Along with laughter and good cheer, the holidays often bring busier schedules, an abundance of indulgent food and drink and increased financial stress, all of which can have a negative effect on our physical and mental health.
The good news is looking at the holidays through the six pillars of Lifestyle Medicine gives us the opportunity to rethink those holiday traditions that don’t contribute to our whole-health and focus instead on prioritizing self-care so that we can truly thrive this holiday season.
1. Manage Stress Better
Stress can play a part in headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression and anxiety. Chronic stress coupled with acute stressors that we may experience during the holidays leave the body overstimulated with high levels of basal cortisol which in turn increases inflammation and causes or worsens disease.
Lifestyle Tip: Tools like regulated breathing, positive thinking, meditation, gratitude, and exercise can help manage stress and fight inflammation when used every day.
2. Eat Smarter
Food truly is medicine. Beyond the physical benefits that a healthy diet affords us, food also effects our mood. It can be especially challenging to make healthy food choices during the holidays.
Lifestyle Tip: Remind yourself to eat slowly and savor each bite, especially when it comes to calorie dense foods. Be truly present when sharing a meal with those you care about by disconnecting from electronics.
3. Sleep More Soundly
Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our overall health and well-being. Sleep deprivation leaves the brain exhausted, and chronic sleep deprivation is strongly correlated with behavioral health issues, such as depression, anxiety and substance use.
Lifestyle Tip: Set yourself up for a restorative night of sleep by preparing the right way. Strive to set and stick to a sleep routine that allows for 7-8 hours of sleep per night in a cool, dark place and try to disconnect from screens two hours before bedtime.
4. Connect with Others
Social connections and relationships affect our physical, mental and emotional health. Research shows that the single most important predictor of human happiness and long life is having strong social connections. There is evidence that health related measures like blood pressure and heart rate improve even with short, positive social interactions. Technology can improve social connectedness in some cases but research also finds that those who use social media the most are at a higher risk for depression.
Lifestyle Tip: Try chatting with the person in line next to you while doing your holiday shopping, or smiling as you pass others in the hallway – these positive micro interactions scattered throughout your day can have a big impact. If you use social media, be mindful of how you use technology to support the social connections in your life.
5. Move More
Consistent regular exercise benefits us both mentally and physically. Moving our bodies, especially in nature, can do wonders for our whole health. In fact, studies show that being active for as little as 10 minutes per day can positively impact our mood.
Lifestyle Tip: Even as the days get shorter and colder, make it a priority to move naturally throughout the day doing things you love; walk with friends, ride a bike, dance, or play with the children and pets in your life.
6. Avoid Risky Substances
We know that reducing the intake of items like alcohol, vaping and smoking improve our physical health, but they can also have an impact on our mental health and happiness. When we are not using substances, we are more able to be present in the moment and notice the positive things around us.
Lifestyle Tip: Take a moment to be aware of when you might be using these substances to alter your reality and focus instead on working to identify positive strategies to cope with life’s daily stressors.
Ready to take the next step?
Our Lifestyle Medicine team is here to support you on your journey to better health. Connect with one of our Board-Certified Lifestyle Medicine Specialists today.
As health care professionals, we have a responsibility to be public health leaders in our communities. An important way to fulfill that responsibility is by respectfully sharing accurate and science-based information about the vaccine—especially with those who might be hesitant.
Public discourse around COVID-19 vaccines has become highly charged, with widespread misinformation creating confusion and fear. To make your conversations on vaccines productive, it is helpful to remain empathetic and non-judgmental, and to listen to people’s concerns. You can also guide people to trusted sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control or their primary care physicians.
Below are some answers to commonly asked questions you can share with the people in your life:
Information about the vaccine is changing all the time. Why should I trust it?
As a novel virus, the COVID-19 virus was one we hadn’t encountered before. We’re learning more about it as time goes on, and it would be irresponsible to not update recommendations as new findings come to light. In addition, developments such as the COVID-19 Delta variant can cause recommendations to change, as the situation itself evolves. What has remained consistent since vaccines were first approved for use is that they:
Are safe and effective, especially against serious illness, hospitalization, and death
Can help prevent long-term complications of COVID-19
Why should I get the vaccine instead of relying on immunity from COVID-19 infection?
While COVID-19 infection provides some antibodies, immunity from COVID-19 vaccines is two to three times higher than natural immunity and can greatly lower your risk of reinfection. The vaccines also provide additional protection against virus variants.
If you have not yet had COVID-19, the vaccine can help prevent you from getting infected or seriously ill in the first place, lowering your risk of long-term complications.
My vaccination status doesn’t impact anyone else. Why is it anyone’s business?
In a pandemic, especially one with a virus as easily transmissible as COVID-19, our vaccine status does impact others. Vaccination does more than protect us from infection or serious illness; it makes us less likely to spread the virus to others. This layer of protection is especially important for those who are immunocompromised or who are unable to be vaccinated.
In addition, being vaccinated against COVID-19 lowers the risk of serious illness and hospitalization. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed enormous stress on health care systems, pushing resources and staffing to new limits. The vaccine lowers the chances we will need to use precious resources.
Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 serves the greater good, allowing us to protect ourselves and those around us, and to help bring an end to the pandemic through broad-scale immunity.
How do we know the vaccines are safe when they were developed so quickly?
The COVID-19 vaccines went through all the same safety studies and protocols as other vaccines. However, due to the urgency of the situation and unprecedented global funding, steps that may have been delayed for years were able to occur in rapid succession or simultaneously, greatly speeding up the process. In addition, COVID-19’s broad spread around the world allowed data on the vaccines’ effectiveness to be gathered quickly, as the protective impact of vaccines was rapidly apparent.
I’m currently expecting, and the vaccines make me nervous. Is it safe to receive the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant?
Yes, it is safe to receive the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant. In fact, the American Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) strongly recommends that pregnant people be vaccinated against COVID-19, as the risks of COVID-19 infection while pregnant are so high. Pregnant people who are unvaccinated face much higher rates of serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. COVID-19 infection also increases the risk of preterm delivery and stillbirth, making vaccination important for the baby’s health as well.
The COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be safe while pregnant, with no associated increase in miscarriages or other pregnancy complications. Getting vaccinated while pregnant can also pass antibodies to the baby, providing protection after they are born. For those who are already vaccinated, ACOG recommends a booster vaccine dose once they are eligible to bolster their protection, as immunity from the initial vaccine series can wane over time.
I’m confused by the new recommendations on booster vaccine doses. Why would I need a booster, and should I get the same vaccine as before?
Booster doses can strengthen your immunity to COVID-19, as the vaccine’s effectiveness naturally decreases over time. This is like many other vaccines, which are given in a series to build more robust immunity. Booster doses are recommended for certain populations, which varies based on the vaccine originally received. A quick guide to booster dose eligibility is available here.
The CDC also approved the mixing of booster doses. For instance, if a person originally received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, they may elect to receive one of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) for a booster dose, as the mRNA vaccines have generally been more effective against COVID-19. People can also choose to receive the same vaccine for a booster as their original series.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, scientists and medical experts–including those at Trinity Health–have continued to learn more about the COVID-19 virus, acting quickly to respond to new evidence and stop surges throughout the country. Science is a process of learning and making the best decisions we can with the information we have at the time to protect as many lives as possible.
In May 2018, Scott Baird received a diagnosis that would change his life. Prostate cancer. Prior to the diagnosis, Scott hadn’t given much thought to his health. But that didn’t mean he was living a healthy lifestyle either.
“I was overweight and physically unfit,” Scott said. “I had been obese most of my life having made poor food and lifestyle choices. I couldn’t even tie my own shoes, I was so unfit.”
The cancer diagnosis gave him the extra motivation he needed to focus on his health. His first goal: beat cancer. Because of his weight and enlarged prostate, Scott couldn’t have surgery on his prostate. Instead, he began taking hormones to decrease his testosterone level. For two months, Scott had to self-catheter every six hours. In August 2018, Scott underwent Holmium Laser Enucleation of the Prostate (HoLEP), which is a type of laser surgery used to treat obstruction of urine flow. The surgery was successful and the catheter was no longer necessary. Next, were 42 radiation therapy treatments at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea. Finally, Scott’s cancer was in remission.
“I was discharged from radiation therapy, and had mixed emotions,” Scott said. “I was grateful to have beat the cancer but was also totally lost. I didn’t know what to do next. I was scared the cancer would return. I was anxious because I knew I wasn’t in good health. I needed to gain control of my life.”
During Scott’s cancer treatment, he learned that he was pre-diabetic. His A1C was 6.1 compared to a normal score of less than 5.7. At 6.5, someone is considered diabetic. Scott was headed in that direction.
Scott also learned that he had previously had a silent heart attack. His grandchildren had been born in the past few years and he wanted to see them grow up. Something had to change.
Around that time, Scott saw an advertisement for St. Joe Chelsea’s Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). He joined the group and committed to the year-long lifestyle and evidence-based program.
The class helped Scott integrate exercise into his routine, keep a food journal and stick to 1500 calories per day. On his own, Scott decided to change his diet to mostly plant-based with no sugar, red meat or dairy. Scott has become a regular cardio-drummer, going to classes twice a day, two days a week.
The results have been staggering – Scott is down 40 pounds, his A1C has dropped significantly and he has a new outlook on life.
“I’m the happiest I have ever been,” Scott said. “With my weight loss, I have more energy and have experienced a new calmness, confidence and joy. This has been a true transformation.”
Although the year-long DPP class is ending soon, Scott plans to continue with the lessons he learned in the class – and stay in touch with some of his fellow classmates. He has also joined another local group where he weighs in weekly and holds himself and others accountable for healthy habits.
“Change is hard,” Scott said. “It wasn’t easy to commit to the DPP class or make these changes, but I needed to do something. DPP was that something – it gave me the education I needed, the tools to make the change and control of my life for really the first time ever.”
Now Scott is all about convincing others to take control of their health – he tells everyone he knows about DPP and his transformation. And even more importantly, he’s healthier and excited about the future.