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'Tis the season to beat sickness (not to mention tiredness, stress, or other holiday downers). Fortunately, you can stay well and have a good time.

Follow these 5 tips to boost your body's defenses:

  1. Fight germs. In the fall and winter, viruses tend to make people sick with things like coldsthe flu, and — still — COVID-19. Get an updated COVID-19 vaccine and the annual flu vaccine, and wash your hands a lot. The holidays are all about sharing, but some things you'll want to keep to yourself: forks, spoons, and drinking utensils. People can be contagious before they know they're sick, so even just a sip from someone's drink puts their germs in your body.
  2. Eat healthy and be merry. Holiday foods can be high in calories and low on the nutrition you need to battle germs and boost energy. Make it a priority to eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Choose the whole fruit instead of juice to feel full longer and avoid added sugar. Carry an apple or a bag of baby carrots so you always have a healthy snack available. And don't give your exercise routine a holiday. Exercise gives you energy in addition to burning calories.
  3. Chill. "Can I afford it?" "Will it be perfect?" Even things we look forward to, like the holidays, can come with worries attached. If you feel stressed, stop what you're doing for just a moment. Take 5 deep belly breaths. Concentrate on each breath as you inhale and exhale. Walk over to a window and look out at the sky. Then go back to what you were doing, realizing that holiday drama will happen. Just hope it leaves you with some great stories to tell.
  4. Beat the blues. Holiday depression doesn't just happen in songs. For some people, it's seasonal, brought on by shorter days, longer nights, and colder weather. Other people might feel down and lonely this time of the year. If you feel down, go outside, even if it's cold where you live. Sunlight and exercise are great mood lifters. Try a seasonal activity to put you in the holiday spirit. You can decorate, watch a holiday movie with family, or wrap gifts. And don't hesitate to talk to someone you trust, like a parent or teacher, about how you're feeling.
  5. Get some ZZZs. Getting 8½ to 9 hours of sleep a night during the holidays can help strengthen your immune system, give you more energy, and make you less vulnerable to stress.

One of the top things to do for your health is have fun. Laugh and enjoy yourself — the holidays come just once a year.

Medically reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD
Date reviewed: December 2023