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18 Holiday Health Hazards and How to Avoid Them

18 Holiday Health Hazards and How to Avoid Them

The holidays are perfect for getting together with loved ones and partying merrily, and you don’t want to spoil your fun with any mishaps. Here are 18 of the most common health hazards that occur over the holiday season, and how to avoid them.

1. Burns and Scalds

With all of the cooking and baking that happens around this time, it’s more than likely that someone will end up burning themselves on a hot baking pan, or get spattered by some stray grease.

Make sure that you have a supply of pot holders, oven mitts, and dishcloths handy, and touch handles very lightly before grabbing them. Use grease-spatter covers when frying things, and ensure that you keep the kitchen from getting too crowded: too many cooks = inevitable injuries. Don’t even think about deep-frying a turkey.

2. Cuts

As with the example mentioned above, cooking and baking can often result in cuts and scrapes. Chopping onions with a sharp knife, grating lemon rind for cookies…all can result in pain and bleeding. That’s not much fun at all, especially since you can risk contaminating dishes with your own blood.

Be present and aware as you work, as a lack of focus is a primary cause of kitchen injuries. Keep a first aid kit handy in case of any cuts, and if you do manage to slice yourself, wear latex gloves afterward to minimize infection and contamination.

3. Food Poisoning

If you’re working with any kind of animal protein (like turkey or ham), or various condiments that have been in the fridge for a while, you run the risk of spreading salmonella or any number of harmful moldy bits.

Double-check every canned or pre-packaged item before you use it, and be sure to wash every knife, cutting board, and work surface regularly to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Wash your hands before and after prepping anything, and before serving as well. Don’t leave any meat or dairy products on counters or tables for too long, and if your egg nog has been sitting untouched for an hour, you might wish to pour yourself a fresh glass.

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4. Ornament Dangers

If you have small children or pets, stay away from breakable glass ornaments, tinsel, and anything sharp. Little hands, muzzles, and beaks can get hurt very badly by the very things you’re using to beautify your home.

5. Illness

Hugging and kissing relatives, shaking hands while schmoozing at office parties, touching sticky door handles while holiday shopping…all of these are perfect opportunities for illnesses to find their way into your body.

Make sure that you wash your hands often, keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in your pocket, and keep your fingers out of your mouth, eyes and nose. If one of your relatives is hacking and sneezing, keep distance from them and just bellow at them that you love them dearly, but are in the process of getting over something or another and can’t afford to be re-infected.

6. Falls

Sure, stringing a bunch of lights all over your house creates a beautiful effect, but you won’t be able to enjoy it if you’re stuck in the emergency room.

Be sure to have someone spot you when you’re up on a ladder, and only climb up during daylight hours. Use a ladder indoors as well, as even the sturdiest chair can be more precarious than you think.

7. Slipping on Ice

Ice is sneaky, and likes to hide on stairs, sidewalks, and driveways, just waiting for an unsuspecting person to step on it.

Be sure to use a sand/salt mixture on any treacherous bits of pavement, and when you walk across this areas, shuffle your feet to slide them across while keeping your center of gravity low: you’ll have less chance of falling, and can regain your balance if you slip around a little. Wear flat boots or shoes with good treads, and for goodness’ sake, don’t be an idiot and prance around outside in stiletto heels: save those for indoor parties.

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8. Chills and Frostbite

Going tobogganing with your nieces and nephews sounds like a great idea, but there may be some chilly consequences. Although you might feel warm while you’re being active, you may end up a bit cooler than you’re trying to be. Sub-zero temperatures can wreak havoc on your skin, and fat-free extremities like toes and fingers are particularly susceptible to frostbite and cold damage.

Wear layers that you can add and subtract as needed, be sure to wear gloves and mittens, invest in a good pair of long johns, and make friends with woolen socks.

9. Sunburns

It sounds odd to think of sunburns occurring in wintertime, but they’re actually quite common. People who spend part of their holidays skiing, snowboarding, or just playing outdoors can end up with some pretty nasty pinking around the face and ears.

Get yourself a good, high-quality sunscreen and apply it liberally before going outside. Actually, if you’d like to decrease sun damage to your skin in general, you might like to apply a thin layer of sunscreen any time you plan to be outside for a while.

10. Car Accidents

Slippery roads, poor visibility (yay snow!), and countless other hazards are common at this time of year. Please drive safely and responsibly, and never, ever drive after you’ve been drinking.

Keep an emergency kit in your car, along with a bag of sand, some blankets, and snacks, and never assume that the drivers around you are as responsible as you are.

11. Toy Hazards

Do you have any idea how many people manage to slice themselves open on hard plastic toy or gadget covers every year? Those things can be treacherous, as can many other toys out there.

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Be aware of where your gifts originate from, as it’s best to avoid those made with toxic chemicals and tiddly bits that can choke your young relatives, and open packages with care.

12. Stress

Cooking a holiday dinner for a dozen people while trying to ensure that the house stays tidy, your outfit stays immaculate, and your dog doesn’t eat the decorations can be absolutely maddening. In fact, heart attacks increase by a full third when the holidays roll around, and the number of people who have strokes, panic attacks, and nervous breakdowns also increases exponentially.

Delegate as much as you can to other people, and remember that the folks who’ll be celebrating at your place are friends and family members who love you: it’s absolutely okay if the cranberry sauce is a bit lumpy.

13. Alcohol Poisoning

It’s fun to have a couple of drinks while you’re partying, but chugging a bottle of whiskey on your own isn’t terribly good for you.

Alcohol poisoning is easily avoided by drinking responsibly, having a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage consumed, and snacking on oily/fatty foods like deviled eggs, olives, nuts, and cheese.

14. Allergies

That Norwegian spruce might look lovely, but if you have any tree allergies, you might end up having an asthma attack or breaking into hives. People with pet allergies may find themselves having a sneeze-fest if they visit a home where cats reign, and food allergies may rear their heads after bites into unfamiliar pastries.

Be sure to keep a supply of antihistamines in the house, and a tube of hydrocortisone cream at the ready in case of a rash or hive breakout. If you have an anaphylactic reaction to anything (peanuts, mushrooms, etc.), keep an EpiPen handy and let your hosts know about your allergy ahead of time.

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15. Loneliness and Depression

Many people are alone at this time of the year, and Christmas is just behind Valentine’s Day when it comes to suicide rates.

If you’re alone over the holidays and feeling down, consider volunteering at a soup kitchen or visiting with elderly folks or those in hospitals. Accept invitations to meals and celebrations when asked by friends or co-workers, and if things get really bad, remember that there is always help available to you.

16. Electrocution

Children and pets are most at risk for electrocution, as sparkly holiday lights can look so tempting to gnaw upon, but you’d be surprised at how many adults get hurt this way as well.

Keep outdoor lights unplugged until you’ve arranged them the way you like, and don’t let Grandpa use a knife to fish burnt crumpets out of the toaster.

17. Fire

Many people light their fireplaces and wood stove around this time of year, and candles are common decorations in many households.

Keep the doors of wood stoves closed while logs are burning, and make sure that kids aren’t tempted to throw miscellaneous bits into them just to see whether they’ll burn or not. Never leave a candle burning unattended, keep matches and lighters away from little hands (and pyromaniacs), and use a fireplace screen to keep sparks away from the carpet.

18. Pet Poisoning

The last thing you want to do is accidentally poison your pet, so be sure to do your research on which plants and foods are toxic to your furred or feathered friend.

Keep yew, lilies, and poinsettias out of the house if you have any pets, and don’t share your holiday dinner with your dog, cat, or bird until you’re certain that what you’re eating won’t have any adverse effects. Some tidbits that you may find delicious (like chocolate or avocado) can have really nasty effects on their health.

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Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Feeling tired all the time?

Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

What Happens When You’re Too Tired

If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

  • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
  • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
  • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
  • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
  • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
  • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
  • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

Unfortunately, yes!

Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

  1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
  2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
  3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

Symptoms of fatigue include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low stamina
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Low motivation

These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

  1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Using stressbusters
  4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

  • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
  • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
  • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
  • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

L — Living Healthy

Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

1. Unplug

Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

2. Unwind

Do something to relax.

Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

3. Get Comfortable

Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

E — Exercise

Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

That’s what happened in my case.

But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

That made sense to me.

So, I decided to swim.

I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

A — Attitude

Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

Breathing.

But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
  2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
  3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
  4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
  5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
  6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

N — Nutrition

Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

  1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
  2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
  3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
  4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
  5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
  6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
  7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
  8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
  9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

The Bottom Line

If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

  • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
  • Regular Exercise You Love
  • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
  • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

More Tips to Help You Rest Better

Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
[2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
[3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
[4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
[5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
[6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
[7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
[8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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