Health and Wellness During the Holiday Season 

The holidays are just around the corner and it can be a stressful time for many of us. We want our members to stay healthy both mentally and physically throughout the season. So, here are some useful ideas to help you keep your health in mind during this hectic time of the year. 

Don’t Deprive Yourself

According to Patrick J. Skerrett, the Former Executive Editor of Harvard Health, it’s important not to deprive yourself of foods you want to eat or feel guilty about eating those foods. He says “by practicing a bit of defensive eating and cooking, you can come through the holidays without making “go on a diet” one of your New Year’s resolutions.” Defensive eating and cooking encourages finding a balance between foods that are healthy for you and the foods you crave. When getting together with brothers for holiday events, try out some defensive eating and cooking techniques to stay healthy.  

Some suggestions provided by Skerrett include: 

  • Don’t go out with an empty tank. Before setting out for a party, eat something so you don’t arrive famished. Excellent pre-party snacks combine complex carbohydrates with protein and unsaturated fat, like apple slices with peanut butter or a slice of turkey and cheese on whole-wheat pita bread. 
  • Distance helps the heart stay healthy. At a party, don’t stand next to the food table. That makes it harder to mindlessly reach for food as you talk. If you know you are prone to recreational eating, pop a mint or a stick of gum so you won’t keep reaching for the chips. 
  • Pay attention to what really matters. Although food is an integral part of the holidays, put the focus on family and friends, laughter and cheer. If balance and moderation are your usual guides, it’s okay to indulge or overeat once in a while. 

(From “12 Tips for Holiday Eating” by Patrick Skerrett. Published August 28, 2019. Harvard Health Publishing 

Wash Your Hands

As we’ve learned over the last few years, washing your hands is important. During the winter holidays, flu and cold season take hold and removing germs by washing your hands is extra important. People are often touching their hands to their mouth, nose and eyes where germs can get in and cause sickness. Germs from hands can also get passed from person to person by touching common items like handrails and door handles, making other people who may be immunocompromised more likely to catch a serious illness. 

The general advice is one you’ve heard before, wash your hands with soap and clean running water for 20 seconds (hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice from start to finish). There’s no magic number for how many times you wash your hands, but it’s about when. Make sure to wash after making and eating food, using the restroom and taking out the trash. Washing your hands is especially important for those who live in chapter houses with multiple brothers. It’s very easy for one person to get sick in the chapter house and spread it throughout, washing your hands will reduce the risk of getting and spreading sickness.  

According to the CDC, washing hands “Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%. Reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21%. Reduces absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by 29-57%.” 

Take Time for Yourself 

You can’t pour from an empty cup. You have to take care of yourself first before you are able to take care of others. It’s important that during stressful times, like the holiday season, that you take care of your own mental health. Below are a few tips from the Mayo Clinic to keep in mind. 

  • Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones for other reasons, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. 
  • Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events or communities. Many may have websites, online support groups, social media sites or virtual events. They can offer support and companionship. 
  • If you’re feeling stress during the holidays, it also may help to talk to a friend or family member about your concerns. Try reaching out with a text, a call or a video chat. 
  • Volunteering your time or doing something to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships. For example, consider dropping off a meal and dessert at a friend’s home during the holidays. 
  • Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time. 

This is a time to reach out to brothers, rekindle old friendships, and be thankful for the Phi Psi’s in your life. Remember your brothers are there to support you. The simple step of reaching out can make a difference in someone’s life.  

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately. If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255). If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.