10 Healthy Holiday Habits for Seniors

The holidays can take a toll on our health in many ways. Without planning and good habits, we can become overwhelmed physically with all the preparation and party going. Establishing healthy holiday habits can help us limit negative consequences from pushing ourselves to the limit and not maintaining the strength of our immune system. Without good holiday habits, a flare up of health issues such as Heart Failure, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, or more may occur. Lack of healthy habits like pacing or rest breaks, may lead to difficult interaction with family or limited ability to participate in activities, and can take a toll on our mental health. Finding a balance in well being and busyness for ourselves is important, as well, taking the time to consider the varying needs of those around us.

Here are 10 habits to help make the holiday season healthy and bright-for yourself, your clients, or the awesome seniors in your life!

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7 active holiday habits to cultivate:

Perform safe activities. As we age our balance and strength can decrease. Climbing ladders to decorate the house and tree can become more dangerous. In a study performed in the early 2000’s they found approximately 5,800 people were treated in the emergency department for decoration related injuries a year. (CDC, 2004). As a physical therapist I have treated many patients over the years who fell and were injured- many of them fractures- which made a mess of their holiday plans. One year I worked with a 50 year old pastor who fell while on a ladder decorating a very tall tree, and broke his hip! It was extremely inconvenient for him at Christmas time with all the festivities and multiple services to run. If you absolutely cannot avoid climbing, make sure your equipment is sturdy and someone is there to help, or call for help, if needed. Consider hiring a company to do the heavy work:) Keep in mind the expense of one emergency room visit!

Pace yourself: Although you will probably have many activities, try to stay organized with events, and spread them out. Plan time for yourself to rest and recover. An overactive schedule can tax your immune system as well as your muscles and joints. Say no when it’s needed. Stop and take a deep breath if you get anxious or winded from activity.

-Think Prevention: If you are traveling or attending an event, don’t sit for more than 2 hours. Instead, intermittently stand and take a short walk to stretch your legs, decrease stiffness and improve your circulation. Seniors may benefit from sitting on chairs with arm rests, or the side of the couch with an arm rest available. Avoid low chairs and cushy couches as they make it challenging to stand.

-Think Protection: Be cautious on steps and stairs- make sure the lighting is good, use a rail or have assistance. For improved safety of holiday guests, make sure to mark steps, use a night light and keep lights on in hallways and bathrooms. Falls are common on steps, in bathrooms, and non level areas. Remember to not rush! Find more general fall prevention tips at CDC 2021.

-Be Proactive with your health: During the holiday season it is important to keep your immune system strong. Along with added stress, winter weather, and extra activities, it is also prime flu season. Lots of parties equals hugs and added germs. Take care of yourself by making sure to get good nutrition, hydration, and adequate sleep- which all contribute to your body being able to fight off germs!

Participate in regular activity. Although there is less time for exercise, make a habit of sneaking it in throughout the week. Park toward the back of the lot when you get groceries to add steps. Go to the mall to shop if it’s too cold to walk outside. Walk a few laps around the store before making your purchases. Include a walk around a park or a hike as part of your holiday activity. There are a lot of games you can play to get some exercise (ping pong, corn hole, ladder ball).

Plan ahead for success: Holidays equal rich and tasty food and drink. Take the time to prepare for yourself or guests with special dietary needs. Have a plain baked potato or sweet potato, roasted vegetables with herbs, or other healthy options available. Put the salad dressing on the side. Provide fruit infused water or flavored unsweet tea instead of wine or soda. If you are attending a potluck bring a fruit or veggie tray. Additionally, look for healthy dips like hummus, and choose baked chips or pretzels. Eat a piece of fruit or a salad prior to a party that will be filled with food of “empty calories”.

3 inner holiday habits to cultivate:

-Give the gift of your Presence. Take the time to give the gift of your attention to others. Prioritize interaction over decorations/ fancy food. If you are not able to physically visit loved ones, take the time for a long phone call, or a Face-time is even better. Have fun interacting, and provide group activities! There are many games you can play online with family that can’t be there. If you are stuck sending gifts and cannot be present, call your family while you/they open the gifts. Keep in mind that connection is so good for the heart and soul.

-Have Proper expectations. Holidays can be difficult for many people. If someone close to you is gone, the festivities can be trying and fatiguing, both mentally and physically. Living away from family the majority of my adult life, I have had to be intentional to not get lost in the negative emotions of missing out. Having lost some dear loved ones, that can also detract from the joy. It is important to have reasonable expectations for the emotions and what we can endure physically to keep the season from wearing us down, and instead allowing the special celebrations to fortify our peace, joy and gratitude.

Prepare your heart. Just as it is important to strengthen our immune system for the frenzy, it is also helpful to prepare our heart to have the best response to what the season offers. Gratitude, relationships, celebration and reflection are all positive emotional activities. Take advantage of the many available devotionals, times for pondering, and feeling of wonder with the the positive things in your life. Doing something for another person can also be a great way to find peace. We were definitely created to love and be loved, and care for each other:)

You may want to check out these posts:

4 Tips for Managing Diabetes and Holidays

12 Thoughtful Christmas Gift Ideas for Seniors

8 Tips for Working Holidays in Health Care

Hope for a healthy and blessed holiday season!

If you are interested in senior focused handouts and trackers click this link for PREMIUM RESOURCES/ ALL ACCESS PRINTABLE PASS  or check out small packets (including senior Holiday Word Search) available at ETSY.COM.

I would love to hear what habits you have developed to keep your holiday season healthy. Subscribe to the blog for occasional emails, printable freebies and senior focused health tips!

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