I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of being sick. Thanks to Timehop on Facebook, I realized last Christmas that my family had been sick every Christmas for the past three years. And even with that reminder and my intentions to not get sick again, it happened. We were sick Christmas week. Again.
The cycle has to stop. But it won’t stop unless I am intentionally healthier over the holidays. Given all my health knowledge (disclaimer: I am not a doctor. These are my conclusions from research I’ve done, but they are not meant to be prescriptive in any way. If you have a health need, please seek a professional), I know why we have been sick every Christmas. And even though I mean to be healthier the next season, I just get sucked up in all the cookie exchanges and Christmas parties and free sugary treat that can be found around every corner, and I start the same cycle again.
This year, my focus is on being intentional throughout the holiday season, starting now. Intentional means to follow a plan or a design. It requires forethought. So if I’m going to be intentional about staying healthy over the holiday season, then I need to come up with a plan, with action steps, that my family and I can take because it won’t just magically get better this year if I hope for it.
So I’ve put together six action steps that I know will help boost my immune system and set my body up for success health-wise this year. If your family struggles with staying healthy over the holiday, these are six steps you can also follow, or you can pick and choose from them based on what’s right for your family. I know that I won’t see a change in this pattern of holiday sickness if I don’t implement different actions.
I’ve taken all these actions and condensed them into a “Preventing Illness Over the Holidays” guide that you can easily print out and post on your fridge as a reminder of what you can do to keep your family’s bodies functioning at full force. For my email subscribers, the printable is here (check your old emails for the password). For my non-email subscribers, this printable (and all future printables and two other excellent bonuses) is available here after you sign up.
Again, let me be clear, I am not a doctor. I have compiled some common-sense steps that I have strung together from all the research I have done and a basic understanding of the human body. I know you know most of these things, but there’s something powerful about having them written down and posted in your home that helps empower you for success. That’s why I created the guide (see above) for you to print. And that’s why I’m taking the time in this article to help explain and fill you with knowledge to combat those sugar cravings that try to muddle your resolve.
SIX STEPS TO HELP PREVENT ILLNESS OVER THE HOLIDAYS
DRINK WATER: Your body wakes up dehydrated. That means that you immediately begin the day at a disadvantage. Your first actions in the morning greatly affect how the rest of your day will go. If you choose to fill your coffee mug before you drink water, you are dehydrating your body more. This results in your body having to fight for a semblance of balance and health. We all know it’s better to fight a battle when you’re strong and prepared, but reaching for coffee before water sends our body on the battlefield against sickness and viruses in a weak and feeble state. Additionally (and this will be a common theme in most of the steps), avoid sugary drinks–even later in the day. When given a choice, choose water, and set your body up for success.
MAKE SLEEP A PRIORITY: So much of our immune system and proper body function is dependent on a consistent healthy amount of sleep. We all know this, but unless we make it a priority and intentionally focus on getting a good amount of sleep, we will quickly become deprived. Holiday parties, school programs, white elephant exchanges, etc. there are so many events during the holiday season that primarily happen in the evenings. This snowballs into later commutes home, squeezing baths in at later times, and ultimately later bedtimes, sometimes MUCH later bedtimes. And, the fun doesn’t let up. So generally you’re up early again the next morning for work or school, and there’s no time left to make up that sleep.
Develop a plan now. Set a holiday curfew, and stick to it. There will always be a good excuse to stay later, but better to be healthy and able to attend all functions and leave early, than sick and missing entire functions and exchanges. Once the kids are home for break, make not only bedtimes mandatory but also set a quiet time during the day where they can sit quietly and read or color. Turn off the Christmas movies, turn down the music, and just have them be still for a few moments (maybe if they read in bed, they’ll even take a bonus nap). This isn’t just for the kids. You need that daily quiet time too.
LIMIT SUGAR: This is the biggie. This is the hardest but the most crucial step. If you just do this one, you’re setting yourself up for a world of new results this holiday season. Sugar literally shuts down your immune system for hours at a time when you eat it. Couple that with the fact that sickness feeds on sugar, and then surround yourself with sneezing and coughing party goers, and you’ve put your body on the front lines of the health battle with zero armor, plus you’ve armed and fortified the enemy (sickness) with more weapons to fight you.
Give your body a break. I know it’s almost impossible to avoid sugar over the holidays, which is why I said LIMIT sugar, not ELIMINATE sugar. But there are action steps you can take. First of all, look at your calendar, and designate no-sugar days–days when you don’t have a Christmas party or activity going on. Then when you’re out and about doing errands, and a free cookie stares you down, you’ll have the wherewithal to turn away. If we aren’t conscious about our sugar intake, we will easily go for a solid month with sugar every day, giving our bodies no breaks to fortify and prepare for the next battle.
A second helpful step is simply, pledge to not stock sugary treats at home. If you make cookies for an exchange, take all of them to the party and don’t bring any home. If there are leftovers of a Christmas cake, throw them in the trash instead of the fridge. If they are there, you will eat them. There are plenty of opportunities to eat sweet treats over the holidays, so why not make your home a sugar-free zone? I promise, you won’t go without.
PROBIOTICS FIRST: We’ve all been hearing for a while now that probiotics are a good and necessary part of our health. Many are switching from a one-size-doesn’t-really-fit-all multivitamin to a good probiotic that will do more specific good to our bodies. I’m not going to get into the science of probiotics, you can easily Google that. I simply want to encourage you to consciously take a probiotic (or drink kombucha or eat naturally fermented sauerkraut) about 30 minutes before you feast on holiday treats. Set your body up for success. Instead of debilitating your immune system and filling your body with junk, fortify them and arm them for success so they can help fight and keep your body at a healthy balance.
BYO HEALTHIER DISH: My primary frustration when I’m intentionally eating right and taking care of my body is coming to smorgasboard of holiday treats and finding no healthy options. It isn’t everyone else’s responsibility to provide healthy food; it starts with you. I know you can make enough green-bean casserole to feed an army for less than $10, but why not spend a few extra dollars to get quality ingredients and spend a few extra minutes Pinteresting a healthy alternative recipe, and provide your own protein-filled, good-fat loaded dish that you can fill your plate with?
On a practical note, I’ve found that healthier desserts are a hard sell and really expensive to make. Any time your dessert is up against a plate full of sugar, the sugar will win and make your healthy option taste like cardboard. Save the money and invest in a main dish loaded with good fats to contribute to the party. People will naturally be drawn to it (who can resist the power of butter?), and you won’t see all your hard work discreetly swept into the garbage after.
BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM: This is a catch-all for any and all daily practices you can do to help set your body up for success. Get a good vitamin C that the whole family can take each morning. Get outside and soak up that vitamin D from the sun while exercising and strengthening your body. Use those properly diluted essential oils topically to help your body fight viruses at a cellular level (our favorite is oregano oil on the spine). Make a batch of elderberry syrup (recipe to come), and have your family take it each morning. Fill your diet with good fats and organic produce. Replace chemical food dyes with natural food dyes. There are so many options available to you!
Most importantly, boost your immune system by speaking health and life over your body and your family’s bodies. Start your mornings with this confession, and get these powerful words working to your advantage:
I proclaim healing for my body. By Jesus’ stripes I was healed. The healing, life-giving, disease-destroying power of God is working in my body. It drives out all manner of sickness and disease. I am full of life, health, strength, and vitality. I am healthy and whole from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. Every organ in my body operates and functions the way God created it with no disease or malfunctions. Every system in my body operates and functions with supernatural efficiency. My nervous system, lymphatic system, digestive system, electrical system, circulatory system, immune system, and every other system function with 100 percent efficiency. . . .
My body is free from pain, discomfort, distress, and all symptoms of sickness. God’s Word is medicine to my flesh. I am not moved by how I feel, how I look, or any negative reports, because I believe God’s Word, and His Word says I am healed. I am healed, healthy, and whole in Jesus’ name. (Excerpt from Scripture Confessions: Gift Collection by Keith and Megan Provance)
Which step are you going to be intentional about implementing this holiday season? Comment below as a point of accountability. And don’t forget to download your free “Preventing Illness Over the Holidays” guide.