This article was last updated on Dec. 6, 2021.
The hustle and bustle of the holidays is here. And during this time of year, it's more important than ever to make sure your immune system is in tip-top shape so you can enjoy the excitement of shopping, cooking and celebrating.
While there's nothing you can do to completely protect yourself from catching the common cold, the flu, COVID-19, or another pesky virus, there are some things you can do to stay as healthy as possible during the holidays.
Enjoy the holiday food splurge, but eat mindfully
Eating foods filled with nutrients, vitamins and minerals will help boost your immune system. That's why it's important to eat your fruits and vegetables and limit junk food that contains loads of sugar. But let's be honest, it's the holidays. And, after the year we've had, it's OK to indulge every once in awhile.
If you're going to splurge, do it mindfully. Mindful eating External Site is when you're aware and in the moment while consuming food. Instead of eating that cookie or candy in front of the TV, eat it without distractions and enjoy every bite. Eating mindfully can help you enjoy a meal and the experience of eating, which might help with moderation and restraint down the road.
Limit your stress as much as possible
The holidays are often dubbed the most wonderful time of the year, but they can also be stressful. And, while short-term stress is something that everyone deals with from time to time, long-term stress can start to have an impact on your health — disrupting your digestive, cardiovascular and reproductive systems External Site just to name a few.
The holidays can be a particularly hard time of year if you experience holiday-related mental health problems External Site, like depression or anxiety. If you experience symptoms associated with any mental health concern, acknowledge those feelings, set realistic expectations and boundaries for celebrating the season, and reach out for help from family, friends or a professional therapist. To find a therapist in your area, log in to or register for myWellmark® Secure. You can also explore the virtual mental health options available through Doctor On Demand® External Site.
Wash your hands frequently
When you're out shopping for gifts or holiday groceries, it's easy to come into contact with pesky germs that can cause illness. Keeping your hands clean is one of the most effective ways to ward off germs, whether it's the holidays or not.
Be sure to wash your hands during key times External Site, like before eating food, after using the restroom and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it's especially important to wash your hands any time you've been in a public place, touched something that's frequently touched by others, and before touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Don't forget about moving your body
Exercise gets your blood flowing, can help clear bacteria out of your airways External Site, and cause your body temperature to go up, which may help fight infection. Increasing your movement may also help reduce your stress levels and improve your mental health.
While the holidays may be a busy time of year, it's important to prioritize at least 30 minutes of movement per day. Even if you can't fit in a full 30 minutes, try to sneak exercise in throughout your day. Increase your activity by doing something you enjoy, like going for a walk, doing a few extra tasks around the house, or de-stressing with a quick yoga routine.
Make sure you're up-to-date on necessary vaccines
While getting a vaccine may not be at the top of your to-do list this time of year, it's important to be up-to-date on any necessary vaccines. Consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine or a COVID booster if it's available to you. Getting the vaccine will make it significantly less likely you'll get the virus. It should also help decrease transmission to others, which is especially important to help protect those who have high-risk conditions External Site and are more at-risk of severe illness from COVID-19 External Site.
Everyone age six months or older should also get the annual flu shot. It can be done at your personal doctor's office or many pharmacies. Flu shots are typically available at no out-of-pocket cost to you under your Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield preventive benefits. As always, you should log in to myWellmark to check your benefits Secure before receiving vaccines or seeking care.
Family gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic
Even with the excitement of the holidays, it's important to note that your celebration may still look a little different. Depending on your situation and personal preferences, those large gatherings you've come to expect may be traded in for something smaller.
Even with the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there is still risk of COVID-19 spreading during holiday celebrations. So, if you do plan to spend time with people outside of your household this season, consider these tips External Site:
- Limit the number of attendees as much as possible.
- Celebrate outside, if you can. If that's not possible, gather in an area with good ventilation, such as those with open windows or doors.
- Consider staying at least six feet away from others, wearing a mask and washing your hands regularly.
People who have been exposed to someone with coronavirus, are experiencing symptoms or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 should not attend social gatherings at all. If you're at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, or live with someone at increased risk, you may consider avoiding in-person gatherings.
Safe ways to celebrate the holidays during the pandemic
If you don't feel comfortable gathering in-person this season, there are still ways to celebrate the holidays safely. Here are a few suggestions.
- Hold a Zoom gathering. After a year of virtual meetings, virtual doctor visits and virtual school, holding a virtual holiday gathering may not sound too appealing. But, there are some things you can do to make it special.
Request that everyone dresses to a theme, like an ugly sweater. You can also send one another a special gift and have a virtual secret Santa exchange. To make it seem like you're all together, make a holiday playlist that can be shared with others in your family.
- Give back to those in need. Even after a difficult year for many, the holidays are the perfect time to express gratitude and thanks for what you have by helping others.
Check with local places of worship or organizations to find out if they need donations of any kind, or if there's anything you can do to help area seniors or families in need.
- Put together care packages for essential workers. It has been a long couple of years for essential workers. Get into the holiday spirit with your family by putting together a care package for the doctors, nurses and other essential workers in your community.
Consider adding things like healthy snacks, gift cards to local restaurants or coffee shops, and high-demand things like hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. A simple act of kindness can warm the hearts of your family and the people helping your community get through this pandemic.
For more information about staying healthy during the holidays, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, refer to the CDC website External Site.
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