drink lots of fluids. One thing that can help you to fight illness and disease is to drink plenty of fluids. They help to maximize body functions and help all the body’s organs to do their jobs. Fluids also help to flush out toxins and infections.

Drinking fluids has many benefits4 for your health including:

  • Keeping your temperature normal
  • Lubricating and cushioning joints
  • Protecting your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues
  • Getting rid of wastes through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements

4. Wear a mask. It’s not exactly a fashion statement but those with compromised immune systems should strongly consider wearing a mask while traveling. It prevents ingesting innumerable airborne germs and can prevent getting a cold, the flu or other respiratory diseases.

Gather wellness during holiday gatherings
As you and your family and friends gather together for the holidays, you can gather wellness as well, if you exercise a bit and eat right.

5. Exercise. You don’t have to travel with a treadmill to exercise while visiting family. Go for a walk every day. You will get some fresh air, move your joints, and reduce stress from your annual tedious conversation with Uncle Henry.

6. Eat well. Even if you are eating more, you can eat more of the right things. Sweets go with the bargain when it comes to holidays, but make sure there are some fresh fruits and vegetables in your holiday diet as well. They will help to keep your body hydrated and your immune system in good working order. Look for vegetable dishes like squash, green beans, Brussel sprouts or roasted carrots. Consider bringing festive foods to the celebration that are healthy too like dates, nuts and out-of-season fresh fruit such as strawberries. They all have a wow factor and you’ll have something healthy to eat in the midst of the pies and chocolate.

7. Keep track of alcohol consumption. Drinking too much can make you sick, period. Drink water in between each cocktail to cut down on the amount you drink. When you’re having fun it’s easy to lose track of how much alcohol you have ingested, and this will help.

8. Stick to your routine. Nothing upsets your body, your psyche and your stomach like an upset routine. To the extent possible, stick to your regular routine while traveling. Get up at the same hour every day and go to bed at your normal bedtime, or as close to it as you can get. Eat at your normal mealtime. It may be tricky but adhering to your normal schedule as closely as possible can help your body stay strong and fight off illness.

Some swear by it…
Not every method of staying well is proven by science, but your friends and your grandmother may swear by it.

9. Drink tea. It’s an old-world remedy for a lot of illnesses and some say it has restorative powers. Drinking tea has many benefits because herbs can support good health. Find a flavor you like and drink it plain, with honey, milk, or lemon. It’s warm, soothing, hydrating and may just give your immune system a beneficial boost.

10. The verdict is still out on the effectiveness of over-the-counter supplements like Airborne, Zicam and others. Scientifically speaking they cannot “cure colds” because there is no cure for the common cold, yet many people swear by them. The supplements may help to bolster one’s immune system which may help the body to fight off infection. Before spending money on any of these check with your doctor.

11. Take a neti pot with you. This ancient form of irrigating and cleaning the sinuses with warm water and saline solution is effective in reducing, or eliminating, sinus congestion by clearing mucus. Neti pots are small and easy to pack, along with small packages of saline powder. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)5 says neti pots are safe and effective for irrigating the sinuses.

12. Herbal supplements like Yin Qiao San. This is a Chinese herbal formula that is said to prevent a bad cold. It is sold in health food stores and the directions for dosing are on the bottle.

Give yourself a break
Rethink, recalibrate, refresh and start some new habits this year – habits that reduce stress and give you a break.

13. No one ever said, “Remember last year when Mom’s holiday decorations weren’t perfect, she didn’t cook ten types of cookies, and we didn’t have homemade wrapping paper?” Instead, chances are they remembered the laughter, good food and far-away family members being home. To stay well and survive the holidays, give yourself a break. If dinner doesn’t come together perfectly, the front door didn’t get decorated, or you forgot to make one family recipe, it’s ok. Look around at your friends and family and realize that for that one moment in time, life is great.

14. Finally, one of the best ways to stay well over the holidays is to reset your expectations. Usually we are hardest on ourselves. We can set a pretty high bar for the holidays and expect our homes and tables to look like the ones that advertisers have created. Look at your schedule and consider what is possible in real time. Then recalibrate. Your blood pressure will come down, you may relax a bit, stay healthier and enjoy the holidays a bit more.