Keeping the Family Healthy Through the Winter

By Jenny Steadman December 8, 2017

This time of year is both magical and stressful. The holidays, gatherings with family and friends, delicious foods, fresh snow on the ground and the act of giving brings joy to most of us. Unfortunately, all of that also comes with stresses, more for some than others. There are the stresses of traveling and hosting visitors. There is the preparation of foods, the cleaning of houses and the economics of all that is gift-giving. The snow is beautiful but the cold makes us feel stuck in our homes and the lack of sunshine leads to legitimate vitamin D deficiencies. Still, while many of us can bathe in the joys of the holidays, others find this time of the year the hardest This article is for all of us. We all want to land in the New Year gently, no matter what our circumstances. 

I've created this relatively simple list of strategies and tools to help us all get there. While many of these seem obvious, when we get stressed or overwhelmed, we often forget these basic survival skills. Print this and put it on your fridge if need be! It should go without saying that this list isn't only for parents. These are great tools for kids, too. 

Sleep. Above all things, get enough sleep. Starting tonight, through the New Year, work diligently to get a full eight hours of sleep every night. "But Jenny, I need those hours to prepare for the holidays!" you exclaim. Getting more sleep will help you get more done during the day. You will have a clearer mind, be more productive, make better food choices and be in a better mood. Of all of the things listed here, choose sleep first. Other things will fall into place.

Eating seasonally. Despite the fact that we can eat oranges and mangos year round, no matter where we live, our bodies know better. If you live in the north and the days are gray and cold, your body craves warm comfort foods like soups made from squashes and stews made with hardy protein. Your body knows what will keep you warm and nourished through the season. Trust your body and the local, seasonal foods. They go together for a reason.

Enjoy in moderation. Now is not the time to diet. You're still going to eat the cookies your co-worker brought in and the treats brought over by your neighbor. Don't stare at them and say "not this year!" because you're going to eat them and then berate yourself. Be kind. If you want one, have one. Give yourself limits and stick to them. 

Family time. When I was a kid, having family over for the holidays was all fun. I got to choose my favorite outfit and then anxiously wait for cousins to come play. Now it's vacuuming, cleaning, cooking, wrapping, laundry... the list goes on and on. Find a way to not stress about the house and the perfect meal. Delegate chores to kids and significant others and then let something go. It's ok if it doesn't all get done. Then, don't just play host and hostess. Be an active participant when entertaining. You can clean up after everyone has left... or even tomorrow! Not hosting but at someone else's house? Help and encourage them to get out of the kitchen and enjoy their guests. 

Get outside. It's freezing. I know. Winter has finally hit us in the north and it's always a shock just how cold it gets. That said, fresh air is vital to our physical and mental state. If you don't already, invest in quality outdoor gear that allows you to stay outside for at least 15 minutes. My typical uniform includes waterproof winter boots, fleece-lined tights, knee-length winter coat with hood, mittens (not gloves!), a scarf and a super warm hat. On the coldest of days in the north, I am comfortable taking a walk around the block which is enough to refresh me. 

Find sunshine whenever you can. I don't care how cold it is. If the sun is peeking, go get some! (See Vitamin D below.)

Quiet time. The kids are off school, you're stressed about family and in-laws coming to visit (or you are traveling) and the house is a mess. Find somewhere quiet and take a few deep breaths. I know more than one mom who gets in their closet and closes the door. No joke. The kids can't find them and they can quiet their minds and regroup. It only takes 2-3 minutes. Trust me. You'll thank me!

Move. Do not forget to move during this busy time of year. I don't care if it's doing an extra set of stairs in your house, walking around the block or training for a marathon. Do something extra. Keep those endorphins running and the dopamine flowing!

Friends. Plan a date with friends. They are just as important as family and feed the soul in a way family cannot.

Vitamin D. Talk to your doctor about adding a Vitamin D supplement to your daily regime. Depending on where you live, your dose will differ. A simple blood test will tell your current vitamin D level and how much you should add. Vitamin D is essential to our health, yet our bodies can't make it on their own. We need sunshine and that's lacking this time of year! Vitamin D gives us energy, fights depression and boosts our immune system. It's worth the call to your doctor for this simple, yet, effective tool.