3 Simple* Ways to Stay Healthy This Holiday Season

Love it or hate it, the holidays are upon us. Add holiday stress to what has become known as “cold and flu season” and the odds of coming down with something are pretty good.

Unless you’re me. I’ve got a pretty healthy immune system. I didn’t always though.

I used to hate winter because, for me, it was ear infection season. Now I just don’t like it because I don’t like being cold. But I digress.

So how’s a person to avoid catching everything that’s going around at the moment?

1. Minimize sugar and alcohol consumption.

I know this is a sacrilege. No cookies?! No festive drinks?! Before you have my head, go back and re-read that. I didn’t say NO sugar or alcohol, I said MINIMIZE. And no, I’m not trying to be a Grinch.

Our immune systems live in our digestive systems. Sugar and alcohol throw off the balance of good bacteria to bad by directly feeding the bad bacteria. This, in turn, opens up the door to viruses that want to get in and wreak havoc on the rest of the body.

Besides keeping consumption down, you can help yourself by getting probiotic-rich foods into your diet on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be a lot (actually, it shouldn’t be a lot – there is such thing as too much of a good thing with this), a couple swigs of kombucha (I recommend GT’s Organic or homemade because there isn’t sugar added to it) or a fork-full of raw fermented sauerkraut with a meal is all you really need.

2. Prioritize sleep.

What’s this sleep I speak of? This might also land me with a Grinch label but not going to every single party you’re invited to helps twofold: it minimizes your exposure to viruses in the first place and it means you’re able to get a good night’s sleep more often than not.

Why is sleep important? Because it’s when the body heals. There is also mounting evidence to show that lack of sleep directly correlates with increased cortisol production (our primary stress hormone) which also directly affects our immune system. So lack of sleep + excess sugar and alcohol = virus breeding ground.

Set yourself up for good sleep by practicing good sleep hygiene: keep the temp down while you sleep, turn off your electronics at least an hour before bed, develop a routine that encourages rest. Ideally, you’d not have ANY electronics in your bedroom but even I can’t do that as I use my phone as an alarm clock. Just do the best you can.

3. Get outside.

Our grandmothers knew what they were talking about when they said fresh air does wonders for the mind and body. But it’s more than just fresh air; getting into direct sunlight for a Vitamin D boost is great for our immune systems. Going for a walk does a wealth of good for the mind and body but even if all you have is ten minutes to stand outside (with a cup of tea or coffee maybe), do it. Your immune system will thank you. You’ll appreciate the psychological boost as well.

Look, I’m not trying to be a killjoy, I promise. But you have a choice here, sort of a choose your adventure kind of choice. You can either continue business as usual and come down with a cold or 3 and be miserable, or say no more than yes, realize you’re not actually missing out on anything (it’s about discernment here – is the possible outcome worth the indulgence) and sail through the season, if not completely healthy, catching fewer of the creepy cruds and healing faster. Because there’s nothing worse than being sick on Christmas.

*I didn’t say EASY 😉

I AM

I AM.

I wasn’t sure what it meant when that statement popped into my head. Not “I am.” I AM. All in caps, even in my head. Bold, maybe, too.

I AM.

Thinking about all of the “I am” statements that come out of our mouths on a daily basis, I wonder how many of us are truly aware of these declarations. I nearly started this paragraph with “I am”. It’s not just about labels though, as I originally thought it was. It’s deeper than that.

Think about it: when I say “I am…” I’m declaring, affirming, labeling, calling into being, and accepting whatever it is that I follow it up with.

I am an introvert.

I am in a transition period.

I am a single mother.

All of these declarations carry meaning and depth to them beyond the original statement. And while all of those declarations may be true, as may be the labels, I can choose something else. YOU can choose something else. We don’t have to be caged by these declarations.

We also get to, if we so choose, to accept or reject the declarations given to us from others in the oh so common “you are” statements we so love to dole out unconsciously.

You are more fun when you’re drunk.

You are too intense.

You are brilliant.

I’ve been on the receiving end of all of the above statements. The two negative statements I accepted without question. The positive one I only accepted because I trusted the source, though it was still shocking to me. Isn’t interesting to notice how quickly we accept negative statements?

One of the best things about being a writer is that I get to think. I like to think. It’s fun for me. Except when it’s not. Except when declarations go unchecked and I’m blindly accepting everything my mind generates.

The mind loves a good story and it’ll create one when there’s an absence of information.

I AM. It’s a complete sentence. I don’t have to quantify it. I don’t have to create a story. I just AM.

It’s quite liberating.

Try it. Let me know what you think.

They Like Me Better When I’m Drunk

Driving home from the gym and lost in thought, I came to a startling realization.

Years ago, my ex-husband made the very painful remark that people like me better when I’m drunk. Back then, this was just another reminder that I was too much and therefore unlovable.

As I was driving, though, it occurred to me that there is a positive to this. And I’m going to premise this with “this is not a glorification of alcohol”.

As we all know, alcohol is a great remover of inhibitions and, for most of us, a truth serum of sorts. What that looks like on me is unfiltered, raw, relaxed, and real.

I have spent most of my life hiding. There are briefs moments when I shine, those moments when my passion pours from my eyes and mouth or when I’m slightly inebriated.

I stop trying to hide and simply AM. I stop thinking so hard and simply AM. I stop trying to be proper, articulate, intelligent and just AM.

I stop trying and just AM, unapologetically, in all my glory, lit up like a Christmas tree.

The good/bad thing is that I don’t drink very often (it’s not in alignment with my health goals and it’s really superfluous). Addiction is something that occurs on both sides of my family so I’ve always been very aware of what, how much, and why I’m drinking. But for a brief period of time in my early adulthood, numbing was never in the why category. Neither was “because I’m more me when I’m a bit loopy”, but this is now my sad realization.

I’m reminded of that Maya Angelou quote “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Except that I don’t know what “better” is. I now have to figure out how I remove the crutch I didn’t know I had been using (a handful of times per year).

I write all this as if the person I am when I’m sober isn’t also me. It is also me, just the me that finds the shadows safer but constricting. It’s the me that struggles HARD, that fights everything. It’s just not the me I was before the world told me I had to be different. It’s not the me that is joy and free.

That’s also not to say inebriated me is the best version of me. It’s not. Which is why being drunk all the time isn’t something I’m willing to try or be. But it does provide a glimpse at what is possible should I choose to point myself in the direction of less hiding, more living.

Which, of course, is exactly what I’m going to do.

Results May Vary

Sometimes great things come to me during my morning meditation. Here’s an excerpt of the email that is going out to my subscribers Friday morning, sparked by a meditation session:

You see that disclaimer with just about anything that is trying to sell a dream, weight loss programs especially and get rich schemes; anything that tries to circumnavigate actual effort; anything that wants us to ignore what we already know – that anything we want takes effort and work.

You know that saying we all heard as kids? Money doesn’t grow on trees (well, yes, actually it does, but I’m not trying to be a smartass here). Sometimes it was said in exasperation when we were careless with our things. Most often though, it occurred to me in this meaning: there are no handouts in life. You have to earn it.

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What Does Integrity Have To Do With Commitment?

For the past two months, I’ve been doing a deep dive into my personal habits and thought processes in an attempt to finally come home to myself. Some of that has involved listening to podcasts, reading books, and renewing my involvement in some coaching groups I’m part of. The rest has been forcing myself to really sit with the gunk that was being dredged up and writing about it.

One podcast that really kicked me in the shins was Elizabeth DiAlto’s interview with Nancy Levin back in August. There’s an entire section where they talk specifically about integrity and how NOT being your word is the primary source of suffering in our lives. I swear I heard the screech of the needle across the record. This felt both extremely accurate and incredibly painful simultaneously.

Because it’s true. I can’t SAY I’m doing X but then go do Y. I can’t say I’m trying to pay down my debt and then spend frivolously on high end food stuffs. I can’t say I’m trying to lose this last 10% body fat and then have an entire week of birthday nutritional debauchery (which I did).

When you say one thing then do another, it creates a loop of hiding and shame. It perpetuates the internal dialogue of “I’m not good enough.” It is definitely the definition of misery.

Something I’d seen years ago but was recently reintroduced to was the concept of having a list of 20 things that I eat. Sometimes, a list is the best way to keep yourself on track. When I sat down to write my list, I discovered how hard it was to come up with 20 things. When I’m committed, the list of things I eat is quite small, though it adjusts seasonally. Does that mean I’ve been absolutely perfect? Not in the least. What it means though, is that I’m conscious of my decisions. I know exactly why I’m choosing this over that. I make the best possible decision in each moment, regardless of perfection (because life isn’t perfect) and then move on. Mom’s Chicken Soup wasn’t available on the hot bar so I had to settle for the Chicken Chowder with Yuca and Corn? It was clean enough, so that’s what I went with and then moved on with my life.

Something else I was introduced to a couple years ago is Pearson’s Law. Essentially it says that anything you measure, grows. Want to get stronger? Track the amount of weight you use. Want to get faster? Track your times. Want to get healthier? Track the days where you (honestly and sincerely) did the best you could nutritionally. I have 3 habits I track: move, write, and meditate. That’s it. The days that I do all three are consistently excellent for me (and not surprisingly, my nutrition game is strong those days too – when I feel awesome, I eat awesome). I don’t specify the specifics because I don’t care HOW I do those things, just that I do them. The how doesn’t matter, especially when you’re getting started. What matters is how many days you can string along.

Commitment, though, is what keeps you going when life hands you a set of circumstances outside of your control. Because that’s what life does. This is where being your word (integrity) saves you from misery. My commitment to my health removes the appeal of caramel corn…

Your turn: What commitments are you really struggling with right now? What do you get out of not acting with integrity? Hint: there is always a payoff, whether positive or negative (e.g. by choosing to stay in an ill-suited marriage, I got to be angry). Comment below or shoot me an email: barbara@whathealthcoacheseat. I’d love to hear from you.