We wish you a healthy holiday – 12 days of safe celebrating

The holidays are here! For many Canadians, this is a time of joy and wonder. A time to take some much-deserved time off; a time to reconnect with family, and a time to focus on relaxation and fun for a change. Good for you. Enjoy!

Of course, the holidays also come with some potential risks to your health, but the best way to avoid those Grinch-like outcomes is to be aware of them. With that, please enjoy (and be mindful of) our 12 days of holiday hazards…

On the first day…

  • Does chocolate have fibre? – The holidays present us with lots of rich foods that are high in salt, sugar and fat. Chocolate is EVERYWHERE. Not great for our health if we indulge the temptation. Tips: Have fruit at home before leaving for a party, drink a lot of water, or eat a salad. If you love shortcake, go ahead and have shortcake. Just don’t fill up on shortcake. Moderation and balance is the key.
  • The flu doesn’t take a holiday – The holidays fall in the middle of flu season, and what with all the family get-togethers and kissing and hugging, there’s lots of opportunity for you to share more than just Christmas cheer with your relatives. Tips: Protect yourself and your loved ones by washing your hands frequently (regardless of whether you feel sick). If you need to cough or sneeze, do so into your sleeve, not your hand. Remember to continue to get adequate rest and keep hydrated as well as this helps keep your body’s defense mechanism strong.
  • Baby, it’s cold outside – The song by this name is no longer in vogue, but we do live in Canada, and cities like Toronto issue extreme cold weather alerts when the wind chill dips below -20, which can happen dozens of times per winter. You could be at risk of frostbite or hypothermia. Tips: Stay indoors if you can on the coldest days, and if you can’t, dress in layers, wear winter boots, mittens, a warm hat and scarf. If you’re travelling long distances, keep blankets, candles and matches in the car to keep you warm in case your car breaks down.
  • Blue Christmas – While most of us celebrate, Canadians who suffer from depression, or who have suffered a recent loss, may find that the holiday cheer makes them feel that much worse. Tips: If you suffer from depression and find it gets worse during the holidays, talk to your doctor about adjusting medication or other strategies. If you know someone who seems down, check in with them regularly and encourage them to seek help.

Read: How pharmacists can help patients with depression

Five golden rings? Try five meals a day…

  • There’s just too much food – It’s not just the kind of food we eat around the holidays. It’s the volume. It’s why New Year’s resolutions were invented. Parties, dinners out, office treats, sometimes going to multiple holiday celebrations on the same day (and feeling compelled to eat full meals at ALL of them). It’s a problem. Tips: Don’t show up hungry to a party, pause between servings, or just say no. Just because you will find yourself surrounded by food, doesn’t mean you have to eat all of it.
  • Credit card hangover – The holidays can affect your financial health as much as, or more than, your physical wellbeing. Especially if you use a credit card to shop, it’s easy to spend much more than you planned on presents, dinners, trips, etc. Tips: Shop with cash, or use one of the great spending tracker apps that are now available.
  • Alcohol and drugs – Food is not the only thing that is abundant during the holiday season. Every year, people who don’t usually drink decide to cut loose at holiday parties. For those who suffer from seasonal depression, alcohol or drugs can be a coping mechanism to get through a difficult time. Tips: As with food, indulge if you want to, but don’t overdo it. And if you do, never drive.
  • Holiday anxiety – For some of us, all of the planning, baking, shopping and other activity leading up to the holidays can lead to excessive stress and/or anxiety. Spending time with family can also be a source of stress for some. Tips: Talk to your doctor about medication or other strategies to cope with severe anxiety. If the holidays stress you out, try to limit your involvement. Save on shopping time by giving gift cards or buying gifts online. Don’t offer to host a get-together if it causes anxiety.

Read: Short winter days can lead to short fuse, anxiety, depression

  • Holiday scam alert – This also falls under the financial health category. Digital scammers are always trying to trick unsuspecting victims into sharing personal and financial data online. The risk can be greater if you are doing a lot of online shopping during the holidays. Tips: Don’t open emails or click on links if you don’t know the sender. Don’t provide personal or financial information online if you don’t know the website.
  • Slippery when winter – Putting up and/or taking down holiday decorations can be dangerous. Tips: Indoors, make sure to use a proper stepladder or stool to reach high places instead of climbing on furniture. Outside, try to only go up on a ladder when the ground is clean and dry, and have someone hold the ladder for you.

Eleven drivers driving, when perhaps they really shouldn’t

  • Winter driving – When the weather and driving conditions are bad, many of us choose to stay home. But when it comes to holiday parties, we may feel obliged to attend no matter what. Tips: Snow tires and all-wheel drive are helpful. Going slow may be essential. Even if it’s Christmas Day, however, if the driving conditions are really bad, it’s not a good idea to be out on the roads. Some families choose an alternate date to gather just in case the primary date is plagued by bad weather.
  • Holiday fire hazards – Holiday time creates a number of fire hazards that don’t exist at other times of the year. A real tree can dry out and become highly flammable, and with electric lights everywhere, an overloaded circuit or frayed wire can start a fire that you won’t be using to roast chestnuts. Tips: If you have a real tree, keep it in water at all times, sweep and remove dry needles, don’t plug too many things into one circuit, and check your light strings for cracks or breaks before plugging them in.

We wish you all a safe and happy holiday season. See you in 2019!