Have you thought much about how you and your family are going to navigate the holidays this year? Perhaps you have a plan in place or you’re embracing a more spontaneous approach. Each of us have our own unique routines, tips, and tricks to stay healthy both physically and emotionally during the holiday season. This year we’ve asked our team of clinic doctors, nutritionists, and nutrition residents to share how they are safely navigating the holiday season with their family and friends. We have compiled their responses into the blog below and hope that it offers you some creative ideas as you celebrate the holidays this year. We’d love to hear your personal responses to these questions as well!
What are you doing right now to boost your immune resilience (or your family/kids)?
- Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: The cobbler never has shoes, right? One pesky finding on many of my labs is low or low normal vitamin D. Can you believe it? For some reason, I can drop off on being consistent with this all-important nutrient. This season, I am being *impeccable*… last check I was at 49. I’d like to be around 60.
- Romilly Hodges: We are sticking to a healthy diet, managing my stress levels with lots of walking the dog in the woods, getting good sleep. And adding in vitamin D and some of my favorite immune-boosting superfoods like rosemary, garlic, fish, oranges, bell peppers, and herbal tea.
- Karen Herb: My family and I are taking plenty of vitamin C, D and zinc in addition to our normal varied diet. We are also eating a lot of mushrooms and boosting our veggie intake. We love our bi-weekly fruit and veggie box delivered by Misfit Market. We get so much variety and love the surprise when we open our box – who doesn’t love a delivery?
- Gretchen DePalma: We are drinking tea throughout the day (matcha, green, oolong, herbal). Foundational supplement support (multi, vitamin D, fish oil) along with targeted immune support (NAC, vitamin C + quercetin). Focusing on going to bed early and getting a minimum of 8 hours of sleep each night; getting outside for a walk in the natural sunlight first thing in the morning.
- Josette Herdell: My husband and I are enjoying colorful locally-sourced foods to keep our immune system resilient and to maintain an anti-inflammatory healing environment. I am also focusing on managing my thoughts and stress via tapping, daily meditations, and enjoyable movement that includes mindful awareness – just soaking in moments to be present and aware of birds chirping, sunlight on my face, and the wind blowing in the trees.
- Miranda Kusi: I am spending as much time in the sun outdoors as possible – topping up my vitamin D levels! Drinking Echinacea tea (I love this mix by Yogi tea – each tea bag comes with a positive message). I’m also going to bed a little bit earlier, sleeping a little more – now that the days are shorter, it helps me feel more rested & ready to face the day!
- Andrew Sisisky: My family and I walk on the barefoot on the beach before sunset when it is quiet and peaceful. It is extremely healing and restorative to breathe in the fresh ocean air and get in contact with the earth. Research on the benefits of earthing shows that is reduces inflammation and strengthens the immune system.
- Jessica Kovalchik: Since March, my husband and I started taking melatonin at night, both to help with sleeplessness from stress as well as immune resilience, and we have upped our vitamin C intake. We have been eating a lot of bitter greens, which are packed with fiber, vitamins A, B, C, K and calcium, potassium, and magnesium, and we have also been making our own bone broth, which helps support a healthy gut lining and immune system. Check out our recipe for homemade bone broth.
- Jacquelyn Lombari: I aim for 30 different plant foods weekly – smoothies and soups are very helpful with this! This practice keeps my microbiome happy = resilient immunity. I also supplement with zinc and vitamin D! I make sure to complete high intensity exercise at least 3x a week – usually this means hiking a nearby mountain, Piestwa Peak. Living in Arizona, this time of year is prime for outdoor activities.
What are you doing to emotionally manage yourself and your expectations around the holidays?
- Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: It’s HARD! Isabella and I visited family out of state for Halloween. We were super careful with travel and hotel, etc and tested before reintegrating into our lives at home. It was worth it for all of us. Halloween is a perfect outdoor socially distant holiday. I am not sure how we’ll manage December, however- COVID numbers are up, up. My neighbors just bought a camper. Is that the solution?
- Romilly Hodges: This is a tough one I have to admit… since we’re not flying at the moment, the kids are finding the idea of a Christmas without family and long-distance friend gatherings hard to get their heads around. We adults are too, admittedly. We’re going to just set up some zoom gatherings and try to spend lots of quality time as a family and feel lucky that we’re able to do even that while many people can’t.
- Karen Herb: As things flux and shift so frequently these days, I find it easier not to plan too far ahead. While I may have purchased tickets to a holiday show four months in advance last year, this year I am focusing on just 1 day or week at a time. Being open to spontaneous adventures when they are available verses choosing things that require planning has actually been quite fun and freeing. It’s removed a layer of stress (planning can be exhausting) and left me open to take each day as it comes and appreciate what it has to offer. This more relaxed nature is helping me to enjoy things so much more.
- Gretchen DePalma: I’ve been meditating and journaling daily and decorating the house for the holidays to make it feel extra cozy to help us feel more festive at home since we won’t be going out to celebrate.
- Josette Herdell: Instead of focusing on what I would like to be different this year, I am focusing on gratitude. This may simply mean shifting my mindset from negative to more positive by being grateful for little things that I may be taking for granted or by reaching out to a friend when I need help seeing things to be grateful for. This year I am particularly grateful for the ability to adapt to new scenarios, to offer support and care to those around me, and to find hope even in dark times.
- Miranda Kusi: Not letting the blues get ahold of me – as soon as I begin to feel down, I do something about it: call a friend or family member, go for a walk, or listen to music… even watching funny social media videos can help! Recreating family traditions and sharing photos of those with family members – the funny discussions and fond memories that will ensue will definitely cheer you up!
- Andrew Sisisky: I have already come to grip with the fact that this holiday season will be different. I have accepted that as I do not want to dwell on things I do not have control over. I continue to remind myself that this will be over one day and we will be more grateful for the things that we took for granted for so many years. We always have an opportunity to look at the positive side of things.
- Olivia Moeller: It is easy to ignore how we feel on a regular basis especially when we are busy, stressed and preoccupied by the holiday season (particularly by all of the delicious food!). But now is the time, more than ever before, to be mindful of how certain practices, habits, relationships, foods, self-talk, etc. influence our mind and body. Although sustainable change is the goal, becoming aware of the effects that our diet and lifestyle choices have on our mind/body is incredibly impactful on its own. One method to generating this awareness is to start a journal and take note of both the positive and negative impacts of your diet, relationships, routine, etc. on your state of being.
How are you navigating holiday traditions?
- Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: I love, love, love sparkly holiday lights, and so does my kiddo. We will be doing loads of them this year.
- Romilly Hodges: Once again, we’re keeping our celebratory gatherings small and extending it only through Zoom calls. It’s been great to see that in our immediate neighborhood, some amazing individuals have taken the initiative to make some traditions social-distancing friendly, like modified Halloween celebrations, online-plus-drop-box charity Christmas boxes for orphaned children and holiday tree lighting ceremonies, which we’ve enjoyed taking part in.
- Karen Herb: The holidays are so full of traditions. Some of our favorite traditions are silly things like drinking hot cocoa on Christmas Eve or having pancakes before we adorn our home with holiday décor. These traditions will continue this year as every year. Other traditions, like hosting a house full of family will likely not happen. Instead, we will start a new tradition. Perhaps we will try a new cuisine or watch a holiday movie with family over zoom. Since most traditions are about being with your loved ones, we’ll focus on being together as much as we can and embrace the opportunity to start a new tradition.
How do you navigating the holidays food-wise or what do you recommend to patients?
- Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Honestly, our nutrition team has created the best batch of holiday recipes. We’ve honed them over the years. My favorite must-haves are the Lemon Tart and the Paleo Stuffing. There is no issue around having a fabulous, healthy, satisfying feast that won’t budge my continuous glucose monitor, my waist or my inflammation.
- Romilly Hodges: Homemade healthy versions of our holiday favorites!
- Karen Herb: As a nutritionist, I love to encourage my clients to truly enjoy food! The holidays are a fun time to try something new or make your Great Grandma’s favorite apple pie recipe. I think the key to enjoying all these foods and healthfully navigating the holiday is portion control. If I’d like to try all 4 dessert choices on the table, I go for just one or two bites of each. I get to sample everything without feeling poorly later for over-indulging.
- Gretchen DePalma: I firmly believe in the importance of community for overall wellbeing. Sharing a meal with loved ones and connecting on an emotional level is even more important than what I am eating. And that says a lot because I really love food! Be present in the moment when sharing a meal with someone else. Take the time to express your gratitude for the meal and the hands that grew the food and cooked it.
- Olivia Moeller: Offer to bring a dish or two to your holiday get together so that you can prepare/cook these meals in such a way that fits with your food plan and diet. This is not only a great way to ensure that you have food to enjoy, but it’s also an opportunity to impress your family and friends with how delicious healthy eating can be!
What are you doing to stay socially connected?
- Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: A few things. In my personal world: I am a part of two regularly connecting support groups. One is a women’s group with a spiritual focus. These are essential for me. Of course, I do connect with some of Isabella’s friends’ parents, too… Also, Our clinic team is VERY satisfying to stay connected with. We are like minded, passionate, compassionate, interesting and brilliant. I love staying connected with the team, in our group meetings, one-on-one (even my bike meetings!) and through emails. Seriously. Never a dull moment, and many uplifting moments.
- Romilly Hodges: We have a global extended family, so online meet ups have been our go-to. Locally, we’ve created a “bubble” with just a couple of other families where we’ve met up for walks and playground fun.
- Karen Herb: This it seems will be the biggest challenge this year. I find myself doing much more chatting on the telephone and on Zoom than ever before. While a zoom family dinner isn’t quite the same, it does help to feel connected. We’ll be sharing virtual meals with loved ones and planning virtual get togethers to watch movies or play games.
- Miranda Kusi: By scheduling zoom calls with friends – just as important as scheduling work calls – and sticking to them! Calling family members more often, especially the elderly – it is always lovely to hear their stories. Greeting strangers when going on walks or supermarket staff – it is amazing how just a little hello can brighten someone’s day.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading these personal tips from our team! You may have noticed a recurring theme in some of the comments, including: enjoy meals that are nourishing for your health and comforting, herbal teas are a great way to get an extra daily dose of immune support, don’t forget about getting outside and moving your body, gratitude and positive thinking are a powerful lifestyle tool, and there are many creative ways to stay socially connected during the holidays. If you’re already starting to plan for 2021 and interested in boosting your health for the new year, check out our Health Reset Detox program.
All of us here at the Sandy Hook Clinic wish you and your loved ones a safe and warm holiday. Thank you for being part of our community this year!