How to Handle 5 Common Holiday Health Woes

Last Update: January 11, 2024

There’s a lot to look forward to about the holiday season: traveling to see loved ones, enjoying your favorite traditional foods, and parties galore. What’s not so fun? That run-down feeling you get after several straight weeks of late nights, free-flowing drinks, and rich meals.

You don’t have to choose between enjoying the festivities and feeling your best. Read on for helpful tips and healthy essentials to help you deal with those all-too-common holiday health woes, so you can thrive through the season.

Flying cross-country threw your internal clock out of whack.

If traversing time zones has your sleep cycle reeling, there are a few things you can do to reset it. Exposure to light is one of the simplest and most natural ways to help your body adjust. If you’re traveling east, try to get exposure to light in the morning, and vice versa if you’re traveling west. Exercise and staying hydrated may also be beneficial (plus, those things never hurt). 

Of course, insomnia can happen even if you’re not jet lagged; sometimes being in a new environment is enough to keep you up at night. For some extra snooze support, try a CBD supplement formulated specifically for sleep, a sleep-promoting magnesium powder, or a melatonin supplement about 30 minutes before you go to bed. And though you may be tempted to reach for an afternoon latte, remember that caffeine can stay in your body for six to 10 hours, so try to avoid it after midday (try an herbal tea instead).

The office holiday party had an open bar and you got a little carried away.

Waking up bleary-eyed and headachey after a big night out is par for the course during the holiday party season. It’s true that the best hangover cure is time (sorry), but in the meantime, you can treat the symptoms of overindulgence. For dehydration, try a sugar-free electrolyte powder or tablet mixed in water to restore fluid balance that was disrupted by alcohol. Ease lingering nausea with herbal tea, or try a homeopathic remedy like nux vomica

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that the very best way to avoid a hangover is to skip the booze. Fortunately, that’s an increasingly acceptable and even popular choice. If you choose not to imbibe but still want to feel celebratory, try one of the many alcohol-free wines, ready-to-drink beverages, or whimsical mocktails available. 

It seems like every one of your kid’s classmates has a runny nose or a nasty cough.

You know what they say: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Seeing as there’s still no cure for the common cold (and your kid is bound to pick up whatever’s going around the classroom eventually), your best bet is to keep practicing all those germ-busting, immunity-supporting habits you’re already aware of: getting sufficient sleep, eating your fruits and veggies, and of course, washing and sanitizing those hands. 

To bolster your body’s defenses, you can add in immunity-supporting supplements, such as liposomal vitamin C, elderberry syrup, vitamin D3, throat spray, or an herbal blend (look for ingredients like garlic, propolis, and adaptogens). It’s also not a bad idea to keep your first aid kit stocked with natural cold and flu remedies, tea, and lozenges, just in case. 

Grandma’s holiday cooking is so delicious…and heavy on the butter.

’Tis the season for rich, indulgent foods, which can do a number on your digestive system. According to Erica Zellner, MS, CNS, LDN, a health coach at Parsley Health, simply chewing your food thoroughly can actually help improve digestion. She also recommends drinking a lot of water and incorporating bitter greens (think radicchio and kale) into your holiday spread to give your G.I. system some extra support. 

Including a probiotic supplement in your regular routine can help get your gut health in check. For acute instances of bloating or indigestion, try an herbal supplement with fennel and peppermint, or sip an elixir with digestive enzymes. A cup of ginger tea after a big meal makes a stomach-soothing nightcap, while a blend with senna leaf can help get things moving if you’re feeling backed up. 

All the pressure to feel merry and bright is having the opposite effect on you. 

A survey by the American Psychological Association found that nearly 40% of Americans report higher stress levels during the holidays—and is it really any wonder? This time of year comes with endless bills, weather-related travel disruptions, end-of-year work deadlines and more. Add all that to everything we’ve already covered and you have a recipe for overwhelm.

Particularly in times of stress, it’s important to make basic self-care—think sufficient sleep, hydration, and nourishment—a priority. Holding space for your personal rituals will help to keep you from feeling spread too thin. And while it may seem counterintuitive, when your schedule gets busy, don’t sacrifice the daily routines that you know work for you, like exercise or meditation. You may just need to be flexible; perhaps you can’t go to your favorite spin class while visiting family, but you can take a walk around the neighborhood or do an online yoga class. 

If you’re dealing with depression or anxiety (or think you might be), it’s important to speak to a mental health professional. Additionally, and with the guidance of your doctor, you can explore natural remedies for stress support, such as ashwagandha, l-theanine, and functional mushrooms. Simply committing to a daily habit (like making a morning mushroom latte, for instance) may encourage you to prioritize taking care of yourself. (Of course, these products should never take the place of treatment from a qualified health professional.) 

Finally, remember that it’s always ok to say ‘no’ if you’re just not up for another holiday happy hour. Think of it as a holiday gift to yourself.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before changing your diet or healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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Kirby Stirland

Kirby Stirland is a writer, editor, and New York transplant living in Los Angeles.

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