The holidays are here and that means good food, good times, and good cheer. But all too often, holidays can become more about bad food, ill health and stress. Here are some holiday health tips to keep your holidays healthy and happy.

Wash Your Hands

‘Tis the season, and we are not talking about Christmas. Flu season is considered to run from October through May. While the biggest number of infections generally happen in January or February, by December the season is in full swing.

Washing your hands can help prevent the spread of germs. During the holidays, most people are cooking, eating, shaking hands, shopping in crowded places and hugging a lot, so it’s especially important to keep your hands clean. There are five steps to properly watching your hands.

  • Wet your hands,
  • Lather with soap,
  • Scrub for at least 20 seconds (sing the Happy Birthday song twice),
  • Rinse the soap off, and
  • Dry your hands.

If there is no soap and water available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer can do the trick in a pinch. However, the best way to prevent getting or spreading the flu is to get your flu shot. The flu shot takes a few weeks to start working, so it is recommended that an individual get the shot before the start of the flu season, but December is not too late.

Avoid Overeating

For many people, the holidays are a time to gather with family, and much of that gathering happens around the dinner table. Holiday food is often rich, and packed with fat and carbs. Not only will eating too many calories cause you to gain weight, but you may also feel bloated and sluggish and just not very well after an extra-large meal.

Portion control can be a big help in not overeating. Even something as simple as not going up for seconds can help you stop eating when you’re satisfied. It can be tricky to learn the difference between “not hungry anymore” and “completely stuffed,” but here are some tricks to help you avoid overeating.

  • Fill up on veggies or salad before the main course.
  • Drink a large glass of water before sitting down to eat.
  • Fill your plate up once and don’t go up for seconds.
  • Choose fruit for dessert.
  • Eat slowly and savor every bite; it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to catch up with your stomach and tell you that you are full.

Look Out for Signs of Stress

The holiday season can be as stressful as it can be joyful, and for many of the same reasons: travel, interacting with family, buying and giving gifts. A 2018 survey of 2,000 people suggests that 88 percent of those surveyed feel stressed about the holidays.

Chronic stress can lead to or help contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and more. Learn to recognize the signs of stress so you can head it off and enjoy this time of year.

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Muscle aches or tension
  • Sadness
  • Sleep problems

Here are some things you can do to combat holiday stress:

  • Interact with your family—but if it’s your family who’s stressing you out, step away for a few minutes
  • Get some exercise, even if it’s just walking around the block
  • Try to maintain a balanced diet
  • Get enough sleep